City fathers and mothers, fans, and members of the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup Championship team, gathered at the Rose Bowl Wednesday, 20 years to the day of the crowning, with the unveiling of a commemorative statue.
July 10, 1999, was a date the world awoke to the excitement of women’s soccer, when the U.S. defeated China in a penalty kick shootout after a game for the ages ended in a tie. The drama transpired in front of 90,000-plus people; the largest audience to ever view women’s soccer in the U.S.
“The City of Pasadena recognizes the importance of the Rose Bowl, not just in the history of Pasadena, but in the history of sports and entertainment,” said Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, kicking things off. “So many iconic moments in sports and entertainment have happened here at America’s Stadium.”
“And the event we celebrate here today is at the top of the list.”
Taking a moment to recognize the new queens of world soccer, the 2019 U.S. Women’s National Team, McAustin suggested the latest victory would not have been possible were it not for the 1999 win.
“The impact of the victory, to sports and to women, cannot be overstated,” said McAustin.
The event was emceed by Ann Myers Drysdale, who is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, is an award-winning broadcaster, vice president of the Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns, and wife of late Los Angeles Dodgers legend, Don Drysdale.
Myers Drysdale highlighted the fact that, a long history notwithstanding, the statue being dedicated is only the second monument at the Rose Bowl. The other is the only football statue of race-barrier buster Jackie Robinson, which was dedicated in Nov. 2017.
“And now we have another first, the first women’s soccer statue here at America’s stadium,” she remarked.
Marla Messinger, who led the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup Organizing Committee, told the gathering that, “Those women redefined what it meant to be a female athlete. They were educated, articulate, beautiful and as unafraid to be as tough and competitive on the field as they were collegial and engaging off the field.”
The star of the show was Brandi Chastain, who scored the winning goal in the shootout. Now a middle-aged mom, with kids in tow, she shared memories of the game, highlighted isolated moments that serve as lessons for young athletes, and generally brought the whole event to life with her vivid recollections.
“Being part of the 1999 team meant being challenged everyday to be better,” she recalled. “We weren’t asked for that from our coaches. We asked it of each other and I feel that that type of commitment is what made us as strong as we possibly could have been. We bent sometimes, but we never broke.”
She was asked to express the meaning of the statue: “I don’t really know,” Chastain responded. “Just like in 1999, when I stepped up to take that penalty kick. I didn’t know what that day would mean and what the celebration would mean, because I had no idea it was about to happen.”
She looked forward, Chastain said, to returning in the coming years with children, family and friends “to celebrate a second monument here at the Rose Bowl.”
Chastain was joined at the podium by 1999 team members Lorrie Fair and Saskia Webber with whom she shared the duty of reading off the names of the legendary squad’s members. Anthony DiCicco, son of coach Tony DiCicco who died in 2017, rose to call out his father’s name.
Chastain made waves around the world when she took off her top to reveal a sports bra after scoring the goal. “What was I thinking? Insanity,” she explained. “You can’t possibly understand what a childhood dream means until you actually live it.”
The statue itself, designed by artist Brian Hanlon, features Chastain, post-goal, in her iconic kneeling position, jersey clutched in two hands. In relief behind her, are teammates and a fraction of the multitude that came to witness history. Every player’s name is etched on the reverse side.