Ladies score in football first

They’re smaller, they’re slower and they’re less experienced. So what do women bring to the world’s most popular sport? The typical Premier League fan may not welcome a women’s professional soccer league with open arms but based on its popularity thus far, everyone should be investing in shares. The Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), founded by John Hendricks, kicked off its inaugural season in April of this year and has been turning heads ever since.

Before the advent of this eight-team American league only two players represented women’s soccer: Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain.

Hamm, resident Pele of women’s soccer, prospered from a lengthy career long before the women’s professional league came into existence. She is not only one of the twenty founding players of WUSA who has an equity share in the league but has also made a bundle in endorsement deals in advertisements for Nike and Gatorade.

While Hamm is the girl-next-door type, Chastain has given women’s soccer the hype every sport needs. Chastain is not known so much for her World Cup-winning penalty shot in 1999 but rather her celebrations shortly after she rifled a shot just inside the right goal post.

The image of Chastain dropping to her knees and stripping down to her black sports bra remains a symbol in women’s soccer around the world.

Now other women have the opportunity to make their mark.

“We are witnessing a cultural shift,”said Chastain.

Women no longer glow; they sweat. The world must accept females as powerful athletes as well as women, even if it means having biceps larger than their male counterparts.

The league is not trying to mimic the men’s leagues nor is it seeking sensationalized attention like the low-calibre XFL does. These women are here to play. Regardless of financial security or new-found fame; they are there solely for the love of the game.

Laura Gregg, the vice president of player personnel for WUSA and former assistant coach of the American national team, puts the attitude of these athletes into perspective. “A champion trains when no one else is watching,” she said. These female players do just that. They work during the off-season, attend school, bear children and raise families. At the end of the day athletes from the men’s Premier league leave a stadium of screaming fans and world-wide television coverage and return home to mansions paid for by their extravagant salaries and hefty transfer fees. In contrast athletes from WUSA are aware of their mortality, thriving despite minimal television coverage and dismal salaries.

Before WUSA there were no soccer leagues to develop highly-skilled female players. Currently, the American national team is the most dominant team in international play.

While WUSA employs only four Canadian players, three of whom are reserves, these players are afforded the opportunity to train with the world’s best. Exposing new players to intense competition adds firepower to every national team and combats lopsided international play.

Of course the women’s play is not without flaw. Often times these players are exceedingly unselfish, resulting in too few shots on goal. On a more positive note, a lack of experience lends itself to defensive breakdowns and hence increased goal-scoring opportunities. However impossible it may be to surpass the calibre of men’s soccer, WUSA introduces a new dimension to an ancient game. The ladies’ continuous efforts have proven that bigger is not always better.

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