Remembering the 2000 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup
Jan is currently a linguistics consultant in the financial technology sector.
And a huge LouCity fan.
It was 11 o’clock on a Sunday night when I finally finished the last load of the Chinese team’s laundry.
Haha that’s a funny sentence to write. I might not have been feeling the humor at the time, though.
I was helping US Soccer produce the inaugural CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup in 2000, where Louisville hosted eight matches over 10 days, including two by the US women’s national team that had won the Women’s World Cup the year before.
We had first sold-out Cardinal Stadium in 1999 to watch the team during their Nike Victory Tour following WC, then we lucked out and got the first-round Gold Cup games.
In rapid fashion over a couple of years, I’d gone from soccer mom to working for USSF, writing about women’s soccer.
Having my hometown host a series of international games shifted me temporarily into a new role in event planning. As a matter of pride, I was determined we would display our best southern hospitality.
One of my duties was to recruit, train, and coordinate the 900+ (not a typo) volunteers it took to produce the event over the 10 days the teams were in Louisville.
I lined up everything from team moms, who essentially spent all day every day with a team, to stretcher crews, water and ball girls, and translators for all the teams that needed them. We hosted the CONCACAF national teams from the US, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago. Brazil and China were invited to join in.
I have many memories of this event.
We hosted practices on fields all over town, had teams and staff at 11 different hotels, arranged cultural and fun field trips for teams, and accommodated a *lot* of unique food and beverage requests.
We had several hundred local girl soccer players, in their own team uniforms, line the entryway at the airport as each team got off their plane, all waving little flags of each guest nation. A local player handed each national team player a fresh, long-stemmed rose. We were all crying and laughing and hugging. We greeted the arriving players for hours.
The Mexican team got a buy-one, get-two-pairs free deal from Carnival Shoes, during one day’s field trip. They had to practically be pushed back on the bus with arms full of shoeboxes.
The Guatemalan team set up little altars to the Virgin Mary in front of their lockers in the locker room, and prayed and sang hymns and songs together before every match.
One of my volunteers said his life was made when he got to make a quick trip to Value City before a match for new wrist sweatbands for Mia Hamm.
The US team’s team mom hosted them at her Goshen home for a barbecue and swim party. Her husband, not such a big soccer fan, walked up to Mia and said, “Hi, I’m Dave. Who are you, and burger or brat?”
The entire Brazilian women’s team had a practice session one afternoon with our local team for kids with special needs. I founded the TOPSoccer team and two of our players’ father had helped found the women’s Brazilian team years before. It was one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Many on the team were mothers themselves, away from home and family, and so kind, creative, and fun with the kids. The beautiful game, indeed.
Goalkeeper Briana Scurry was my favorite. She’d sign autographs until they forced her to stop, always taking time to talk to young players.
And I ended up doing the Chinese team’s laundry at my house. They disliked the harsh water at the hotel, and it bothered their skin. They gave me a jug of their detergent, and I did their laundry many times.
I slept for a few days after the event was over. Our volunteers received the highest praise from USSS and CONCACAF officials. We had pulled it off without a hitch.
That was so many years ago! I’m on the sidelines these days. I knew Wayne Estopinal for long time, and was at that first meeting at Molly’s to talk about the Coopers before we knew we had a team. I LOVE that we now also have a women’s pro team and am thrilled to be a part of this group.
For never having played the game, soccer has had quite the impact on my life.
I’d love to hear your stories about soccer experiences that helped you love the game. Please write your own post for sharing. That’s how we bring along the next generation.
On to the next event…