The 1999 Women's World Cup final
On the contested nature of legacy in women's football via Michelle Akers, Gao Hong and Briana Scurry
When any major women’s football tournament rolls around lots of the questions before, during and after focus on legacy. Legacy is a complicated concept within sports. It encapsulates the idea that part of the justification for these events, which are often undertaken at great expense, is that they change the place in which they are held (or the world itself) for the better For example, China hosting the 2008 Olympics was supposed to be an encouragement for them to improve their human rights record, whilst Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup was supposedly a bridge between Arab culture and the West.1
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Within women’s football, legacy is less about geo-political posturing and more about encouraging women’s sport, in terms of global interest and participation.2 This sees the players burdened with an extra responsibility. They are not solely expected to deal with the pressures that come from being an athlete wanting to compete at a high level. They are also required to be representatives of the sport, in terms of playing in a way that justifies its existence as well as being role models, particularly, for young girls.
The successful USA team at the 1999 World Cup - the ‘99ers’ as they became known - are legacy builders par excellence. But the tournament they had, the success they found, and the legacy they left all show how individual responsibility for the growth of women’s football remains placed on the women who play it, rather than the institutions who run it.
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