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Hamm and Foudy Talk about Fan Celebration Tour

On what they would like for the legacy of this team to be:
Mia Hamm: When I look at this group of players and the way that we have been a part of the team for so long it is an extremely conscientious group. Every day we step out on the field whether it was practice or a game we understood that there was a bigger cause out there. Whether it is things that we saw or heard growing up in terms of opportunities to play and compete or it was the excitement of seeing our crowds grow over the years and our opportunities increase, we wanted to continue to open doors for kids out there but especially young girls. That’s one of the things that I’ll be extremely proud to have been a part of. This group has never just done it for themselves and they have always had a greater vision. They continue to do so. I know for me I have learned a lot just from watching Joy the way she is with her children and Julie and everything that she takes on and leads and Brandi and Kristine as well.

Julie Foudy: Echoing what Mia says – we’ve always seen the bigger picture. That’s what I have loved about this group. It wasn’t just about soccer. It was about reaching our fans and loving the game and caring about other issues. Winning was always important, but there was something else to it. We always felt like there was a purpose behind our winning. At the same time, we were the most conscientious group ever in terms of 17 years of consistency on the same team with the five of us in an incredible feat. It speaks about the individuals and what kind of people they are. That’s what I feel like will be our strongest legacy. We weren’t just good soccer players, but we were good people that cared and loved the game and never felt like we were entitled to anything else except for having a ball out there and enjoying it.

On if they plan on playing in all 10 games of the tour:
Hamm: Right now I am going to try play in every game that I possibly can. I might have one conflict just looking at the list that you are looking at right now, but that is it. And the New York game, I will be there.

Foudy: I am going to try to hit all ten. I have one, maybe two conflicts because I am trying to get away on vacation in December to Australia. If I could hit all 10 I would, I just know of that one conflict that I can’t get out of. I hoping for at least nine and I am in New York. I wouldn’t miss the New York game.

On what they have done since they returned from the Olympics:
Foudy: Slept for about five days straight.

Hamm: What have I done? Watched a lot more baseball than when I was over in Greece.

On playing in her new home town of Chicago:
Hamm: I am excited. Every time we play in Chicago it is always exciting. For me and for our team I know it was the 1999 World Cup. It was probably one of the most exciting games that we got to play in, the game against Nigeria. The soccer community here in Chicago is extremely intelligent and every time we come the support has been exciting. We’re excited to come back here and what is nice is I can stay in my apartment. I am right downtown. I could probably take the subway to Soldier Field.

On if she would consider playing if a WUSA team was placed in Chicago:
Hamm: Chicago has always been a great soccer city. For the 1994 World Cup I have a lot of friends who lived up here and tailgated. Every time we have played here whether it has been at Soldier Field or in the suburbs, the support and the reception has been tremendous. I think that a WUSA team would be awesome. I can’t tell you that if it came here and we were still here I’d love to participate, but it won’t be as a player. I still want to stay involved in the WUSA in whatever ways that I can. But with regards to playing, most likely not.

On what April Heinrichs has brought to the team and what she will bring with the younger players:
Hamm: One of the things that no one can dispute with April is that she loves this game and she loves this team. That’s what her life is. You can see that with how much she invests into us. Whether that is her energy out at practice and the way she organizes or the way she picks her staff. They dissect so much video. I couldn’t do that part of the job. She wants to make sure that no stem is unturned and find every way that she can to give us an advantage because that is how much she cares. I think for us when you have that kind of enthusiasm and commitment you owe it to yourself and owe it to her to be just as committed.

Foudy: She has seen it all in terms of being a player and being a coach. I think that is just valuable experience of playing at the highest level and captaining at the highest level. She can teach the younger kids not just through her soccer knowledge but through her knowledge as a player for what to expect and how to deal with different situations. As a younger player you need that wisdom and that experience to carry you. She will be great with those younger kids. Like Mia said, she puts her heart and sole into the job and you love that as a player to see how invested a coach is and how much they care about the players. Her entire coaching staff is the same way – so invested and giving so much time and energy. You had this year Greg and Phil and Tracy, who each have families, living in Los Angeles for a year and not seeing much of their families and doing whatever they could to see that we were standing at the top of the podium when that match was finished.

On Heather O’Reilly and what she brings to the team:
Hamm: Heather came in and gave us so much energy when she came in off the bench, obviously, scoring that huge goal. I think what was even more impressive is that she had that opportunity and she hit the post. For someone at her age to bounce back, I think her experience on the U-19 national team and having a year under her belt in college really helped her prepare for that. I know I probably would have been rattled. Here she had an opportunity to score and hit the post and she comes back and keeps fighting. That’s a testament to her. Heather had something on that team that no one else had in frightening speed. She uses that speed to get behind defenses but she also uses it to come in and work extremely hard for us. In that Germany game where we were all running on fumes she gets subbed in and gives us a big lift of energy.

