NEW YORK, N.Y. (Friday, October 12, 2001) - Michelle Akers, the most decorated woman in soccer history, officially brings her competitive career to an end today and will address her decision at a press conference hosted by the Women’s Sports Foundation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, New York, beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday, October 15.
Akers, an Olympic gold medalist (’96), a two-time World Champion (’91 and ’99) and recently named "Player of the Century" by soccer’s governing body FIFA, faced her fourth and fifth shoulder surgeries in 2001 while listed among the Injured Reserve with the new Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). The decision to call off her return to competition in 2002 and play for the WUSA, the league that she helped build beginning more than 15 years ago, did not come easily.
"At the time when I stepped down from the U.S. National team, my body had had it and my heart was telling me it was time to wrap it up," said Akers from her home in Orlando. "After that I figured I’d get my body patched up and set my sites towards the WUSA, but that fifth shoulder surgery pretty much helped me decide that it was time to move on and pursue some things that are near and dear to me."
The unknowing benefactors of Akers’ retirement will be the kids she plans to reach through her Soccer Outreach International (SOI) organization. She created SOI in 1997 with the mission to seek out and encourage kids of all nations to become leaders of quality character, dynamic faith, and clear purpose through the game of soccer. Akers will dedicate most of her time to growing SOI nationally through clinics, camps, a club system and outreach groups.
"I want to teach and inspire so that kids will walk away from our events with direction on how to be great people and an understanding of what it will take to be a future Olympian," said Akers. "I’ve been very fortunate and blessed throughout my career, throughout my life…sharing what I know with these future leaders through SOI is my what drives me today."
In addition, Akers has started down the path of a medical career, studying and training to become a physician’s assistant specializing in sports medicine and orthopedics.
The Women’s Sports Foundation will announce the recipients of its Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards at Monday’s press event. Akers looks forward to the event to catch up with former teammates and her many friends from across the sports spectrum.
Michelle Akers, At A Glance
- Born: 2/1/66 in Santa Clara, Calif.
- Resides: Oviedo, Fla.
- FIFA "Player of the Century" (’00)
- Primera de Futbol’s "Best Female Player Ever" (’00)
- Founding Member of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA)
- 153 international caps and 136 goals
- One of only four players internationally to reach 100 goals
- Leading scorer in Women’s World Cup history
- Two-time World Cup Champion (’91 and ’99)
- World Cup Golden Boot recipient (’91)
- Olympic Gold Medallist (’96)
- Recipient of inaugural Hermann Trophy (’88)
- ESPN’s Athlete of the Year (’85)
- Inaugural University of Central Florida (UCF) Hall of Fame inductee (’98)
- 4-time All American at UCF
- 3-time All American at Shorecrest H.S., Seattle