Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, July 12, 1999

Catching a late
case of soccer fever

TWO weeks ago, a co-worker passed by my office door on a Saturday morning when he stopped and exclaimed in horror, "Why aren't you watching the World Cup!" Huh? Evidently, it was the first round of some international soccer tournament for women, and the U.S. entry was apparently very good.

He was surprised that I, an avowed feminist, wasn't cheering on these exemplary role models for the nation's young girls.

The reason was simple: I'm not exactly a big sports fan (except for UH football and women's volleyball), let alone a soccer buff. In fact, I felt kind of sorry for isle parents who had to lug food and folding chairs to weekend AYSO games, get sunburned and watch their kids cavort on the field without being allowed to frolic themselves.

But that was before Saturday's big showdown pitting the Americans against the Chinese in the World Cup finals.

Soccer, where have you been all my life? And where do I sign up to play? How could I not be enthralled by:

Bullet More than 90,000 fans at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, many of them women and their daughters watching female athleticism at its finest.
Bullet The stamina, speed and agility of the players; the winning team's irrepressible communal joy at the awards ceremony.
Bullet The significance of the jersey colors: The U.S. wore white and China, well, red.
Bullet How female products like Monistat were advertised on the TV time clock and nobody blushed or blinked an eye.
Bullet The intensity of U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry as she glowered at any opponent who dared threatened her turf.
Bullet The presence of a popcorn-eating President Clinton, who brought a sort of creepy voyeuristic and lecher-esque quality to the proceedings.
Bullet American Michelle Akers grimacing from various injuries but toughing it out until a collision and concussion sidelined her.
Bullet The knowledge that a lot of girl babies in this country are going to be named Mia.
Bullet The coincidence that team captain Sun Wen of China has a clone in Hawaii named state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa.
Bullet How, after Brandi Chastain kicked the clincher in the 5-4 shootout, she jubilantly whipped off her jersey to expose a sports bra and muscular arms and shoulders, needing only Helen Reddy's liberation anthem, "I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman...," to complete the imagery of strength in body, mind and soul.

BUT perhaps most thrilling, for me anyway, is that this magnificent win will only help the gender that has lived in the sporting shadow of the other gender for too long. Pay equity is at its worst when it comes to professional athletics.

But now the members of the world champion women's soccer team will not only reap adulation, but lucrative endorsement contracts to boot. This is where the big bucks are, ladies!

And this is why, one day, women must be allowed to join professional football teams, so that they, too, can get overpaid for playing with a pigskin on Sunday afternoons.

So tell me, why couldn't U.S. team captain Carla Overbeck be the one to sink the winning field goal in some Super Bowl down the road? I'm a dreamer, you say?

Exactly, which is the true beauty of Saturday's World Cup win! It's the culmination of a dream -- for the U.S. players and their fans -- that can only beget more dreams in the process. Ain't life a kick?

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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