As part of the Nine for IX documentary series, ESPN Films aired “The 99′ers,” providing a candid, behind-the-scenes look at the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team and their World Cup experience. Brandi Chastain admitted that she still gets nervous each time she sees footage of her game-winning penalty kick, in the shootout against China. The following image, of a celebratory, sports-bra bearing Chastain, quickly became ingrained in the minds of sports fans. With the 1999 Women’s World Cup victory, the soccer star and her teammates helped to reshape the landscape of women’s soccer, and encourage and excite a new generation of female athletes.
As a soccer mom herself and a spokesperson for the Merck Consumer Care’s Active Family Project, Chastain continues to inspire through the sport today. The Active Family Project has partnered with U.S. Youth Soccer (USYS) to encourage families to “Play For A Change” this September. The program promotes being active together as a family through soccer, a concept that resonated with Chastain and her own childhood. To further support the cause, she will offer soccer tips and advice on the Active Family Project Activity Finder, at www.activefamilyproject.com. Fans can also check out facebook.com/activefamilyproject for additional details.
A Glam Slam spoke with Brandi about the importance of active families, remembering the 1999 Women’s World Cup, her famous black sports bra, and the state of women’s soccer today. For the audio version of the interview, listen below:
Can you talk about your involvement with the Merck Consumer Care’s Active Family Project? Why is this cause important to you?
There are two reasons why the Consumer Care’s Active Family Project is important to me. Number one, I love soccer and I’ve been passionate about it since I was a little girl. They’re partnering with U.S. Women’s Soccer where people can “Play for a Change.” I love this concept, that active families can impact underserved communities by participating in soccer. I love that Merck recognizes the importance of family play, they recognize the sport of soccer in this country, and two, I love the idea that by just doing what you love, you can really make a difference.
I love playing soccer, I’m on the computer as well, I go on Facebook. People can go to facebook.com/activefamilyproject and check out the site and like us and make a comment. Merck is going to give 75 kits to communities across the country, but if we have more people that like it, that comment about the site, than they can give up to 125 kits, which means goals, cones, balls, for young kids and families to participate in soccer. So for those two reasons specifically, it’s very near and dear to my heart.
Are you a soccer mom yourself today? Is the sport one of the ways you instill healthy habits in your own family?
Absolutely. I have two boys, one is 7 and just played his first game on Sunday. The other is almost 25 and has played soccer throughout his career and still does play soccer today. For me, even if I look back on my own playing career, my dad was my coach, my mom was I think the first soccer mom out there, and it was a family affair. My whole family went to the soccer field, we all played. I loved it as a kid when it was the kids versus the parents, and I remember the laughter and the smiles and the togetherness and it was a really happy place and a feel good place. I think when given this opportunity to participate with Merck, I jumped at the chance because I believe in soccer, I believe in healthy families, I believe in giving back to the community, and this is a perfect and very simple way to be agents for change across the country.
The 99′ers documentary recently aired, providing an uncensored look at the team and special access to the event. It has now been 14 years since that moment. Do you remember it or appreciate that experience differently today, than you did back then?
I probably appreciate it a little bit differently, but love it in the same way. When I came with Julie Foudy here to New York to unveil and see it for the first time, I got nervous. I get nervous every time that penalty kick is about to take place, I honestly get this nervousness in my gut. But to watch the celebration and to watch this unbelievable overflowing of joy and happiness and excitement, it just makes me smile. I think some people talk about the celebration and what happens from there is, it always goes back to soccer and women’s soccer. For so long before that, in 1991 was the first Women’s World Cup, soccer kind of lived in a little bit of anonymity in the sports culture in this country and now it doesn’t. And I’m proud to say that the women’s national team was a part of bringing popularity to the game.
Your black Nike sports bra has become an iconic piece of sports fashion. Do you still have it today?
I do, I have it in a very safe, nice frame in my guest room. Anytime you’re in California, come over and check it out.
