The Runner Sports

Wambach, Trump 2016: USWNT’s Hero Signs Off

Abby Wambach, undoubtedly the greatest female footballer of all time, played her final match Wednesday night in a 1-0 loss to China. She will be remembered as an unstoppable force; a striker who scored goals ad nauseam. Her achievements on the field are unparalleled by any player on the male or female side of the game, and it’s unlikely that we will be lucky enough to witness another athlete as dominant in our lifetime – especially since Rousey was put to sleep by Holly Holm. Her list of awards and trophies is too exhaustive to fully list here, but among them include:

  • 6-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Award
  • A Bronze Boot and Silver Ball at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup
  • 2011 Best Play Espy
  • 2011 AP Women’s Athlete of the year
  • 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year
  • 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion

Her reign at the top of women’s soccer is a true testament to her determination, drive, passion, and devotion, which is what makes her exit especially bittersweet.

On the eve of what should be a joyous celebration of Wambach’s career left me with a tannic, and yet sour taste in my mouth. Wambach has never been one to shy away from speaking her mind, however, in her interview on Bill Simmons’ podcast, she shared some opinions that I feel provide a somewhat unfortunate inside into the mind of a phenomenal athlete. As the Guardian reports:

“Oh man … I would definitely fire Jürgen,” Wambach replied. “Sorry Sunil, sorry US Soccer, but I don’t think that Jürgen and the litmus test on him has worked.”

Why not?

“First of all, [Klinsmann] hasn’t really focused, I feel like, enough attention on the youth programs. He says he has, I don’t think that he has. Also the way that he has changed and brought in a bunch of these foreign guys is just not something that I believe in wholeheartedly.”

“You mean like hired guns from other countries basically?”

“Exactly. I don’t believe in it in my heart. I love Jermaine Jones, I love watching him play, and I love Fabian Johnson, but I just think that this experiment that US Soccer has given Jürgen, just isn’t one that, personally, I’m into.”

Abby Wambach’s comments make me wonder if she’s been hanging out with Landon Donovan or Donald Trump or both. First, of all, these comments were more or less unprovoked. She is entitled to her opinion on the current state of the USMNT, but such blatant disrespect from someone who has never taken a role anything akin to management they can be dismissed outside of the attack on Jurgen (cue the 2014 Donovan World Cup Correspondence tapes). Secondly, and more egregious, her irreverent use of the word “foreigners,” affirmation that she sees them as “hired guns,” is something I’d expect to hear at a Trump rally. She is describing U.S. citizens in terms that alienate, otherize, and dehumanize people she allegedly views as friends. Wambach’s sneer at foreign-born individuals should be labeled exactly what it is: xenophobia. Furthermore, if she really “love[d] Jermaine Jones… love[d] Fabian Johnson” she would realize that the only reason they were born on foreign soil is because their parents are United States serviceman. Also, Wambach labeling Klinnsman’s use of “foreigners” as experimental is not only offensive, but it is patently incorrect. If you doubt me, look at many of the top footballing nations in the world:

Diego Costa: Brazilian born, Spanish international

Miroslav Klose: Polish born, German international

Lukas Podolski: Polish born, German international

Pepe: Brazilian born, Portuguese international

Thiago Motta: Brazilian born, Italian international

Jonathan de Guzman: Canadian born, Dutch international

Kevin Prince Boateng: German born, Ghanaian international

And most importantly:

Sidney Leroux: Canadian youth international, USWNT international, and close friend of the one and only Abby Wambach.

Don’t get me wrong, Wambach’s career and footballing reputation is undisputed. Her name will live in the record books forever, and I strongly doubt I will see her goal scoring record fade. Unfortunately, in very few words, Wambach has led me to question her character, or at the very least her judgment and understanding of this broad world we live in. In the same way Donald Trump would have us fear a people who are fleeing a violent nation to come to ours of opulence and safety, Wambach’s comments not only disregard, but undermine the intrinsic value that immigrants and native-born alike utilized in making this nation great. Now is not the time for exclusionary, elitist, “take our country back” thinking. Perhaps, it is best to leave you all, with the eloquent, calm, measured response of one of Klinnsman’s “hired guns:” Nordic Messi, Norwegian born, USMNT center midfielder, Mix Diskerud:

Wow Abby,

I guess there are pros and cons in limiting the base for selection.

You have just singled out a few of us. But why? Why are we your single oddballs?

Think about who you try to disenfranchise. Because if you see us as the group to disenfranchise, then at least let it be known who we are.

Stats and history will show – “our group” has more than others produced volunteer and defending soldiers for what, by us, is willingly chosen and gathered to be worth protecting: Your nation.
Wish you would accept it as ours too.

I know we’re not quite equal. From “your group of people” the country’s Commander in Chief need to be selected. However, other than that – you and I share something not unique, but constitutionally earned, a birthright to defend this nation as an American. Wherever we go. Led by whoever has earned, by democratic process, his/her right to lead, on or off the field, in peace, in war, in practice, or in any other kind of pursuit of your happiness.

Enjoy your retirement. But stay active. We all need you. Oddballs or not.