He walked away. Assigned us our shooters – “same as last time” – and followed the arch of the dipping orange sun. Afterwards, listening to the stinging silence of a home crowd let down, I resented him for his superstition.
I watched as a moon-faced girl with long wavy black hair took command of the field and led her team to the coveted World Cup trophy. I wanted to feel guilty for betraying my loyalty to the women’s red-white-and-blue, but the way Sawa controlled midfield was indisputable. I’m a sucker for the Beautiful Game, and Sawa delivered.
My shot went wide. To the left. I turned around to nine dejected faces and that walk back to center took a lifetime. I wanted to feel bad, but I felt nothing; I was numb. After a few more misses and a final whistle, the sun disappeared. The grass turned cold and was spiky on my salty skin. I sat on the field in the gloaming, consoling a teammate. She wouldn’t leave, and I wouldn’t make her. We didn’t speak, just lamented the loss of a championship run we felt was owed to us.
In an article after the championship match, Sawa was quoted, the gist of which brought a flood of tears to my eyes and is ingrained in my memory. She talked about telling her team that if they felt tired or down, they should just turn around and find her because she would always be there behind them, supporting them.