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Rose Bowl Dedicates Statue Honoring ‘99 Women’s Soccer Champs

It was the kick felt around the world for women’s sports, and now, the momentous occasion of soccer legend Brandi Chastain celebrating the winning goal for the United States’ 1999 Women’s World Cup championship team has been immortalized on the green expanse near the Rose Bowl Stadium entrance with a life-like bronze statue.
A collaborative effort involving the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, the statue was unveiled and dedicated recently, on the 20th anniversary of the historic match that forever changed the prism of female athletics in the U.S. The 1999 Cup final against China, said to be the most-watched women’s sporting event in history to date, was held before a sold-out Rose Bowl crowd reported at more than 90,000. The hard-fought game was won in extra time during a penalty shootout, and the crowd went wild as Chastain shot the decisive goal and ripped off her shirt to celebrate, something she had seen her male counterparts do time and again.
That riveting moment was recalled vividly last week by Rose Bowl Operating Co. board member Lisa Stevens, who helped develop the idea of the statue and the Women’s Empowerment Symposium, also held last week, for the Legacy Foundation.
“Brandi ripping off her jersey was the best thing that ever happened,” Stevens told the crowd at the statue ceremony. “Bringing up things that forced people to talk about gender biases and inequality, it was so incredibly important, and for us to be able to do it in a productive way was amazing. It was such a gift to bring about that conversation. Thank you to the 1999 women’s soccer team for all that you have done for women around the world and for our future.”
The statue, located outside of Gate A, is a striking re-creation of the famous moment when Chastain dropped to her knees and tore off her jersey, revealing a muscular torso and a sports bra. It has been called one of the most iconic moments in sports history, but critics at the time chastised her for celebrating inappropriately, though male soccer colleagues often take off their jerseys in the same way.
Chastain last week took the stage to relive the famous occasion: “What was I thinking? Insanity. You can’t understand what it feels like to have a childhood fantasy come true until you live it. The response you have is just raw emotion.”
Chastain addressed the sea of attendees — which included many school-age children in AYSO soccer uniforms and another contingent wearing 2019 women’s national team official jerseys — and urged the young players to work hard and pay attention to the small details of the game. Chastain gave an exciting play-by-play of the last minutes of the game at the behest of speaker Anne Meyers Drysdale, former Olympian and Basketball Hall of Fame member.
The penalty shootout, Chastain recalled, never would have happened if it hadn’t been for a spectacular header save from just inside the goalpost during extra time by teammate Kristine Lilly, “who says she’s 5-4 but is really 5-3,” which garnered laughs.
Chastain was joined on stage by former teammates Lorrie Fair and Saskia Webber to call out the names of every 1999 team member and her number as they unveiled the statue.
“What you see behind us is not just for one person, it’s for every little soccer player out there,” she concluded. “I hope every player who puts on cleats has a moment like that.”
Former FIFA World Cup and Major League Soccer executive Marla Messing also spoke at the event, emphasizing how the recent success of the U.S.’ 2019 Women’s World Cup team can be traced back to the “99ers” and the game at the Rose Bowl 20 years ago.
“Over the three-week period that summer [in 1999], those women redefined what it meant to be a female athlete. They were educated, articulate, beautiful, and as unafraid to be tough and competitive on the field as they were collegial and engaging off the field,” Messing said.
As young fans swarmed the stage to take selfies with the 99ers and the statue, city officials praised the Rose Bowl for commemorating such an iconic moment.
“This is a great day for Pasadena, in terms of history of the team and event in ’99 … this is all part of the continuum of excitement for Pasadena and its relationship with women’s athletics,” said Mayor Terry Tornek. “We’re so proud of what the Rose Bowl and Legacy Foundation have done here and this continuing evolution in terms of empowering women and setting examples for my six granddaughters. It’s very cool.”
On Aug. 3, the 2019 championship team will kick off a national victory tour with a match at the Rose Bowl. The team is expected to play against the Irish national team, Rose Bowl General Manager and CEO Darryl Dunn said.
“We are so proud of our history, from when we hosted the ’99 final, which to this day was the highest-attended women’s athletic event ever in the world, and we love being a representative of that,” Dunn said. “To have the next generation of champions here is incredible, I love the enthusiasm from the public at large, showing and expressing that for this new team is really special.”

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