Twenty-two years ago today, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team took home the 1999 World Cup after winning the game on a penalty kick.
Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal against China, which she uncharacteristically kicked with her left foot. After she won the game for the U.S., Chastain ripped off her shirt (revealing her sports bra) and twirled it in the air above her head.
See the iconic photo here:
Women’s National Soccer Team Faces Off Against China
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team was facing off against China at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl stadium. It was a very hot day in Southern California, and tension was in the air. As Chastain took the penalty kick, the stadium fell silent.
“The stadium was so incredibly quiet – it’s amazing how 90,000 plus people could be silent – if I had to stop I could hear my heart beating,” Chastain later told the BBC.
Chastain was used to kicking with her right foot. However, in this case, head coach Tony DiCicco suggested she use her left foot to take the shot. DiCicco suspected that China’s soccer team had been scouting their penalty kicks during training. So he wanted to throw the Chinese goalie, Gao Hong, off her stride.
“I had never taken a penalty kick with my left foot ever before in a competitive match let alone a World Cup,” Chastain said.
Earlier that year, Chastain had gone up against Hong in another penalty shootout. Chastain recalled that Hong “psyched me out.” She got in Chastain’s head and had Chastain thinking more about her than getting the ball in the net. So Chastain missed the shot and the U.S. lost the game that time around.
Chastain Scores the Winning Goal
This time around, Chastain didn’t think about Hong. As DiCicco had known she would, she focused all her energy on kicking the ball toward the net with her left foot. She didn’t even look at Hong.
Chastain took the kick and watched as the ball shot past Hong’s outstretched arms to the back of the net. The U.S. won the game.
Then Chastain did something surprising. She tore her jersey off and twirled it in the air above her head.
“I whipped off that shirt and I kind of whipped it around in the air over my head and dropped to my knees as a ‘Yes!’ moment that we had done what we set out to do,” Chastain told the BBC.
She added, “I had no idea that would be my reaction. It was truly genuine and it was insane and it was a relief and it was joy and it was gratitude all wrapped into one.”
While there was some criticism of Chastain’s move, photos of the moment after the soccer goal made the covers of Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine and Chastain was unapologetic.
“I was grateful for those comments because it gave me a new platform to express myself about what sport has given me,” Chastain said. “There’s something primal about sport that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”