Foudy: That Germany game I came out with my ankle in the 65th minute, and I don’t remember when Heather went it but it was late in the game. We are screaming every time she gets on the ball from the sidelines: “Just take her, take her, take her,” meaning go at her. She is so fast and you can see the damage that she can do to defenses. She is so fast that she can just take on a whole team and beat players, especially when a team is starting to tire. Defensively she works all over the place, so she gives you such a lift when she comes in. When she is starting to go 90 minutes, which I am sure she will be soon, she is going to cause so much trouble. When you train against her in practice I have to tackle her with both hands so that she doesn’t run by me or else I am in trouble. It’s wonderful to have a weapon like that on your team.

On the mistakes made when the WUSA first started:
Foudy: It was everything: overdoing what they were buying at the team level, spending hundred of thousands of dollars on signs and things that you could easily have streamlined. We had eight different web sites run by eight different companies when maybe we could have consolidated under one. There’s a lot of excessive spending that we didn’t have controls over the first year. Not that it wasn’t well intentioned. For everything we did the first year, we wanted to do things big, but I think in hindsight that clearly wasn’t the way to go. I think if we were to do it again, I think we could make an equal splash without spending in excess and being smarter with our budget and just having tighter reigns.

On if she things Abby Wambach could break her goal-scoring record:
Hamm: “I think so. I read that the other day that the only reason I had that record was I played for 17 years. She won’t need to play for 17 years to get that many goals. That’s for sure.  I’d love it if she broke it. Hopefully that means they are winning world championships and she gets an opportunity to win another Olympic Gold Medal. That would be great.”

On the tour’s impact on the future of the WUSA:
Foudy: I think anything we do in the United States is critical to the league and this is a great opportunity for us to be able to hit different spots around the United States. Equally important is the fact that we get to thank our fans for all their support over the years. Not having played the Olympics in this country, you could still feel the support from this country, in all the emails and letters and notes and everything else. I think it’ll be great just to be able to play in front our home crowd our home country and thank them for all the support over the years. We definitely hope that, once again, to raise momentum for the WUSA coming back because we feel like it’s such a wonderful thing for these young kids to have these role models. I haven’t been in the know and the mix in the last month. I’m gonna jump back into the know and the mix soon. Right now they’re trying to put together a business plan that they can show to potential investors and sponsors and try and formulate something that makes sense, financially, and will be something that hopefully will create a viable league and a league that will be around for many years.

On the mistakes made in the leagues’ first few years:
Foudy: Spending $50 million in one year would probably be on the top of my list and then trying to dig ourselves out of the hole afterwards, which I thought we did well, but by then we had kind of worn out our welcome with the investors. First and foremost you have to get a person to lead from the top and we had an interim CEO and a couple different people at the top. So I think if were to do it again we would get the leadership to create a budget control, as any business does, and work on down from that. Hopefully we’ve learned from a lot of those mistakes and we’ll get a second chance.

On the Women’s National Team’s first stop in Western Pennsylvania:
Hamm: I’m extremely excited. I think for us, not that when we go into a city that we’ve played before that we don’t look forward to it, because we do, any opportunity you get to play is a great opportunity. And obviously we’re going back to cities that are enthusiastic about us coming there, but new cities for sure. To see the excitement and the reception that we get whether it’s just coming off the plane or at our practices or at the game is wonderful. Once again, it’s reaching to anther area of the country that we haven’t gotten to compete in and just sharing our time and our experiences with the young kids.

On the young players who will become base of team:
Foudy: We talked about after the final match, the Gold Medal Match, saying it was fitting that the last three goals scored by our team at the Olympics to win the semifinal game and to ultimately win the Gold Medal were scored by three youngsters. We had Heather O’Reilly come in in the Germany game to score in overtime, then Lindsay Tarpley and Abby (Wambach) in the final. It was great to see that they were the ones that took us over the top, and fittingly. The five of us have cast a huge shadow for long and have garnered so much of the attention that I feel like they haven’t got what’s due to them, because they’re great players. I mean, we’ve seen Abby and what she can do on the world stage, and now you’re going to see Lindsay Tarpley and Aly Wagner and Cat Reddick and, you know, on a consistent basis, Heather O’Reilly. Even that middle tier of players--Kate (Markgraf), Christie (Rampone)--how they played on that back line was phenomenal. People say, ‘Are they ready to emerge?’ and I say, ‘They’ve already emerged,’ people just haven’t noticed it that much. I look forward to sitting on the sidelines and cheering them on in the coming years.

