I get ridiculously excited just watching this preview for The ’99ers, a new documentary about the 1999 Women’s World Cup, which premiered earlier this week as part of ESPN’s Nine for IX series celebrating women’s athletics on the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
The tournament’s epic final match–in which Brandi Chastain famously ripped her shirt off after nailing the winning penalty kick–was watched live by over 90,000 people at the Rose Bowl and millions more at home. Over a dozen years later, it remains the most watched women’s sporting event in history.
But it wasn’t just a pivotal moment in women’s sports history. In 1999, as Travis Waldron reminds us, soccer hadn’t yet become a hugely popular youth sport, Major League Soccer was only a few years old, the American men’s team was a little, um, uninspiring. The female athletes who rose to fame that summer–Chastain, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, etc.–were really the first soccer players of either gender to reach that kind of mainstream acclaim.
As a 13-year-old obsessed with soccer in 1999, I obviously didn’t quite get how unique that was at the time. But I remember how exciting it was seeing the world get excited about a game I loved. As my best friend and life-long teammate Martha reflected, “We were growing up feeling like who cares about soccer and who cares about girls in sports. And then watching this doublewhammy thing happen and feeling like, YES WE ARE WHERE IT’S AT.”
A few years later, Martha and I would wake up at all hours of the night to follow the US men’s team progress at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. To be honest, that was the Cup that meant the most to me–and that summer of perpetual sleep-deprivation remains one of my favorite ever. But I think our love for Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley was purer because we’d had the experience of seeing the women wow the world first. We knew US soccer at that point as a women’s game–and we were eager to see the men finally start to catch up.
Someone once asked me, “Were you pioneers or was ’99 an anomaly?”
From the producers of “30 For 30,” here’s where the sell-out ended in a shoot-out.
I remember all these people–and now they’re wearing our jerseys.
We wanted it to be a huge event. We wanted it to make history.
Here’s where 20 women had one goal.
ESPN Films and ESPN W present a Nine for IX film, “The 99ers.” Tuesday, August 20th at 8 on ESPN.