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.
To my brothers,
When I left my career two years ago, the position I attained, the money, and essentially the pinnacle and culmination of all I had worked for throughout my adult life, I made that sacrifice because I had a vision of what this team could achieve together. I never thought that I would return to the game after college, much less join such a remarkable group of misfits so many years later.
During my first camp, before we qualified for Rio, coach and I sat down and discussed my goals. ”Rio” was all I could muster. Throughout the last couple years, we laughed together, we fought together, we cried together, we sweat together, we bled together, we lost together, and we won together. We did it together with one common goal: competing in the Paralympics.
I often reflect back on the grit and determination this team has displayed so many times over the years, like the time we clawed our way from behind in the final minutes to earn a 5-3 victory against the Footie Povoa host nation, Portugal, to secure a third-place finish ahead of some of the best countries in the world. I think about the skill and mental toughness in overcoming injuries and absences by winning the bronze medal at the 2014 America’s Cup.
I think back to when we took the pitch in the second half against Scotland at the 2015 World Championships trailing 1-0, and looking in every one of your eyes and seeing there was no quit and no way we were going to lose. We fought and we won. Shortly after, we experienced heartbreak after taking the number-four ranked Dutch squad to double overtime to make it to the semifinals. But we rebounded back in a must-win game with a crushing 4-1 victory against Argentina to stamp our passports to Rio. And of course the 4-3 come-from-behind victory again over Argentina in Spain earlier this year.
The U.S. PNT celebrates after punching its ticket to the 2016 Paralympic games with a 4-1 win vs. Argentina at the 2015 Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships.
What truly showed how far this team has come in such a short time was on full display in Rio by concluding our season with a 2-1 victory over Ireland, the same team we lost to 4-1 and 5-0 just months before! Simply incredible, gentlemen.
These few examples, and many others I did not mention, do not fully capture the spirit, mentality, and potential of this team. We accomplished something that men, women, and children all over the world can only dream of. We reached the greatest stage in our sport and we did so while displaying the qualities of what makes our country, and each and every one of you, so great. We represented our country and ourselves with honor, respect, courage, sacrifice, and strength.
I know we are all saying, “what if…” and “if this…”, but the fact of the matter is that we made waves on the international stage. We showed that we’re a dangerous team, a term that had never been used to describe our team until all of you gave everything of yourselves to earn that. Our time in Brazil is something we will all share forever and no one will ever be able to take that from you. What an incredible legacy.
Throughout this tournament, not only did we now show that we belong with the best in the world, but we set this program up for success in the future. Aspiring players around our country who watched each and every one of you and learned of your tremendously powerful and inspirational stories will come into this team for their trials knowing that they will have to work their asses off to join our ranks. The results will come with the foundation that we have laid.
There are no words to capture the pride and love I have for each of you, my brothers. No matter where our roads take us in the future, I want you to know that if you ever need me, I’ll be there, as I know you would do the same for me. Hold your heads up high, reflect on what we did, on who we are, and let’s get back to the grindstone.
Our coach and staff created a formula for success with this team, and we have not fully honored that yet. Coach [Stuart] Sharp has led by example in his dedication to all of us. He has transformed this program and this team, using each of us as his instruments.
I am motivated to get back to work, to put that crest over my chest, and take the pitch with you all again very soon. We have work to do. I love you all.
US National 7-a-side Football Striker / Co-CaptainRead more