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Remembering '99: Steffi Jones

How could I ever forget 1999? It was my first World Cup and also the first and only time I scored a goal at the premier event in women’s football. When you’re called up to represent your country at the World Cup you realize that all the sacrifices you’ve made are not in vain. On June 20, 1999, the day of our World Cup debut against Italy, I was amazed: The Rose Bowl was huge, with everything organized to perfection, and there was an enthusiastic crowd cheering both teams. Besides, I was playing for Germany in my father’s country.

All four games I played in 1999 are still fresh in my mind, but, of course, the quarter-final against the USA is one of the most amazing memories of my football career. I remember we played in front of a terrific crowd. People were obviously supporting the U.S., though they were all extremely respectful and friendly to us.  Needless to say, that evening I experienced first hand the impressive stamina and morale of the U.S. team that beat us 3-2 after an astonishing comeback. Somehow on that very same evening I got the feeling that I would be returning to Washington at some point. And indeed a couple of years later I signed for Washington Freedom.  Playing there I realized that the U.S. players of 1999 were not just great champions but also fantastic people.

The U.S. team fully deserved to win the 1999 World Cup. I watched the final at home in Germany and got shivers when the commentator announced that over 90,000 people were attending the match. Now that I’ve hung up my boots and am focusing all my energy on the organisation of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 in Germany, I think 1999 is a landmark in the history of women’s football. One thing is sure: as our stadiums are not as big as those in the U.S., we’ll not have crowds of 90,000. Nevertheless, I’m very confident our guests will feel as welcome and delighted as my team-mates and I felt at the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

The author is President of the Organizing Committee for the 2011 FIFA World Cup™ in Germany.