For many sports fans, the 1999 Women’s World Cup final is their most memorable sports experience. What is one of your favorite moments in sports?
The first time I remember watching the Olympic Games and thinking, wow, that would be amazing to be on Team USA, was a sport that I never played, I don’t play it now, I watched it on television to support my local team, and that was men’s ice hockey. In 1980 I was 12 years old living in California, so ice hockey is not something that we did. I remember watching that USA team and when they beat the Russians and then they went on to win the gold medal. I get to see Mike Eruzione from time to time, at different events. I just recently was with him, and to hear him talk about the team and to hear him talk about the patriotism and waving that American flag and the lessons that Herb Brooks the coach instilled in these young, college, non-professional hockey players and how he got them to come together and win this championship, I thought to myself, I want to do that. So I think that’s my moment about something greater, something bigger, something way far out there that seemed so real and so within reach.
What are your thoughts on the current USWNT and the state of women’s soccer today?
I think number one, the women’s national team has a pool of players that is so big and so deep and I’m good friends with the coach, Tom Sermanni, and I think the difficultly that he will have is how do you choose 18 players or 20 players to be on that roster when there are so many players out there now. Women’s collegiate soccer Division 1 level is 325+ teams strong, with scholarships thanks to Title IX, and there’s young girls that are starting soccer for the first time this year that hopefully will go on to make the national team and be the agent for change and to encourage young girls to participate and to be strong. Just like Mia Hamm did, and Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, my teammates did and are still doing for young girls.
I’m very happy about the state of women’s soccer. I would love to have more people go to the stadium and watch the professional teams, I’d love to see that professional league grow. I would love to see women’s soccer highlighted during prime time television spots and be sponsored like men’s sports, and I feel there is a definite population that wants that to happen and I will continue to be a part of the group that makes that happen.
The 1999 Women’s World Cup win and the team will continue to inspire the next generation of female athletes. What’s the best advice you have for young girls looking to succeed in sports?
I think anything that has worth is worth spending time on. Things don’t happen because you want them to, they happen because you spend time doing them and you find something that you love and that you’re passionate about. I remember as a young kid that my dad, he was my soccer coach from the time I was about 9 years old until I was 16, and we learned soccer together. We went to the library, we got books, we got VHS tapes, we became season ticket holders for the San Jose Earthquakes. We jumped in and we did it together. We spent a lot of time and I think that’s why I’m so grateful to Merck and their Consumer Care’s Active Family Project because they get the importance of family, they get the importance of family being healthy together, and being active. And I think this is the perfect program, “Play for a Change,” it encourages families to do things together, to find ways to be healthy and active, and ultimately what happened to me was, it made soccer my career. I’m so grateful and thankful for all the blessings I’ve had through soccer because it’s taught me most of the things I need to know for off-the-field. Those are the things that I hope to give my sons through soccer.
Despite the fact that there are fashion-forward female athletes, many people have the misconception that to be a strong athlete means you have to be masculine when it comes to your sense of style. Do you have an interest in fashion off-the-field? How can young girls understand that you can blend both sporty and feminine characteristics?
I think number one is, each and every one of us has to be happy with who we are and we have to know ourselves and sometimes it’s easier than other times. You have to be confident and no matter where you are or who you’re with or what you’re wearing, you have to feel good. For me, I started a women’s workout group with moms from my son’s school because I wanted to get to know the moms. I see that we influence each other in positive ways and I think being a part of a positive support system is also very helpful. You encourage each other with good comments and being proactive. But I think number one is you have to wake up in the morning and you have say I am happy with who I am and if you want to make a change, you go out there and make strides towards those things.
For me, it’s like you have to wear a flash of color or you have to give somebody a compliment, that makes me feel good. And when I feel good, I feel like I can conquer anything. Looking good is part of it for me and bringing color into my life is very important, but it’s also important to be a support system for somebody else.