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Black History Month: Girma the Great

Naomi Girma is establishing herself as one of America’s great defenders.

New Zealand v USWNT Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The United States Women’s National Team has a long history of great defenders. The next in line has been quick to make a name for herself and is next on the list to become one of the most talented players in the country. Naomi Girma is the real deal.

Born in San Jose, California, Girma was born to Ethiopian immigrants and spoke Amharic and English in the home. Her parents being sports lovers, Girma started playing soccer at an early age, following in the footsteps of her father. She played for the Maleda Soccer Club, while also playing basketball and gymnastics as a kid. In 2009, she joined the Central Valley Crossfire, where she quickly developed into a player that was being seen on the international youth level. She eventually was called into the USWNT U-14 camps, while also seeing time on the U-17s.

Her high school career was elite, and she received several scholarship offers. She committed to play for the Stanford Cardinal. She developed her leadership quickly, and her play and vision on the field led to her becoming a captain her sophomore year. That year, she led Stanford to the 2019 national championship. She was the captain of the USWNT U-20s as well, and her play for that team led her to be named the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. She had been called into the USWNT in December 2019, but she withdrew due to injury. She also was called into a developmental camp in October 2020, but she didn’t quite break through into the team at that time.

She tore her ACL in 2021, causing her to miss the season. But, she knew she was ready for the next level. She declared for the 2022 NWSL Draft, but continued to stay at Stanford, graduating and then pursuing a master’s degree even after she began to play professional soccer. Her accomplishments at Stanford were endless. Included in her achievements were her being a 3-time team captain, 2-time All American, 2-time Pac-12 Defender of the Year, 2-time All Pac-12, and the 2019 College Cup Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Girma was the #1 pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft, heading to the San Diego Wave. She excelled for the Wave in her rookie season, earning NWSL Best XI honors for the month of the May and June, and also being named NWSL Rookie of the Month in June. She made her USWNT debut on April 12, 2022 in a friendly against Uzbekistan, and was also on the team that won the 2022 Concacaf W Championship, qualifying the USWNT for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

Her defensive acumen has caused her to get several starts on the back line for the USWNT, and she’s only getting better. At just 22 years of age, her whole career is in front of her, and we could be looking at a future USWNT captain. Her leadership at such a young age is unparalleled, and she has become one of America’s best and brightest defenders. One day, we will look back and call her Girma the Great, but it could be a misnomer, as she’s already shown that her greatness can’t properly be measured.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing stories throughout the month to highlight some of the biggest moments in Black American and world soccer history.