On the mindset the team brings to the tour games:
Foudy: I think we approach these games always as: lets put on a show for the fans, lets play hard but have fun and enjoy it. The good thing about this is that you can use the excuse to your coaches that you needed to take 15 touches on the ball because you’re trying to put on a show for the fans. I can try to nutmeg 15 people. The other thing that’s funny about this team is that we’ll say, ‘Oh, just go out there and have fun,’ and it always, regardless of what the game is, if it’s just a friendly exhibition or an Olympic final, it becomes competitive. So, it will still be very competitive because of this group and we’re going to want to do well. We’re going to want to win these games. I think we do a combination. And then of course if we’re in Kansas City we have to go to the Plaza and do a little shopping. We love Kansas City. It’s been a neat city to play in. We get great support and the fans have come out, so hopefully we can do that this year, too.

On coming to Kansas City:
Hamm: The last time we were in Kansas City I think three of us got to kick some field goals and I remember  Def Lpopard was staying in our hotel. We hung out with them. Obviously it’s not going to be the same intensity as the Olympics and I don’t think any of us could handle that. My heart and my head couldn’t (handle it). Julie’s right, we come in, we’re not going to practice, we’re not in any type of schedule that we were in prior to the Olympics. We’re going come in and play, but at the same time for these teams, this is their Olympics. In Kansas City, I’m not sure who we’re playing, but they have the opportunity to come in and play against the reigning Olympic Gold Medalists, and try to do what they can against us. So we have to be prepared but at the same time enjoy the environment. I know for me it’s not getting so much caught up in the games as much as wins and losses as opposed to just celebrating the opportunity that we have to play one last time in Kansas City.

On her plans for the future:
Hamm: To be honest with you, I’ve been back here in Chicago and we’ve had temporary schedules thrown at us and I’ve been trying to organize what I’m going to do and where I’m going to be with that regard and playing these games and, obviously, family commitments, hopefully the Cubs are in the playoffs, and other responsibilities that I have with sponsors before the end of the year.  Once the new year starts I think I’ll have a better idea of what my life and what my schedule might be. I haven’t decided anything yet with that regard. I’m still kind of excited about getting the opportunity to strengthen my golf game. Hopefully that will happen.

On Abby Wambach becoming a team leader:
Hamm: Abby and I have been teammates for the past two years with the Washington (D.C.) Freedom and just knowing what she brought to that team every single day. She works extremely hard, she has a lot of pride as a player, trying to be as good as she can be, trying to learn the game. She wanted to be better every single day and she brought that into the national team environment. She’s one of those players that really looks forward to the biggest of games because they challenge her so much. She’s a player that wants that challenge. If you ask any player on the team, she’s gained so much respect from all of us with her consistency, her love for the game and her love for this team. She felt absolutely terrible when she had to sit out that game in the Olympics. She felt that she had let us down. For us, I look at it as, she’s playing the only way she knows how to play and I don’t want her to play any differently. Her future is extremely bright and she’s only gonna get better and that’s one of the exciting things. As a fan of the game, and obviously as a friend and a teammate of hers, I’m just so happy for her and so proud of her because she’s worked hard for this.

Foudy: I think Mia said it perfectly. She loves to be out there, she loves to be competing. She’s in practice and she’s tackling people, working hard and then she’s screaming and laughing and saying how much she loves her job. It’s contagious. I love that energy. She’s always saying to players, to the veterans, ‘What do I need to work on? What did you see? Did you notice this?’ She just has a great mentality for the game and a great attitude in terms of wanting to be in the big games, wanting to be in the environment where everything is on the line. She thrives in that type of environment, which the best players do. She’s a pure finisher, goal scorer, kind of like myself. Like Mia over the years, she draws such attention, she’s got two or three people on her. Every set play, they’re double-teaming her and she still manages to finish them off. And she’s still, like Mia said, growing. She’s phenomenal.

On what the National Team needs to do to keep advancing…
Foudy: I think, you know, it’s hard when you come up against a country like Brazil who lives and breathes soccer. And now that they’re starting to get organized. We’ve said for years that once they get organized with their women’s game, they’re going to be phenomenal just because it’s innate almost. They grow up playing on the streets and the things they can do with the ball, we just can’t top that in America because I think a lot of it you learn on the streets, kind of like they do with some of these NBA guys. But at the same I think why we’ve been so successful in this country is because we have a tremendous grassroots program. And I think that will continue. I think that we build so many soccer players in this country. The numbers are amazing, of girls that are playing. Here in Southern California alone, it’s crazy, at my camps, how many kids are out there that are so good already at 13 and 14. I think the key is making sure they continue to play because you can see they reach high school some of them drop off and go to other sports. If we can keep them in the game and loving the game, I think that’s critical while we have these role models on the national team. If we keep them enthused about it, then we’re going to be great for a long long time.

