Blaze Byrd | June 17, 2015
Yesterday, I was able to fulfill a dream of mine that I have had since the US Women’s National Team won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup– attend a game at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and watch the US Women’s National Team. I attended the USA vs Nigeria game at BC Place in Vancouver. The USA beat Nigeria 1-0 to top Group D and move on to the Round of 16.
Growing up, I watched a lot of rugby but it was not an option for me to play very young, so I began playing soccer at the age of 5. Five years later, the FIFA Women’s World Cup took America by storm. I was 10 and I still remember where I was when I watched the USA defeat China on penalty kicks in the finals to win the World Cup. In fact, I still have a poster of the 1999 US Women’s National Team (USWNT) hanging on my wall at my childhood home. So yesterday, being able to attend a game in the same tournament that aided me in falling in love with the game of soccer was an absolute dream come true. Although the team is different and Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastian have been replaced with Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and Sydeny Loureox, the excitement of winning the next World Cup has not faded. When USA lost in penalty kicks to Japan in 2011, I was sick. To be able to attend game that could possibly be a part of the journey to the next championship is something that means so much to me. I still repped my rugby roots with a USA Rugby jersey though!
Our trip to Vancouver took longer than expected thanks to a I-5 N closure and all the other amazing USA fans driving from Seattle as well. When we got to Vancouver, we planned to head straight to the Fan Zone to find the American Outlaws. While searching for the Vancouver Fan Zone, we ended up stumbling upon an absolutely marketing ploy Nike had set-up called Nike Underground. This was a pop-up experience Nike had set up in a vacant parking garage with skills challenges, a turf field and apparel and cleats as a part of Nike’s #NoMaybes campaign. There was seemingly little to no advertising beforehand for it. The only reason we knew anything was there was because we saw fans entering the building and there were two employees outside inviting fans to come in which gave it an exclusive feel. The only reason I had an inkling of the place was because a popular soccer Twitter handle, @SoccerGrlProbs, had tweeted about the experience that morning. Inside you could play games, customize apparel and sign the #NoMaybes wall along side USWNT greats Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm and current player, Julie Johnston. As a marketing professional, I could not get over what a great idea this was for Nike, especially since FIFA is partners with ADIDAS. It almost had the feel of Beyonce dropping her album without a marketing campaign– like Nike was saying, ‘We don’t even need to advertise this but it will still be successful.’ It worked on me; I bought a shirt!
We eventually made it to the Fan Zone along with 1000s of other American fans. The Fan Zone included a large tent with picnic tables with two large screens that were playing the Ecuador vs Japan game. There were many vendors set up around the Fan Zone including ADIDAS, Hyandai, Coke (who was giving out small aluminum bottled cokes), Budweiser and many more event sponsors and food vendors. One of the many fans there was USWNT alumnae Lori Lindsey, who were able to talk to and get a picture with. The Fan Zone also marked the starting spot for the parade to the stadium for the game. There was a band and lots of chanting on the way to the stadium, as well as, thousands of fans lining the streets.
We had seats on the 2nd row of the second level behind one of the goals which gave us an exceptional view of that one goal as well as a great view of the pitch as a whole. The first half was full of opportunities for the USA, including one goal that was called back for offsides, and one close scoring opportunity by Nigeria where Julie Johnston came out of no where to slide through before the player could get the shot off (this happened right in front of us!), but the only goal of the game with just a few seconds left in the first half in true Abby Wambach style. The second half there were fewer chances but the USA looked dominate throughout. USA Head Coach substituted all three big stars, Wambach, Rampinoe and Morgan, and put in two seasoned vets in Christine Rampone and Shannon Box along with the other big star of the team, Sydney Lerouex. Rampone’s substitution marked her as the oldest player ever to play in the World Cup which I think is totally badass. Overall, the experience was seriously indescribable and something I will never forget. I cannot thank ATAVUS enough for letting me take the day to make the trip for this once in a lifetime experience!!!