The 1999 World Cup brought me closer to soccer. June 23rd, 1999 my sister and my club team went to Civic Stadium in Portland, Oregon to watch China take on Ghana in a group stage game. I had just turned 17 years old.
That World Cup brought soccer right into my hometown and not just soccer, but the highest level of soccer. To be able to sit in the stands and see this was a real eye-opener for me. It showed me that I could possibly take the sport I loved and was playing even further than I had dreamed of. It was inspiring.
That World Cup gave me a taste of what I wanted my future to be. I wanted to grow into a role where I could be inspiring young players like I was being influenced and inspired at the time.
Having the game in our hometown also meant that we were watching every game on television anyway. And come that final match my sister and I were laying on our stomachs, side by side, in our living room in Vancouver, Washington.
I just remember watching that whole game. Kate Markgraf stood out to me, she was just amazing. She was the person I identified with. She had this crazy hair and I would think ‘whose this girl with the red hair?”
I fell in love with the game even more at that point. That game had big play after big play. I remember so many moments that a player made what might be the game-saving play. They just came together as a team and rose to the occasion. I think every young girl felt like they we right there on the field with them. I know I felt that way.
It made me, as a young woman realize that if you set your mind to it you can accomplish anything. And that stays with me today. Everytime I am asked for an autograph I sign my name and also write “dream big.” Its moments like those that make that statement so true. All the players on that field accomplished that because they were willing to “dream big.” The celebration and the smiles, I was just in awe. Seeing them carry that flag…wow. It was a turning point, at least for me, in women’s soccer.
Tina Ellertson is a forward with the Saint Louis Athletica.