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11 Questions With Abby Wambach

At 5-foot-11, U.S. Women’s National Team forward Abby Wambach plays big, because she is big.  Luckily for, she can also talk big.  One of the breakout stars of the 2003 Women’s World Cup and the Chevrolet U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year in 2003, the former U.S. Under-21 star shares her thoughts in this Q & A session about the differences in what referees see and what actually happens, growing as a player and her first Women’s World Cup.

1) In 2003, you led the WUSA in fouls committed, and were fifth in fouls suffered.  As a forward, isn’t there something backward about that?  Do you think there is any sort of discrimination against “big girls”?

“I think the reason why I get called for fouls is because that the referees can’t believe that anyone can move me off the ball, and some referees have even told me that.  In something as simple as two players going up for a 50/50 ball, physics says that if I outweigh a defender by 40 pounds, that they are going to move and I am not going to move so much, and supposedly, that’s a foul.”

2) You made a big change in your game during your senior year of college, which is when you made an impact with the U.S. U-21s, and got your foot in the door with the full team.  What spurred that change?

“I’d have to say it was (U.S. Under-21 National Team coach) Jerry Smith.  He’s a coach I respected and one that has been highly successful during his career.  He told me that if I applied myself and worked as hard as I could off the field to be fit, and to take advantage of my physical gifts and learn the game, then I had a chance to be on the National Team.  Others had told me similar things, but he was the first one I really believed.  Maybe it was because I was in a national team setting, but that was the first time I started to take my performance seriously and believe that I could play beyond college.”

3) You have often talked about how playing with Mia Hamm on the Washington Freedom has helped you as a person and player.  What is one important thing you learned from Mia?

“One of the major things I’ve learned is that if I could learn to play well alongside one of the best forwards to ever step on the field, then I was bound to be successful and that’s something I had the opportunity to do.  It’s important for your team to have chemistry, especially the forwards, and to have that chemistry with Mia, to learn to read the game and her runs, helped me see how far I could extend my standards.  Having her set her standards as high as she did every day allowed me to chase those and get better.”

4) You were one of the breakout stars of the 2003 Women’s World Cup.  How was your experience in your first world championship?

“What I took most from this World Cup was that anything can happen in any game at any time, no matter what team you are playing in the tournament.  You can’t take one minute for granted when you are out on the field.  That minute might be a corner kick against Germany in the first half that decides the game.  I definitely will take away from that tournament great memories of friendship, hard work and determination, and no matter what, I will always remember the feeling of leaving everything on the field for your country and for your team.”

5) On the topic of the Women’s World Cup, you scored one of the most important goals in U.S. Women’s National Team history when the USA defeated Norway, 1-0, in the quarterfinals.  Can you appreciate the magnitude of that goal at such a young stage in your career?

“Absolutely I do, not only did winning that game get us to the semifinals, but the most incredible part, and part we took the most pride in, was that Norway only took two shots.  It was an entire team effort that got us through to the next round, not just one goal.  One of the things about soccer is that forwards usually get all the glory and the midfielders and defense basically does all the dirty work for us.   I have no problem passing praise to Cat Reddick who served a great ball on that goal and for the rest of the team that played with their hearts.  That’s what that game was all about.”

6) You are one of only a few left-footed players in the U.S. Women’s National Team pool.  Do you see that as an advantage?

“I think most people on this team can play with both their feet.  They probably prefer to use one more than the other, and I probably fall into that category.  I am actually kind of confused about which foot I am.  I kick a lot harder with my left, but I am more accurate with my right.  I just think that if you put 165 pounds behind a shot like I do, that’s an advantage any way you look at it.”

7) Not like you get much time off the field, but when you do get some down time, what are you favorite things to do totally away from soccer?

“I am big into video games.  My favorite games are EA Sports’ FIFA Soccer 2004, which might not be totally away from the game, but it’s off the field.  I’m always Real Madrid.  If someone else insists on being Real Madrid, then we play Real Madrid vs. Real Madrid.  It’s pretty funny when David Beckham tackles himself.  Another thing I like to do is read, which I’ve really gotten into in the last two years.  I’ve tried to educate myself in politics, history and with self-help books.”

8) You won a Chevrolet Trailblazer as the 2003 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.  Are you a big car kind of person, or do you see yourself in something small and sporty?

“I’ve always been a SUV lover, and if someone deems me worthy of receiving a car, I’ll take anything they offered.  It’s a wonderful accomplishment and an honor to be able to win a car and winning a big car is even better.  Being an outdoors type person, I need more space for the mountain bike I am not allowed to ride, for the surfboard I will soon buy but not use, and for the camping equipment that I need for a weekend getaway.”

9) You have been in Costa Rica for a week now. How have you found the country?

“Costa Rica has been a beautiful, exciting, adventurous country.  I have frequently said in our short time here that I can’t believe we are lucky enough to come to wonderful places and play soccer.  It’s a dream job, if you can even call it a job, and as a team we are hoping to make this an annual trip.”

10) You given name is Mary Abigail Wambach, and U.S. captain Julie Foudy loves to address you Mary Abigail.  Is she the only one who is allowed to call you Mary?

“That only person who can really call me that is my mother.  During my childhood she frequently used those three words in succession when I got in trouble.  Julie isn’t really allowed to call me that, she just does it to rile me up.  I think it makes me seem sweeter and gives her an added sense of confidence during training.”

11) It has been readily apparent from the many, many stories on you in your hometown paper in Rochester, N.Y., the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, that you are a hometown hero.  Why so much love from the Roc?

“I think the people of Rochester have a way about them that they always love to keep tabs on people’s careers after they leave.  There are many athletes that have come out of Rochester and continue to have success and get attention and support from the great people in Rochester.  It’s wonderful, because these athletes continue to return to Rochester and give back to the community.  I’m hoping that the national team someday gets to play there.”