On the heels of Carolina’s trouncing of Duke on Sunday, it’s valid to wonder about the legacy of the World Cup this summer. For one, five players of the championship team are Tar Heels, and recently-retired Heather O’Reilly makes a cool six recent Carolina superstars on the U.S. side and another two for other teams. While working with Reuters this summer, I covered the entirety of the World Cup, following the U.S. squad across France interviewing the players, the coach and FIFA officials. Here are five things I learned:
1. Turns out women’s soccer is — hot take alert — soccer!
Talking to people about my assignment amounted to my conversational partner assuming I asked them if women’s soccer was valid or not, or entertaining or not, or worth watching. What it felt like: me: "Did you watch the game last night?" Other human: "No, but are women really supposed to kick balls around?” Me: “Uhhh…well the game was awesome…”
2. Turns out it is possible: Women don’t flop!
Imagine a utopia where the beautiful game flows smoothly, uninterrupted by players spiraling across the pitch in complex, rolls, clutching body parts at random. Hard to imagine? Welcome to women’s soccer! I hadn’t watched a ton of the sport before my assignment (let’s throw some shade on my former self who definitely said "I don’t know what it is but I just like men’s soccer better, you know?") but each game I went to, I was just astounded by the lack of flopping. There’s research to suggest that dramatic behavior to elicit calls is directly linked to male star-power, so it will be interesting to see if this awesome mainstay of women’s ball changes or not in the coming decade.