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Soccer's Female Pioneers

When Mia Hamm learned last week that she had been elected to the Soccer Hall of Fame, she said, "I am surprised and honored."

If she really was caught off guard, she stands alone in that respect. Hamm was selected on one hundred thirty seven of the one hundred forty one ballots cast, meaning that four of the ballots were cast by clods.

When Julie Foudy learned that she, too, had been elected to the Hall in her first year of eligibility, she said, "This indeed confirms that we are old." Nobody who recalls Foudy's characterization of the Women's National Team as Booters with Hooters was surprised.

The induction ceremony in August is likely to be noisier and less choreographable than many induction ceremonies have been. Foudy will probably be accompanied by daughter Isabel, who will be unlikely to appreciate the gravity of the circumstance, since she will be seven months old. Hamm plans to bring the twins who will double the size of her family when they arrive next month.

"I have high expectations for my children," she said last week," but self-sufficiency at four months probably isn't one of them."

Hamm and Foudy constitute the first all-female class to be elected to the Soccer Hall of Fame, which is appropriate. The professional league they helped to found was suspended after just three seasons. The public is not currently paying nearly as much attention to the Women's National Team as it was when that team filled the Rose Bowl for the victory with which they re-captured the World Cup in 1999. (An autographed soccer sock if you even know where that team is playing in a tournament this week, let alone whom they're facing.) But during the summer of '99 and on into the 2000 Olympics and those first, heady and hopeful days of the WUSA, women's soccer delighted a lot of fans of all ages and enriched in many people the appreciation of female athletes.

Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy were not alone at the center of that happy sequence of events. That's not the way it works with a team sport. But the Hall's newest inductees played brilliantly, Hamm overcame her shyness to accept adulation and promote the game with grace, and Foudy, loud and laughing, reminded us as she captained the team through many of its triumphant days that most of all it was great fun.

This program aired on March 8, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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