The height of sports entertainment is watching Monday Night Football for many Americans. The NFL is such a popular organization that betting on MNF games has become a favorite sports-related activity. American football might be the top sport in the United States, but soccer dominates elsewhere.
In the last few years, many female athletes have become more outspoken about the realities of their lives, their work systems, and larger social issues. Besides being inspirations on the field or court, they are also inspirations in other ways. Simone Biles is a perfect example – not only is she quite possibly the most outstanding female gymnast of all time, but she has also used her platform to speak out against the systematic failure to protect young female athletes from predatory coaches.
In the world of soccer, there are similarly inspirational women. Here are some of our favorites:
Mia Hamm, United States
Mia Hamm was one of the first female soccer players to become hugely famous. She led the US women’s team to two gold and one silver Olympic medals and two FIFA World Cup titles. Hamm might not have been the first soccer player, but she was the first to be highly visible. She appeared in ads and made many public appearances to promote women’s sports. In doing so, she inspired a generation of girls who might not have even realized that playing soccer was an option.
Megan Rapinoe, United States
Much like Mia Hamm, Megan Rapinoe has used her talents and the platform they have earned her to speak up for the causes she believes in. Rapinoe has been described as a crafty player whose footwork frustrates opponents and amazes fans. Her work off the field is equally inspirational. Even though she ran the risk of derailing her career, Rapinoe chose to kneel for the National Anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and in protest against police brutality and America’s institutional racism.
When your nickname is “Pele in skirts,” it should be evident that you’ve done something awe-inspiring. Marta is a Brazilian player considered one of the best players. She became the first player to score in 5 consecutive World Cups and is Brazil’s top international goal scorer with 115 goals. And those aren’t just women’s records she’s setting; she’s also outscored every male player. It’s easy to see why she is an inspirational player.
Alex Morgan, United States
Alex Morgan is one of the top players in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). In 2011, she was picked for the national team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, becoming the youngest player on the team at only 22. She is a fierce player who always makes her presence felt on the field. She has also become one of the biggest advocates for equal pay for female athletes. The fact that she has been fighting so hard for future generations of athletes to be treated fairly makes her admirable.
Jill Scott, United Kingdom
Inspirations don’t always have to be for political or charity work. Jill Scott is regarded as one of England’s best players and is the second-most capped player for the English national team. She made the news during the 2022 UEFA Women’s Championship due to her angry reaction to an aggressive late tackle by a German player. The cameras caught her quite clearly swearing at the opposing player. While some news outlets reacted with dramatic faux outrage and indignation, it was a critical moment for the sport. Female athletes are held to different standards than male athletes and this moment helped to challenge that, breaking down stereotypes about women’s behavior.
Jess and Jules, Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
The final players on our list might be characters in a movie, but they have had a significant role in inspiring young women to play soccer. Bend It Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha, tells the story of Jess and Jules, played by Parminder Nagra and Kiera Knightley, two young women struggling to balance their love for playing soccer with their families’ expectations. Alongside the soccer plot, it also explores questions of race and identity in Britain and how cultural and societal expectations can create extra challenges for young women. Since its release, young women worldwide have been inspired by the movie and its main characters.
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