Discussing Soccer with Mia Hamm
By Tom Blanton
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with retired United States women’s national soccer superstar Mia Hamm to discuss the current state of the sport in America, this summer’s World Cup and her experiences as a prolific goal-scorer. The two time Olympic gold medalist helped launch women’s soccer into the national spotlight two decades ago, eventually becoming one of the most marketable athletes of this generation.
Tom Blanton: Do you miss playing? You said you don't get out of bed excited to play anymore, but do you miss that excitement?
Mia Hamm: I do, I miss playing. I miss being around my teammates and friends and kind of working towards that common goal. I miss being that fit, you know, where you feel physically invincible. I don’t play now. With the bad knee, that’s kind of what bothers it more than anything. I mean, I love the game; I love watching the game. If I felt better playing I’d probably play a little bit more.
TB:So do you just try to avoid soccer balls altogether now?
MH: No. I mean, I run camps, I help my kids’ teams out when I can, and I try to go as much as I can, so I’m still around the game.
TB: How often do you keep in touch with your former national teammates?
MH: We talk, either text, email. You know, Kristine Lilly I just talked to the other day, so we try to keep in touch. I mean, there’s a group of us that does.
TB: What are a couple of the most memorable moments of your career – aside from just scoring goals?
MH: Well, ’99 World Cup, you know, ’96 Olympics. ’99 World Cup was, you know, here, Rose Bowl. ’96, our first Olympics. I think being able to do it in your own country, knowing that you have family and friends to kind of share that experience. I mean, the 99’ World Cup was like nothing we ever imagined. It just grew into this amazing spectacle, and I think really helped our sport grow.
TB: Are there any moments on the pitch where you wish you could go back and do something differently?
MH: Umm, yeah there are probably a lot. 2003 semi finals, I wish I could’ve scored that breakaway. That would’ve tied the game and probably would have changed the outcome. We ended up losing 3-0 just because we were throwing so many. If I had scored on that breakaway I think it would’ve changed that game.
TB: If you had to pick, who would you say has taken over your role, or stepped into your shoes, on the US Women's National Team?
MH: [Abby Wambach] in terms of scoring. For sure. She’s a warrior out there and what she’s doing right now is tremendous. What’s so great is you see so many different personalities. When I came on board it was Carin Jennings and Michelle Akers. Then, when I played Michelle still played, and Tiffeny Milbrett, and Cindy Parlow, Shannon MacMillan. What was so great is that we brought our own strengths, and you see that with the team today. You know, Abby, and Sydney Leroux, and Alex Morgan, and Christen Press, you know, all these dynamic personalities up top. Any one of them is capable of scoring.
TB: Are you still involved in any form with the national team?
MH: I’m not directly involved with that team right now. But I sit on some boards with U.S. soccer, and I run a camp with Christine Lilly, so we stay involved in the game as much as we can.
TB: Who are some female players currently playing that you admire, and why do you admire them?
Well, you look at the U.S., Abby and Alex and, gosh, Christie Rampone, who is still playing – she was playing in ’99…just, their commitment to their team and how dynamic they are. Internationally, you look at Marta for Brazil, and she’s a player who I think has raised the creativity and expectations. I mean, the game is in a really good place, and players, not only in the U.S. but around the world, are more creative and more dynamic. We have attacking personalities, defensive personalities. It’s a great time to be a fan of the game.
MH: On that note, how do you think the National Women's Soccer League has been going since its formation in 2012?
I think we have kind of the right combination right now in partnering with some of the MLS teams. You look at, whether it be Portland, Houston this year, Chicago, you just see that these relationships are really going to help build this sport. The audience is out there, it’s just finding a way to help maintain and keep it going.
TB: How good of a chance do you think the USMNT has of getting out of their “group of death” at the World Cup this summer?
You know, it’s never easy, but if there is any team that can do it, they can do it. They have that fighting spirit, and we saw it in the last World Cup. They never give up. I know U.S. soccer has given Jürgen [Klinsmann] and the team every single opportunity and resource they have. I think those guys will be well prepared. In a tournement like that you have to hopefully be [avoiding] injuries. The other thing is yellow cards, because those sneak up on you, and a little bit of luck. All these things play a big role. We have the players that can do it, and I’m excited about their chances.
MH: Are you still North American ambassador for FC Barcelona?
I’ve done a couple things recently, but they haven’t come to the U.S. the past two summers.