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Remembering '99: Brittany Klein

I grew up in Arcadia, Calif., which is about a ten minute drive from the Pasadena Rose Bowl, where the '99 World Cup final between the U.S. Women’s National Team and the Chinese National team was held. In my eyes, because the World Cup was so close to home, girls from around the country were inspired to set goals and ultimately, to dream of one day playing for the U.S. National team. I was 12 years old at the time, and already had developed a passion for the game. During the World Cup, that passion sort of transformed into a realization that the young women who were competing at the highest level possible had once been in my shoes. I remember watching the U.S. team play and thinking to myself that I wanted to be on that team.

Not only was I an inspired young soccer player, but I definitely developed into a fan who truly enjoyed rooting for the U.S. I was able to go watch the U.S. team train, got autographs from the Chinese and Norwegian teams who were staying at a hotel that was less than a mile away, and went to an autograph signing where I was able to get Brandi Chastain to sign a newspaper clipping of the well-known picture of her celebrating in her sports bra. I was extremely excited about the whole tournament. In fact, I made a whole poster board, front and back, of all the pictures and newspaper articles that I could get a hold of. I guess you can say I was a bit fanatical :).

I had complete respect and admiration for all of the players, especially Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, and Kristine Lilly. I remember when Lilly cleared the ball off the goal-line in overtime of the final. That was an especially memorable moment of the game for me since she was one of the smaller girls on the field, but proved that she could play big, literally.

July 10, 1999 marked the day the World Cup final game the U.S. and China. This was also the day of my softball team’s championship game, which was scheduled too close for me to actually go to the World Cup game. I ended up watching the game at my house with my mom and a couple of friends, and remember being genuinely thrilled when the U.S. beat China in penalty kicks. You are probably asking yourself how I missed the 1999 World Cup Championship for a softball game. I don’t blame you, I am still bitter about the situation myself. Although I was unable to actually watch the game at the Rose Bowl, I am extremely grateful for my ’99 World Cup experience, which played a huge role in motivating me to set big goals for myself. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that I officially retired from softball that summer.

Brittany Klein is a midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars