THE MICHELLE AKERS COLUMN
Here's me holding the
World Cup when we won in 1991.
Photo by Phil Stephens
WE DID IT! ......WE DID IT!
It is over.
I can rest.
We are WORLD CHAMPS.
Just wanted to let you know I AM OK. I got my bell rung during the game
and had some pretty good heat exhaustion and CFIDS/NMH stuff going on, but I
am rallying quickly and will be back to normal in a few days. Because of
this, unfortunately, I could not travel with the rest of team on the PR
tour. I spent the day after the Final on Santa Monica beach, soaking my bod
in the cold ocean, but will write more about the World Cup Final experience
Thanks to everybody for their tremendous support through the entire Women's
World Cup. And I mean everybody, those that bought tickets to see us play
across the country, those that sent messages, and the 40 million that
watched us on TV.
You guys are AWESOME!
IN THE MEANTIME......
WOW! I can't believe the response to my June column. In it, I promised
the person who, in my opinion, sent in the best question would WIN THE SHIRT
OFF BACK from our World Cup game against Denmark.
This was so popular with everybody, I am going to do it AGAIN. This time
you can win NIKE National Team shirt that I wore in the game against
Nigeria. Hey, I even scored a couple of goals wearing it. I will
autograph,and authenticate it with game and date.
Like before, all you have to do is go to
and ask me a question.
This question can be about soccer, my career, or my personal life. The
winner will be the person, who in my opinion, submits the best question.
I will take into account your age so that everybody has a chance to win.
Last month I received questions on all sorts of topics ranging from
injuries, how I got started, to my Religious beliefs. But one area of
concern for many is the topic of motivation.
AND THE WINNER IS.....
15-year-old Steph Johnson from West Chester, Pa. Her question is:
How do you motivate your team when they are having bad days, or have bad
attitudes toward playing a game? I'm looking for ways to pump up my team.
Also, where do you find your strength to overcome CFIDS, when it seems
nearly impossible to overcome? I've read a lot about you, and the
disease,and I think that it is amazing that you still play.
Well, Steph, its important to know when to be supportive of someone and
when to push them. Everyone is different and need different motivational
approaches. Its also important to be encouraging all the time. Think
about what you need to hear when you are having a bad day, and thats
probably what your teammates need, too.
I've committed my body to this sport. My friends tease me that they are
going to buy me a wheelchair on my 50th birthday. But it's been worth it
because my goal is not only to be the best player and be on the best
team, but also to make a difference in people's lives. And I've been able
that. I think every time I step on the field I have an opportunity to make
an impact on someone. I get lots of letters from parents and kids that
want to know about me.
THE OTHER ROAD TO THE WORLD CUP
On June 24th we played Nigeria, in Chicago. We arrived at Soldier Field
by police escort . . . and thank God for that because the traffic was
horrendous coming from Downers Grove to the stadium.
The cars were packed in like sardines on the freeway, so the cops were
bleeping their sirens and waving people over in order to make room for
our bus. It was hilarious to watch the faces of both the oncoming traffic
(craning their necks to get a quick peek at us) and the cars in front of
us that had been forced over to let us pass. Some were curious with facial
expressions asking "who are these chicks and why are they so special?"
Lots were waving, cheering, or holding up a number one sign as we cheered
and waved back at them in response. One guy, however, was not too excited
about us or our very cool police escort. As the cops booted him out of our
lane and over to the side, he yelled at us and then flipped us off.
Apparently, he was not a big fan or happy camper about our little entourage
to the game.
Once we got into the locker room, I did the usual pre-game routine. Got
my shoes, socks, shin guards, wristbands, etc. on, drank my usual cup of Joe
(strong black Starbucks coffee) to get my blood pressure up (one small
element in combating my low blood pressure disorder called NMH) along
with tons of water, listened to my usual music (dc Talk rocks).
The following will answer Patricia Paynes (from Whittier, Calif.)
question about what is written on the sports tape around my ankles. Every
game I have a sock tape sock tape dedication. This game was dedicated to my
brother, Mike, as a birthday present. I wrote HAPPY B-DAY on the front, and
MIKE on the back. He is now officially 'one old dude' at the ripe old age of
Other times, I have put different bible verses on my sock tape.
