I did not express myself well after USAs loss to Sweden at the Rio 2016. But US Soccer made sure it exploited my comments for its own ends
This World Cup is about championing emotion especially in a lot of the marketing and ads surrounding the tournament. Nikes Dream Further campaign captures the emotion and drama of playing in a World Cup very well, with Joan Jetts Bad Reputation providing a badass soundtrack. Its great that kind of attitude is celebrated right now in the fantasy world of advertising and TV. In real life, its a little different.
I have always been passionate about my sport and passionate about playing for my country. I wore my heart on my sleeve when I was benched in the 2007 World Cup for believing in my own ability and showing confidence, and again when I was heartbroken and raw about losing to Sweden at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
The United States play Sweden on Thursday in a match-up that has a little bit of history, especially for me. Swedens coach for the Rio Olympics was Pia Sundhage, who had also coached the United States a few years previously. Pia found a way to beat us in Rio: we tied 1-1 and eventually lost a penalty shootout. It was a strange Olympics for us. Our team wasnt in great form and we had a lack of preparation. There was a lot going on, and we were not focused. Sweden had played an incredibly defensive game and essentially stopped playing any kind of offense. I made comments straight after the match about the US losing to a bunch of cowards. Not the best choice of words but in that moment I felt they didnt play a courageous game. In conveying what I thought was the exact opposite of courageous, cowardly was what popped into my head.
Of course, the loss was entirely down to our own lack of preparation.
But I was upset. I wanted to perform. I had wanted a back and forth game. It was the Olympic Games. On the worlds biggest stage you want everyone to leave everything they have on the field. That is what playing the beautiful game means to me.
Im very close to Lotta Schelin, Swedens captain at that time and one of their greatest players. We were sharing a hotel with the Sweden team and one of the first things I did when we got back after the game was find Lotta in the lobby and speak to her directly. I told the media that we lost to a bunch of cowards, I said. But you know I have a lot of respect for you and your team and of course I dont really feel that.
Lotta said: I know, Hope. But you have to understand. There was no way we could beat the best team in the world. That was the only way we could have won.
We hugged and she laughed and we moved on. I had apologized to Swedens captain, the person who mattered most to me. If the captain of the team I disrespected wasnt offended and accepted my apology without hesitation I really didnt care what anyone else thought. I had been through the worst loss of my career and I just wanted to go home.
The next morning, half of our team got on the plane home while the other half stayed to party in Rio. I was so hurt about the loss to Sweden that sticking around Rio wasnt remotely something I could do. Jill Ellis and I were the first to board our plane and had about 10 minutes together before anybody else joined us. We had a long conversation. I asked her if shed seen the comments I made about Sweden. She said: Yeah, I saw them. Cant you just tweet out an apology or something?
Given her reaction, it was clear my comments were no big deal to Jill. None whatsoever. There was no further conversation about the issue. We talked about how we would have to beat teams that packed the box against us in the future: Thats what teams will do to us and in the next four years we will have to work on how to break a block of eight down, and for us to win the World Cup in 2019 we are going to need you in the goal. So listen to Graeme [our goalkeeper coach] and take care of your body.
The night before, the last team dinner had been very sombre. Sunil Gulati, the president of the US Soccer Federation at the time, came up to me to say hello, asked about my husband, Jerramy, and my post-Olympics plans. There was no indication anybody was upset. Sunil and I even laughed that I had shown emotion. Again, there was no indication that this was a big deal for the leadership, and certainly nothing pointing to a termination of contract.
I have made no secret about the fact that I believe my termination was not about what happened in Rio at all, but about my fight for equal pay. I had been a thorn in the Federations side for years and things had gotten worse leading up to and through the Games as negotiations for our collective bargaining agreement intensified. US Soccer realized it now had an excuse to remove its biggest adversary in the fight for equal pay, and it did.
But US Soccer told a different story to the outside world. It said I showed poor sportsmanship and didnt represent our country well. And the media backed this narrative. It was clearly not OK to show emotion. I had shown emotion. It wasnt OK. I apparently had a bad reputation. Three years later, the game has moved on and now we celebrate emotion and authenticity. Sam Kerr said after Australias win against Brazil that the teams critics could suck on that one. She was tough. She was raw. She was honest. It wasnt acceptable for women to show emotion in 2007 or 2016. It is now. The tip of the spear always takes the most hits.
I always preferred to play teams that were a challenge and this latest game against Sweden will be the first real test for the US. This is far from the same Sweden team we saw three years ago and they are without goalscorer Lotta Schelin. Her speed up top will surely be missed. Tough games are what I lived for. You have to wait for your turn to perform and so it will be for the US team.
I loved tougher games not just because wed play against top players. I also wanted to see how my teammates would respond. Under pressure and tested, you really see what people are made of. They get hit. They get flattened. They get put on the ground. You see who gets back up and who has a look of fear on their face.
You can see who thinks that is no big deal. You can see who plays with emotion. You learn who wants to earn a reputation.
This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific
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