By Jeff Kassouf
Sunday, August 26th was induction day, and women’s soccer legends Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, headlined the Class of 2007. Not to be outdone were their fellow inductees, former NASL player Bobby Smith, and mastermind pioneer Alan Rothenberg. George Tiedemann also received the Jose Colin Media Award for his excellence in photography.
However, the day belonged to Hamm and Foudy, as the record crowd of about 5,000 people came to pay tribute to two members of the “Fab Five.” Rothenberg and Smith both jokingly acknowledged that they were taking a back seat to Hamm and Foudy, but were elated to be inducted none the less.
Rothenberg even noted that it was only fitting to be going in with his “girls” as he called them, as he was the chairman of the monumentally successful 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Rothenberg also served as President of the U.S. Soccer Federation from 1990 to 1998, and was instrumental to the success of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the creation of Major League Soccer. In 2006 he was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, which is the highest possible honor for those who have helped the game of soccer.
Smith is one of only three Americans to ever win an NASL championship, and played alongside the legendary Pele during his tenure with the New York Cosmos. He was known for his bone-crunching tackles on the field, and is already a part of the Rider University Athletics Hall of Fame.
Though Smith was a player, he was inducted as a “Veteran,” and Rothenberg was inducted as a “Builder.” Therefore, Foudy and Hamm were the two players inducted into the Hall of Fame, making it the first-ever women-only induction class.
Foudy was known as the voice of women’s soccer, and played for the U.S. Women’s National Team for over 17 years, captaining the team from 200 to 2004. She was part of the U.S. teams that won the 1991 and 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cups, 1996 and 2004 gold gedalist teams, and the 2000 silver medalist team.
Off the field, Foudy is an advocate of women’s rights, children’s rights, and fair labor. In 1997 she was the first American and woman to receive the FIFA Fair Play Award after she personally traveled to Pakistan to ensure that her cleats were not being made by exploited children.
Foudy is good friends with the original Title IX activist Billy Jean King, and continues to support women’s sports, particularly soccer, through the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy and through her support for the revival of the old WUSA.
While Foudy was known as the voice of the team, Mia Hamm was the face of the team for 17 years. She burst onto the scene at the young age of 15 years old, and never missed a step. She has scored 158 goals in international competition, more than any other player, and is the most recognizable player of any gender to be produced by U.S. Soccer.
Hamm is one of two women along with former teammate Michele Akers to be named to FIFA’s list of 125 greatest living soccer players, both of which were the only Americans. FIFA also honored her as Women’s World Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002, and she was the U.S. Soccer Federations Athlete of the Year and astounding five years in a row from 1994-1998.
At age 19, Hamm was the youngest woman to ever win a World Cup, and went on to achieve the same team accomplishments as Foudy throughout their storied careers. Hamm will always be remembered as the greatest female soccer player to ever play the game, for putting women’s soccer on the map, and for always crediting her teammates and deferring those accomplishments away from herself.
For the first time ever, the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were held outside before a large and energetic crowd. It was a true mark of how far the game of soccer has come in this country, particularly the women’s game.
No longer would the induction ceremonies being held in front of a few people in the Hall of Fame lobby, but in front of a crowd of people, particularly young ladies, who have been inspired by the character of these pioneers of the women’s game.
The day commenced with the first ever women’s Hall of Fame Game, pitting the Washington Freedom of the W-League (Hamm’s old WUSA team) against the Connecticut Reds who are set to join the W-League next year.
Hamm suited up for Washington alongside some members of the 1986 Women’s U.S. National Team, the first ever, while Foudy did the same for Connecticut. It was the perfect way to end the historic day – on the field, where all the magic for the past two decades of these players’ lives has happened.
Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy Highlights
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer: firstname.lastname@example.org