Celebrating The Heroes Of The Soccer Field
As the nation is watching the U.S. Women’s National Team in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it is a great time to look back at our past soccer stars. One of the greatest players in U.S. Women’s Soccer history, Michelle Akers has dedicated her life to the game and continues to be a great ambassador for long after she has left the field. Celebrated as the FIFA Female Player of the Century, Akers is in a class all on her own.
Michelle Akers represents the glorious history of the USA Women’s games — as a member of the all important team that played in the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup held in China in 1991. This was the year that America set the standard for greatness on the field — when she and her teammates became World Champions for the first time ever. The lead scorer in the first Women’s World Cup and having scored ten goals, Akers, a center forward, became the first American to be awarded the Golden Boot. Today, Abby Wambach – today’s captain of the US Women’s National Team – holds the record of most goals scored with 182, but turning back time to when Akers was pioneering women’s soccer – her 105 goals were an unheard of accomplishment.
Always known for her true dedication to the sport, Akers was one of the hardest working members of her team. Akers held herself to a high standard and relentlessly trained to be the best. Akers, who often trained on her own, always impressed her coaches. Then US National Team Head Coach Anson Dorrance, once told her she was one of the very few players who always arrived back at training sessions better than she left.
FACT FILE ON ACKERS: In the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, Akers changed positions to become a midfielder and help her team win the gold medal.
Despite being diagnosed in 1994 with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Michelle helped the Women’s National Team become world champions for the second time at the 1999 Women’s World Cup, demonstrating her resilience and dedication to the game.
FIFA recognized her work and contribution to the game and awarded her the FIFA Order of Merit.
The two-time USSF Female Athlete of the Year and three-time U.S. Soccer Women’s Player of the Year retired in August 2000, a few weeks prior to the Sydney Olympics, after deciding that she no longer could psychically compete at the international level. Akers retired with 105 goals in 153 games, putting her just behind Mia Hamm as the second all-time leading scorer. Her incredible performance on the field and dedication to the game has helped her become the FIFA Female Player of the Century in 2002 and one of two women (the other, Mia Hamm) to be named to the FIFA 100 in 2004. That same year, Akers was also inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Akers has also authored several books detailing her successful career, her journey and her struggles with Chronic Fatigue syndrome. At the age of 49, she still gives back to the game by speaking to athletes and holding training camps. She has recently joined with Amplified Soccer to host a camp that provides female athletes the skills needed to excel in the game.
Akers owns a large farm in Georgia, where she lives, does her athletic/soccer training and manages her horse rescue which she started in 2007.
“Running a horse rescue has turned out to be one of the greatest adventures and biggest challenges of my life. Every day is different. Every horse is unique. And every animal takes their own place in my heart,” said Akers.
Akers currently has an ebay memorabilia auction to support her Horse Rescue Barn Project. This project will enable the Horse Barn to be rebuilt and relocated to higher to ground, as well as, making changes to the property i.e. pastures, driveway, and surrounding barn areas to ensure the best environment possible to maintain horses. There are some amazing items that wont last very long.
CNN Today Interview with Michelle Akers:
When asked what she thought of the FIFA scandal:
“It was like a kick in the gut. It’s personal to me because we give our heart and soul to the game and then they’re spending millions and billions of dollars on excess. It’s hard to reconcile.”
When asked about more women involvement in FIFA leadership:
“I’m all for equal opportunity but I’m also 100% for the best person gets the job. I don’t care–man, woman, zebra. As long as they can do the job and they do it well, I want them in that role.”
When asked if the right people are in the right leadership roles in FIFA:
“No, I think it’s been, you know, continuous old boys network, so to speak. Everyone’s patting each other’s back and keeping it in that kind of family. So now, with this huge FBI investigation, everything is broken up, let’s hope that the right people come into leadership so things change.”
When asked about turf vs natural grass for the Women’s World Cup:
“I’d be looking for more equality in the game, mens vs. womens. A guys’ World Cup would never, I mean it’s unthinkable, to think it would be on a turf field. Forget it. So, it should be the same way with the women’s games. To me, it’s disappointing that this is happening. But in the same sense, with the change of leadership within FIFA, hopefully around the world changes will continue to happen for both sides–men and women.”
When asked about what it feels like to play soccer on turf:
“It changes the game. First and foremost, it’s brutal on your body. Over the period of so many games in a World Cup, each fall, each pound, each step, it’s wear and tear on your body over many games, that mean the world, literally. So, you want that game to be played on grass. Soccer, is meant to be played on grass. It’s just a tragedy. The teams are going to have to be bigger than this decision and they’re gonna have to go out and play and make it a great World Cup, despite.”
This article was worked on by Zainab Younus – SoccerToday Researcher