Everyone has at least one thing that they love about Abby Wambach.
Her swagger, her toughness, her head (literally), her heart, her grace, her determination. For me, it’s her height. Her hulking 5-10 frame that she threw against defenders with no abandon as a young, 22-year-old was a beaming ray of hope for a shy 11-year-old aspiring soccer player whose height was creeping up to just over 5-9. In the 15 years since then, I have been able to add to that list, as Abby Wambach has transcended and redefined what it means to be a female athlete, sweeping all of us up in that journey.
The most influential, iconic women to ever play the game will take her last steps on the field as a player tonight at the Superdome, leaving a trail of moments and miracles behind her, including setting the all-time international goalscoring record, scoring the most iconic goal in American soccer history, kissing her wife after leading her team to a World Cup final victory, and advocating doggedly for equal pay and eradicating gender discrimination. Throughout her entire career, both on and off the field, Abby has been authentic. She has played with a passion and fire that has inspired millions, and has demonstrated what it means to live without hesitance.
Now, after accomplishing a goal she set 4 years ago, winning the the World Cup, Abby is moving on. Which is a scary thing. Not because of what it means for the USWNT or the future of women’s soccer. The team is in good hands and the sport will continue to grow, thanks in large to Abby’s hard work. It’s scary because of what it means for the rest of us. Abby has demonstrated that through sheer belief and willpower, she can accomplish anything. So, whether that’s gender discrimination, gay rights, or any other cause, Abby will set out to change the world, and she will do it. She’s already done it once.
But tonight, we won’t think about that. I will be the 11-year-old girl who was enthralled with the big, powerful girl who was scoring goals, knocking people down, and not apologizing for it, and you will be whoever you were when you first learned, and loved, a player like Abby Wambach.