Around 1920, a Scottish immigrant named William Dowie traveled to the New World in search of the American dream, leaving behind a 10-year career as a goalkeeper for Raith Rovers, a small club founded in 1883 in Kirkcaldy, about 45 miles east of Glasgow.
Is it possible that nearly 92 years later his great-granddaughter would return to Scotland – Glasgow, in fact! – to captain the United States in the 2012 Olympics?
It is. And she has.
U.S. captain Christie Rampone (née Pearce) grew up knowing only her great-grandfather’s name, that he was from Scotland, and that he might have played professional soccer around the turn of the century, but little else.
On the USA’s trip to Scotland in April of 2011 (piggybacked off a match in London) to play a closed-door scrimmage during the Women’s World Cup preparations, Rampone mentioned her Scottish roots to U.S. Women’s National Team press officer Aaron Heifetz, who took this wee bit of information and asked the Scottish Football Association if it was possible to track down anything else on her great-grandfather.
The USA’s team liaison, Shirley, placed a few calls to the proper folks back at the federation headquarters in Glasgow and struck gold. Lo and behold, in a country that can trace its history as an independent sovereign state back to the early Middle Ages and seems to chronicle that history – especially the football history – extremely well, they found some information on Mr. Bill Dowie.
In the humorously-named Always Next Season: 125 Years of Raith Rovers Football Club, there is a listing for a goalkeeper named William Dowie, who played for the club from 1905-1915. He was signed from Dunnikier Athletic and played 130 games for Raith, oddly scoring two goals! (Maybe on penalty kicks?)
A phone call to Christie’s mom (William Dowie’s granddaughter) back in New Jersey revealed he was born in 1886, which would have made him a very appropriate 19 years old when he debuted for Raith Rovers. Mrs. Pearce also said he came over to the United States at the age of 34, which would have been in 1920, five years after he had finished his career at Rovers. Once again, entirely plausible.
In the book, Dowie was described thusly in a report on a match from around 1905:
“Rovers’ young goalkeeper Dowie was a veritable octopus in goal, and gave a marvelous display of fistic prowess, punching the ball clear in all directions and repeatedly over the bar.”
And we thought Christie’s amazing athleticism came from her father’s side of the family? She has never been called an octopus, though.
In 1906, Dowie helped preserve a win over St. Bernards, who were granted a penalty kick late in the game, but “Bill Dowie saved both the kick and the rebound.”
The real find in the book, though, was a picture of William Dowie. After staring intently at the photo, Christie said that he did in fact look like her uncle Bill Dowie (the name was passed down), her mom’s brother.
By the time Rampone returned to Scotland for the Olympics, word had spread that the captain of the USA had some real Scottish blood
That fact has made her popular with the Scottish media in Glasgow, who are intrigued and excited about her story and have almost embraced her as one of their own.
In fact, a crew from the Olympic Broadcasting Service, which is in charge of producing content for all the Olympics rights holders, produced a feature on Rampone. The crew traveled to Raith Rovers to find out some more about Bill Dowie, came back with even more photos of their former goalkeeper and got a jersey signed for Rampone by the current team. In fact, the folks at the club were over the moon that Rampone had returned “home.”
Perhaps the best thing about the story is that Bill Dowie, despite leaving this world years ago, has brought his family together in his homeland.
No fewer than 16 members of the Dowie/Pearce clan were inspired to come to Scotland to experience the country of their ancestor.
“The cool thing is I never would have discovered any of this had I not made it to the national team and played long enough to travel to Scotland last year and then make it to this Olympics,” said Rampone. “We never really had any information on him and we’ve all learned a lot. My mother wasn’t originally coming to the first two games, and then my uncle decided to come when he found out it was in Scotland, then my aunt jumped on board…it’s pretty special to have so many family members here in the birthplace of my great-grandfather.”
Neither Rampone’s mom nor her own father (who worked on ships to carve out a better life for his family) played soccer, so the soccer gene seems to have skipped two generations. In retrospect, perhaps all those genes were saved up for the U.S. captain, who at age 37 and after having two children is still one of the fittest, fastest and strongest players on the U.S. team.
What Rampone appreciates most is the warm welcome she has received in Scotland. It’s an Olympic memory she’ll carry forever.
“The reception has been fantastic,” said Rampone. “I never even thought they would take me under their wing as one of their own. Even though I’m from a different country, part of me is from Scotland, and they’ve been supporting me like a long-lost daughter. I hope the Scottish fans appreciate our team and our team spirit. We’ll always remember Glasgow fondly. It’s been pretty cool.”
Suffice it to say, William Wallace would have been honored to ride with Rampone.
On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.
Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut.
Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT 21 players have scored in their first caps.
NOTHING TO LOSE
Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one. In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.
“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”
As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.
Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”
That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.
“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”
Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup