The unveiling of a Brandi Chastain statue outside the Rose Bowl on Wednesday could not have had better timing. Not only did the ceremony in Pasadena, Calif., take place on the 20th anniversary of the World Cup win by the 1999 U.S. women’s national team, it occurred as the current squad was celebrating its recent triumph.
Chastain, 50, was on hand for the ceremony. Her statue, which honors the 1999 squad, shows her in her iconic pose on the Rose Bowl field after she scored on the penalty kick that beat China and clinched the championship.
Chastain whipped her jersey off in jubilation, creating an indelible image. That moment, along with the heroics of her trailblazing teammates, helped inspire countless girls, including members of today’s national team, to pursue their athletic dreams.
“When I stepped up to take that penalty kick, I didn’t know what that day would mean and what that celebration would mean,” Chastain said during the unveiling. “ … You can’t possibly understand what a childhood dream feels like until you’ve lived it. The response you have are raw emotions."
Chastain was joined by two other members of that team, Saskia Webber and Lorrie Fair, to read aloud the numbers and names of all of its members. Of the victory two decades ago witnessed by a record crowd of more than 90,000, Chastain said, ″It really was the jumping-off period for what is happening today and what will continue to happen for women on and off the playing field."
Meanwhile, the successors to Chastain and Co. were heading that way to collect best team honors at the ESPY awards in Los Angeles. The 2019 squad spent the early part of its day in New York, enjoying a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes.
Chastain referred to remarks made Wednesday by national team co-captain Megan Rapinoe, the Golden Ball winner of the World Cup who has been outspoken on social issues. Rapinoe told the thousands of attendees in New York: “We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We got to listen more and talk less. We got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility."
“When I think about this moment and I think about that ’99 team,” Chastain said, “a few words come to mind: friendship, teamwork, grit, competitiveness, laughter, love, strength, resiliency and, ultimately, inclusion. And I feel that that last word is where we are now.
“That everybody is a part of the conversation. Male, female, race, religion, experience, no experience — we all matter,” she continued. “We all can be better. And being a part of the 1999 team, we were challenged every day to be better. And we weren’t asked that from our coaches but by each other.
“And I feel that type of commitment is what made us as strong as we possibly could have been.”
Earlier in the week, the national team shared a photo of Rapinoe at a victory celebration in 1999 for her idols. Rapinoe’s teammate Carli Lloyd, who captained the U.S. squad to the 2015 title, attended a 1999 World Cup game at Giants Stadium and said the “amazing experience” sent “shivers up my spine.”
“The importance of the 1999 victory to sports and to women cannot be overstated,” Pasadena City Councilwoman Margaret McAustin said at Wednesday’s unveiling (via KTLA). “Without the work done by the 1999 Women’s World Cup team, victory in 2019 simply wouldn’t have been possible.”
“I was happy that I could contribute to the outcome,” Chastain said. “What you see behind us is not for one person. It’s for every little soccer player out there. And so that moment, I hope that every player who puts on cleats has a moment like that.”