Monday, June 9, 2003

Q&A with Brandi Chastain


Women's soccer has gone farther than Chastain expected

By JEFF D'ALESSIO
Florida Today

[img]
The United States' Brandi Chastain celebrates after kicking the game-winning overtime penalty shootout goal against China during the Women's World Cup Final on July 10, 1999.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
After tearing off her uniform shirt at the 1999 Women's World Cup in one of the most famous celebrations in sports, Brandi Chastain became a household name.

She made three appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," helped launch a new professional soccer league, graced the cover of Time and was named one of People's 50 most intriguing people.

This fall, Chastain & Co. will be back in the spotlight when Team USA takes on the world again. The United States will be the host country; the event was pulled from China because of the SARS virus.

The 34-year-old San Jose CyberRay talks about September's World Cup, the Women's United Soccer Association, displaying her sports bra at the Rose Bowl and more.

Question: You've never heard this one before: Where's your world-famous sports bra these days?

Answer: It's in my drawer, waiting to be worn for practice.

Q: Really? Do you wear it much?

A: Depends on how I am on laundry.

Q: How much did that one moment in time change your life?

A: Oh, it turned things upside down. One day, I'm a key member on a really great team, playing a really great game and trying to get people to pay attention. And the next thing I know, people are asking me questions, thinking I had the answers to everything. It was very unusual circumstances for me.

Q: What's the coolest thing you got to do because of your soccer heroics?

A: I got to go to Michael Jordan's golf tournament. That was pretty cool. Going to the ESPYs was neat. I went to the White House. There were a lot of wonderful opportunities, and also a chance to affect change where I live and change the lives of other people through charity. Having a moment like that gives you the opportunity to help other people.

Q: Has women's soccer come as far as you thought it would since the 1999 Women's World Cup?

A: In terms of the pure numbers, it's gone farther than I thought - in terms of how many young girls have been playing and the attention that it's gotten. In terms of the WUSA, I honestly don't think I believe we would have our own professional league (without the World Cup success), so that's just been an incredible dream come true. We're working really hard to make sure that there's a future for this league because of the millions of girls that are now playing soccer. That isn't easy in our economy with the kind of sports diet this country has been used to. Women's sports isn't high on the list. But there's a lot of people who enjoy it and we're trying to preserve that for them, and then gain new fans.

Q: So how much bigger can women's professional soccer get?

A: Well, why not have a 16-team league? If you attempt to put a limit on it, then you're selling yourself short. For us, it's going to be a process, and I think we know that. We're not going to overlook that fact. Initially, with the management we had, we tried to be too big too fast and it kind of bit us. Now, we're going back and we're revisiting the things that really worked and the things that didn't and we're making those appropriate changes.

Q: Do you think Team USA can recapture the excitement that there was in 1999? Will the buzz be the same?

A: That's hard. It's not fair to try to accomplish that. That was four years in the making. This is 100 days in the making, so to speak. That's really a tough challenge for U.S. soccer, for the players, for the venues. Everything is expedited by a bazillion times - or needs to be expedited so quickly. I don't know that we can recapture the hype that was in '99, but I think the play has gotten better - I know the play has gotten better - and along with that, I know that the people who came out in '99 will come again. And because there were people who missed '99, they aren't going to be willing to miss another chance. The numbers could be pretty close.

Q: What's something people don't know about Mia Hamm?

A: She's a really good cook.

Q: Last good movie you saw?

A: I saw "The Italian Job" last night. It was great.

Q: Is it true you played on the defensive line in peewee football?

A: Yes.

Q: Any good?

A: I was awesome.




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