After all our preparation meetings and other pre-game rituals, we had our
usual locker room warm up. Yes, warm up in the locker room-again. To say
the least, I am still annoyed at this. World class athletes forced to
warm up for their world championship competition in the locker room. What is
up with that? To me that would be like telling swimmer Mark Spitz to warm
up in the bath tub before his big race in the Olympics. Nuts.
Anyway,thankfully, we got onto the field earlier than expected and had the
chance to get a pretty good warm up in before the kick off.Once the whistle
blew we instantaneously were transformed into a bunch of bungling idiots.
We stumbled around, gave away the ball, collided with each
other, chased frantically, and in general, lost control of our bodily
functions and brain power. In contrast to our nightmare beginning, the
Nigerians came out on fire and scored in the first two minutes to put
them up 1-0. Thankfully, we have enough veteran seasoning to know a game is
90-minute ordeal and although, it wasn't the ideal start, we had another
88 minutes to rectify the situation. As we dug the ball out of the net, we
collectively took a deep breath and set the to the task of getting on the
score board. It didn't take long. We immediately rallied to score a bunch
goals (an own goal, another blast from Mia, Tiff Milbrett special, a
header from me, and a ton of others that as usual, I can't remember for the
life of me) which brought us in the clear for a seemingly easy win.
Notice I said seemingly. Scoring was not our only challenge in this
game. If you saw the game, you undoubtedly witnessed one of the most brutal
games of my and the teams' 14-year National Team history. The Nigerians
were not only extremely fast, quick, and built like brick houses, but
their tackling. The most vicious Nigerian tackling attempt occurred in the
first half with Foudy as the bull's eye target. Foudy was running toward the
sidelines after the ball with her back to the field and the girl took a
10 yard run at her and jumped (yes, jumped) cleats up in an attempt to not
only kill every living thing in her path, but the ball and Foudy as well.
Fortunately, Foudy hesitated a step (she must have felt the breeze of the
attack) and the girl went flying past her out of bounds and nearly into
the sign-age lining the field. Unbelievably, the Swiss ref for this game (who
seemed to be taking the renowned neutrality of the Swiss to an extreme in
this particular match) only handed out a few yellow cards and lots of
verbal 'play ons' in response to the Nigerian play. The fact we were able to
hold our composure and play above these kind of tactics was a tribute to the
mentality and experience of our team. Ice, baby, ice.
I came out at the half to preserve my 'gas tank'. I will never forget
re-entering the stadium in the midst of the second half. I stayed in the
locker room to get stretched and iced, so when I finally got back on the
field, the second half had already begun. As I walked along the field to
the bench, the crowd stood up in each section and clapped and cheered for me.
Now, I don't know if it was because I was so spent physically or my
emotions are on edge from the WC excitement, but the gesture almost made me
cry. It was a snapshot and memory I will forever have in my head (and heart).
Over all the game was a great success for us. We won the game 7-1,
incurred no injuries (a miracle), and we did it all in front of an
electric and extremely appreciative crowd. I do have to say the Soldier
was AWESOME. It was smaller than the Giants Stadium crowd, but the
enthusiasm and vibrancy at this venue brought our fan support to a whole
new level. There were banners, Foudy face cut outs (hilarious), American
painted and smiling faces, colorful clothing, and an overflow of cheering,
yelling, screaming, and hollering. If noise was liquid, it would have been
spilling out over the stadium walls and into the streets of Chicago. It
really was incredible. Thank you Chicago.
Our post game reception was the usual. We showered up and rushed to meet
our families and friends at the US Soccer House (HQ for the US Soccer
Federation). The ride home was shorter than the ride in (no traffic at
midnight), and our police escort did a fine job of bringing us back to
our hotel safe and sound. By the time I got to my room, packed for the
trip to Boston, it was past 1 in the morning. Another long, but
definitely a gratifyingly sweet day.
Don't forget to send me a question
You never know you may
be lucky like Steph Johnson and win my shirt.
Rock on, USA.
Birthdays this month: Brandi Chastain (21st) and Kristine Lilly (22nd).
Winning the World Cup, what a great present!