Yesterday the US women’s national soccer team won their World Cup opener against Thailand 13-0. It was the highest goal differential in World Cup history.
I love the USWNT, and I have no problem with them running up the score in a tournament where goal differential matters. But I paused when I heard there was some criticism about how they continued to ecstatically celebrate after every goal. It seemed a little odd at first, perhaps unsportsmanlike.
But then I watched two segments that mostly changed my mind.
The first was on The Daily Show (and then confirmed in the video below). The USWNT is paid substantially less than the US men’s team despite being significantly more successful. In fact, the 13 goals they scored yesterday are more than all of the goals the men’s team has scored combined over their last 3 World Cup appearances.
The USWNT is acutely aware of the disparity in pay, and I think the thrill and release of competing at such an elite level against Thailand at least partially resulted in their celebrations.
In the video below, Alex Morgan mentions another reason: They were genuinely having a good time with each other on the field. It was a celebration of chemistry.
They even brought the celebrations off the field to the bench. I’ve never thought about that, but that’s one of the ways bench players support the team and feel like they’re part of the team–imagine what a downer it would be if the players on the field didn’t acknowledge the bench and if the bench just sat silently while their teammates scored.
Oh, and last, this is the first World Cup for a number of players. Wouldn’t you be excited if you scored or helped someone score in your first World Cup (or your second or third)? And wouldn’t you celebrate if you were teammates with someone who scored in their first World Cup?
So yeah, on the level of sportsmanship, I can see how some people might be a little critical of celebrations continuing after the third goal. But on a human level, I get it, and I’m celebrating with them.
What do you think? If you scored the 13th goal of a 12-0 World Cup game, would you celebrate?