Hamm: The development obviously is important and I think the sophistication is there but, like you said, we can always improve on that, and whether it’s playing different systems or it’s at technically getting more sophisticated on the ball, you’ll see that. Hopefully you’ll see that these players as they’re growing up, they don’t just do what they’re told, that they understand what they’re doing. But at the same time, don’t underestimate the power of heart and the power of psychologically just being hard. We’ve gained that through 17 years of experience but it paid off when it needed to pay off. There were players on that field that were just not going to let us lose. That was extremely powerful to have Julie in that Germany game, on crutches, and could be sitting there just thinking bout herself, was looking all of us in the eye saying, ‘We’re going to win this game, we’ve worked too hard, you’re not tired.’ That’s why she is our captain. I think don’t underestimate that power, but the game’s been brought to a new level. Brazil showed us that new level and all of us need to respond. And hopefully, all those young girls out there, we encourage them to play a system but we also encouraged them to be creative and take players on, because that’s what Brazil is doing and they set a new standard for all of us.

On the strength of a professional league without the star power of the three retiring veterans:
Hamm: I definitely feel that the young players are strong enough to carry this league. I’m not going to fully remove myself but, as of right now, I don’t have plans of playing. I’ve made that promise to myself but I’ve also made it to my family but I want to be involved, and I’ve shared that with John Hendricks, I’ve shared that with potential investors. I might not be on the field but I’ll do everything that I can to help this league come back and grow and survive. Maybe I can do more off the field than I could do on the field. I have nothing but confidence in players like Abby and Cat and Aly. We might have helped create it, but they can carry it and do a wonderful job in doing so.

Foudy: I think, like Mia said, the young kids are gonna do great. The only reason they haven’t been the face is not because they don’t deserve to be, but because we’ve been hogging the spotlight for far too long. The public’s going to love them. They’re going to love the way they play, they’re going to love their energy and their enthusiasm. Like Mia said, we’ll still be involved somehow, maybe not playing, but we’ll still be involved. I think it’s in good hands. First and foremost we have to get it off the ground before we can start talking about whether they’ll be able to carry it. But I think they’re going to do a great job.

On getting younger athletes to keep Title IX going:
Foudy: I didn’t learn until I was in college, unfortunately. I don’t know why that is, if that’s standard across the nation, that a lot of kids don’t get educated about it. Or maybe they do, and they forget about it. I really wasn’t made aware of it until I was in college, I think for the younger kids it’s just an educational process. That’s one of the things that I think was positive about the commission. It gave us a chance to open up discussion on it and say what’s working, what’s not and why it’s a great law and this is why you should know more about it and be thankful for it because it has created so many opportunities for all of us. A lot of people say the women were so successful at the Olympics and we thank Title IX in large part for that, because in America, girls can play and they do have the opportunities. It’s still an issue in some pockets of the United States but in general, compared to other pockets of the globe, we’re very progressive. I think it’s a continual cycle of having to educate the younger kids and make them aware. Especially as the doors are flying open for them, they need to be thankful to why they’re being thrown open.

Hamm: I think the other thing is education, for sure, Because a lot of times Title IX is only spoken about in regards to athletics. But the fact that, just letting people know that it’s a civil rights law and that it was first put into place so that women could opportunities to educate themselves, not participate in sports, but to receive scholarships and go to school. I think, like Julie said, to educate these people in that regard because people say, ‘It doesn’t really apply to me because I don’t play sports.’ Or, ‘I don’t want to play.’ It’s not about that, it’s about opportunities to go, and when you go to that school, to be receive an academic scholarship to a state university, it’s because of Title IX. So I think, first and foremost, letting them know that it’s a civil rights law and that, in and of itself it should matter.

On holding political office
Foudy: I’m just hoping to be Mia’s vice-president one day.

On her input as to where her husband, Nomar Garciaparra, will play baseball next year:
Hamm: One of the things that we talked about is that we get to make it together. The fact that his reception since he has been here has been tremendous. You go from a great baseball town of Boston and I don’t think you could have picked a better one to become a part of. It definitely makes the decision even harder. For him right now it’s just trying to get the Cubs to the playoffs. The off season, you have to worry about that then. You can’t let it consume you right now because that’s a disservice to the fans if your focus is where it shouldn’t be. It’s a disservice to his teammates if he is not 100 percent there on every pitch and every play, and that is the way he feels about it. He just wants to try to get to the post season and try to win the World Series. We will worry about all that when it is time for it. I am so happy that I am here now and can get to the game and support these guys.