In 2021, we are witnessing a change in American women’s football. As the national team prepares for the 2023 World Cup, a number of players are heading to the camp to train the next generation of American stars.
The task before these young women is great. They must replace the on-field production of Carli Lloyd or other late-career players. But it is not only their production in the field that is necessary.
Equally if not more, their leadership off the pitch to push for equality and respect in the boardroom of American football and even the sport as a whole is essential. The outgoing generation has worked tirelessly outside of the game for changes in favor of equality. In fact, only the 99ers compete with the progressive actions of the current core.
Rob Goldman’s New Book at the Right Time The Sisterhood: The 99ers and the Rise of American Women’s Football coincides with this current generational change.
Goldman’s Book is an Oral History of the Rise of Women’s Football in the United States
The book begins in 1985 with the creation of a women’s football team to play in the Italian Mundialito Cup. He draws on this experience to show how the football team has developed from this tournament and the following ones.
Using interviews with famous players like Michelle Akers and quotes from Anson Dorrance and Tony DiCicco, the book builds a narrative to show how American women’s football came to be in 1999. For example, the Mundialito Cup of 1985 introduced the team to European style football. Also he started OOSAAA singing which has become a tradition of player.
Their upcoming trip to Italy showed they can compete with European powers, and they used it to boost their confidence and win a tournament in China.
The main takeaway from these stories and anecdotes in the sorority is that 1999 did not happen in a vacuum. Key players like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and others were nurtured by older national team players who had learned from their peers. This of course happens to all national teams. Yet not all national teams see a jump in 25 years of existing to the best team in the world. As the book shows, the 99ers are actually the 85ers-99ers, a composite experience that changed the sport.
Anecdotes and evidence
the sorority is heavy on interviews, forgoing a list of historical details covered in other books. Goldman tends to focus on managers and star players as their sources. Therefore, we don’t read too many upsetting details about the national team between 1985 and 1999. By not talking to so many fringe players or US Soccer sources, the book is missing out on certain details or parts of the story that may be. make it more complete.
However, this book is not a full story. Rather, it is a timeline of events up to the 1999 World Cup. In essence, Goldman writes to focus readers on the why, not so much on the what. This is what makes this book different from the others on the first women’s national teams. From the perspective of those who were most critical in its formation, you hear a tale of the things, experiences, and conflicts that brought the United States to the Rose Bowl celebration in 1999.
Reading the description on the cover of the book, Goldman and the editors are not claiming that this is a “definitive” story or “telling it all”. He promises to take you “on the pitch and in the head” of key team figures. That’s what I stuck to in this book – it doesn’t make too many promises, it deepens.
In this relatively short read, you come away with a good understanding of how the United States got to where it is in women’s football and why it wasn’t a guaranteed result. The 1999 experiment did not happen spontaneously. This book isn’t the first to say how and why, but its laser focus on the why through the perspective of the key numbers to get there makes it a good read.
As we celebrate a new generation of savvy American footballers who will succeed on and off the pitch, the sorority is a good reference point (and very good read) on how the first generation to achieve such success did it.