As the United States Women’s National team continues its victory tour around the world, one player has made it her farewell tour.
Her final match is scheduled when the USWNT takes on China this coming Wednesday night. A true soccer legend will retire on top of the mountain
Mary Abigail “Abby” Wambach had not been the same intense player after the loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup. She started gauging since then, and then more so. in the last two years. Constantly wondering she could physically and emotionally elevate herself to the level that is expected of her to compete at the highest level.
In a recent interview with her former teammate, ESPN soccer analyst Julie Foudy, Wambach sums up her long journey that ends on the field but begins another.
“I think that I’ve been in search of something, and I found more than just a soccer player. That’s always been my goal, is to not just be a soccer player, and so what’s been really interesting is that the minute I said I was retiring it was like my world opened up again and I was able to breathe. ‘Wow, I am not just a soccer player, and I have value and I am lovable.’ And all this stuff that came flooding back, [my] confidence. And it was like, ‘whoa, where have you been?’”
Pending the game on Wednesday, Wambach’s numbers are those that legends are made of. From her humble beginnings at the University of Florida where is the 1998 soccer season was named SEC Freshmen of the Year as well as first-team all-SEC as a freshman. She was named first team all-american three times and helped the Florida Gators win their first even NCAA Division I Soccer Championship as a senior in 2001.
The National Women’s Soccer League career was one of turmoil and constant suspension of league operations. Obviously not the doing of Wambach but of the little demand for it by the fans at the time. Her international career is where Wambach not only made her mark but helped resurrect the attention of Women’s soccer to the United States.
Two-time Gold Medalist with the USWNT (2004 and 2012) winning FIFA World Player of the Year in 2012. Four times competing in the Women’s FIFA World Cup winning the whole thing in 2015 while finishing either second or third three out of the four of their last appearances. Wambach has won the Bronze Boot to go with her silver medal in their Olympic loss to Japan. She also has the most international goals scored by ANY player man or woman (184).
As for her personal accomplishments, while not trying to be a symbol for something, she actually was. On October 5, 2013, she married her longtime partner, Sarah Huffman, in Hawaii. Wambach was amused by the level of media attention generated by the marriage and emphasized that the event was not a political statement and did not represent a coming out, because she had never been closeted: “I can’t speak for other people, but for me, I feel like gone are the days that you need to come out of a closet. I never felt like I was in a closet. I never did. I always felt comfortable with who I am and the decisions I made.”
As for what’s next for Wambach, there is no question in her mind she wants to do more to make this world a better place to live.
Wambach has done philanthropic work for the Epilepsy Foundation and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She has participated in Mia Hamm’s annual Celebrity Soccer Challenge which raises money for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation. In August 2011, Wambach joined teammates Alex Morgan and Hope Solo in a Bank of America charitable campaign at the Chicago Marathon. $5,000.00 was donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Association on her behalf. In 2013, she became an ambassador for Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that focuses on ending homophobia and trans-phobia in sports. So you can expect Wambach to continue these pursuits and more as her time becomes more open to philanthropy and less to on the field activities.
But is soccer gone for good for Wambach? Where the old saying goes; “Never say Never,” and in Abby Wambach’s case, even more so as she does have prior experience in coaching soccer.
While the future of soccer remains in question as to its longevity, one thing is certain. Abby Wambach’s departure will leave a huge hole as she was truly one of the greatest.
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