THE ORIGIN OF OOOSA
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first-ever match in U.S. Women’s National Team history, ussoccer.com takes a look back on a tradition that started 20 years ago at the very first game and has lasted to this day.
For some reason lost in time, the Italian fans at the first-ever U.S. Women’s National Team match loved the American team, even though they were playing against the home side.
It was Aug. 18, 1985, in the charming beach town of Jesolo in northern Italy just a few kilometers from Venice. It was a beautiful summer day when the U.S. team made its debut on the international stage.
Perhaps the Italians knew it was the first game for the young Americans and were rooting for the underdog. Perhaps they were enthralled by the athletic and committed U.S. team. Or maybe they just loved their “calcio,” Italian for soccer.
For whatever reason, the fans starting cheering for the United States.
“I remember the crowd was so supportive of our team, and it was incredible,” said Stacey Enos, who started at left fullback in that game. “They were chanting “OOOSA, OOOSA” and it took us a while to figure out that it was “USA, USA.”
The players were so impressed and amused with the “OOOSA” chant that before the next game, the second in team history, they decided to use that in their pre-game huddle, eschewing what would have been the standard “one, two three, U-S-A!” Instead, everyone put their hands in the middle of the circle of players and belted out, “OOOSA, OOOSA, OOOSA!”
It has lasted to this day.
If you listen closely on an ESPN broadcast, or happen to have tickets behind the U.S. bench in a tight stadium, you can still hear that pre-game chant.
In fact, all the U.S. youth teams do it as well, although it’s doubtful any 17-year-olds have any idea of the origin. At least the full Women’s National Team players have a sense of history, even the younger players.
“I don’t remember who I was talking to, but I asked someone one day where the Ooosa chant came from,” said 23-year old U.S. defender Cat Reddick, who was three when the USA played its first match. “They said it came from the Italians cheering for us and making U-S-A one long word, but I didn’t know it came from the first game.”
It has now morphed into “OOOSA, OOOSA, OOOSA, AH!” which the U.S. team proudly chants before heading out to battle another country.
“I don’t know where the “AH” came from,” said former captain Emily Pickering (now Harner), one of those who uttered the very first ‘Ooosa.’ “Maybe they added a 90s twist to it.”