“Embrace this moment. There’s so many of our fellow fans back home who wished they were here with us. We have to bring it for them.” That was my challenge to the hundreds of fans who packed Le Diskret in the center of Lyon Sunday afternoon for the American Outlaws pregame before the Women’s World Cup final. The United States Women’s National Team were on the verge of winning a 4th World Cup title, but in their way stood a tough Netherlands team. The Oranje were not just bringing it on the field, their fans had been the darlings of the tournament. The noise in the stands was setting up to be a great atmosphere.
Still, this was a big moment for the players and the fans who were in Lyon for the final. The streets were buzzing with traffic as fans dressed in orange or red, white, and blue were all over town. But for the American fans, they were all ready to watch their team make history again. The challenge put forth: embrace the moment. Do it for everyone who couldn’t be here to share. Let the world know that the Americans were there.
After the mini-rally at Le Diskret, it was to the stadium, where FIFA was on the prowl. While security was very inconsistent, it also became stringent for a few supporters. Security tried to take their scarves, citing that it was club apparel that was not allowed in the stadium. Nevermind that every 8th or 9th jersey was a club jersey from somewhere in the world, but eventually after speaking with security they were let inside. Inside the stadium, people were seeking out last minute souvenirs from the shop, getting some food, or just walking around the exterior concourse of Groupama Stadium. The fans were alive, but there was a somewhat tense mood about the air. It’s the World Cup final...of course there were a few butterflies in the stomachs of some. But, everyone was excited to be in the stadium for the biggest match in women’s soccer.
The teams come out for the anthems and before you know it, the match is underway. The first “U-S-A” chant was spine tingling and it zooms around the stadium as the teams battle on it. The Dutch fans also are bringing some noise, but every chant from one side was met with a chant from the other set of fans. It wasn’t quite the noise level of the USWNT match against France, but it’s an atmosphere certainly worthy for a final. As the first half ticks away, every possible chance is met with a growing roar and then, ultimately, a large sigh as a chance was thwarted.
We reach halftime with the match still scoreless, but it’s a chance for fans to catch their breath. Then, in the 60th minute, Alex Morgan is kicked across the body by a Dutch defender. It’s initially not called, but then the VAR buzzed in. The ref takes a look at it and changes the call to a penalty. The American fans go wild at the call. Megan Rapinoe steps up to the spot and knocks it home right in front of the American Outlaws, who turn the stands into a sea of euphoria.
Just 8 minutes later, a demonstration of brilliance by Rose Lavelle ended with her sending the ball into the back of the net, and the American fans went crazy. There were still 20 minutes left in the match, but a 2-0 lead in this match was just that much more breathing room. As the match entered the 80th minute, the feeling started around the stadium that this was it...the USWNT may have just pulled this off. For me, it was a moment to try and get them across that finish line one last time, singing songs to try and keep everyone’s emotions at bay. Myself included.
One last “boom boom clap” chant began when 90:00 hit the clock, and the fans now were starting the celebration. With around 4 minutes gone in stoppage time, the U.S. bench started to run down towards the field, and that’s when everyone knew. They were just waiting for the final whistle.
The whistle sounds for full time. A primal yell erupts from the pro-American crowd as the team storms the field. Me? The emotions overcame me and I started crying. All the tears. Every tear duct was overrun with moisture, but it was all happy. I thought about how hard the team had worked to once again achieve this dream. Players like Crystal Dunn and Jessica McDonald had been working their whole lives to get to this point, Dunn famously the last cut from the 2015 World Cup title team. For Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, among others, it was probably their last World Cup match, and they were going out in style. Not only did I become emotional because of how hard the team had worked, I thought back at the work we had done in the stands this entire month. Every single chant, the days of waking up early to drink tea to heal the vocal chords I destroyed every single match, the late nights of travel and early mornings of work back home so that I would have the time to commit to the events we had planned here in France. The scores of people who were at every single match, from start to finish, because they believed in us and this team and this dream of a successful Tour de Four. Everyone in that stadium gave everything they had for this to happen, whether it was their voice or their athletic talent. And the dream came true. The Tour de Four was complete. That’s why I broke down with tears of joy. And I wasn’t the only one.
Men supporting women’s sports to tears is what we need pic.twitter.com/HIJXgUIbjC— Heather Haavisto (@othersuns) July 7, 2019
Tears and cheers were followed closely by hugs and high fives as the chanting continued for the players as they celebrated on the field. While the crowd waited for the trophy presentations, a huge chant of “Equal Pay!” rang out.
Then, it was time for the trophy presentations. Megan Rapinoe won the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, while Alex Morgan earned the Silver Boot and Rose Lavelle the Bronze Ball. Then, it was the World Cup trophy presentation. And The Gals, fresh in new championship jerseys, hoisted it high and proud.
The celebrations continued around the field, with players eventually making it all the way over to the end where the American Outlaws and other U.S. supporters were still going strong. The party began in that area, with the team dancing and lifting the trophy as the crowd serenaded them with songs and chants. After that, the party for the team went into the locker room and the crowd started to slowly disperse, some remaining for final pictures or just for hugs with some of the people they had witnessed history with.
Finally, the party for the fans moved out into the parking lots, confetti cannons popping and beers flowing. The after party for fans was back at Le Diskret, where a few hundred celebrated with dancing and partying until the club closed its doors at 1:00am. Today, for most fans, it’s a travel day as we begin our departure from France and back to the United States. But, no matter where we go, the motto is really simple: