In case you don’t know who Hope Solo is (and there’s no shame in that, by the way…I didn’t and I live in a country dominated by “football”…soccer, and also happen to be an American, but I still had to look up who she was), she is making headlines today by possibly being the biggest sore loser to date at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.
Hope Solo is no slouch when it comes to athletics. She is the goalkeeper of the US Women’s Olympic soccer team, and has been the goalie for the US Women’s National Soccer Team since 2000. She’s currently 35 years old, so that’s a pretty long career by any standard. She has also become a sort of poster girl for athletic women everywhere. She’s a little bit glam, a little bit tomboy – just like all of us who have ever gotten in touch with our inner athlete.
Yet despite all that sports and PR experience under her belt, Solo still managed to let those Olympic emotions get the better of her when the US team lost to Sweden on Friday night. Was we all know, in the ubiquitous after-game sports interview, the expected formula is that the athlete will be gracious (win or lose), and thank all of the following in no particular order: the fans, the parents, the other team, the coaches, and of course God.
Here’s what Hope Solo had to say in her post-game interview after team USA got ousted by Sweden.
We played a creative game. We had many opportunities on goal. We showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team. We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that.
Okay then. Sour grapes it is. And it doesn’t help that Sweden’s head coach, Pia Sundhage, was once Hope’s coach. That likely has everything to do with her palpable disappointment in losing, and you could almost forgive a gal if she had stopped there, but unfortunately she kept going.
Sweden dropped back. They didn’t want to open play. They didn’t want to pass the ball around. They didn’t want to play great soccer, entertaining soccer. It was a combative game. A physical game. Exactly what they wanted. Exactly what their game plan was. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. I think it was very cowardly. But they won, they’re moving on. And we’re going home.
So let me see if I’ve gotten this right. Solo says that Sweden played exactly to their game plan, a plan that she says she is in fact well familiar with. Hmm…some might say that they were actually dominating the match then, am I right? I’m no soccer expert, but when one team comes in with a plan and executes said plan, resulting in the other team being defeated, I would call that effective strategy. Solo calls it cowardice.
It turns out that I’m not the only one who sees it this way. Pia Sundhage was given an opportunity to respond. For anyone who has ever played a sport, you will recognize the philosophy behind her stated strategy instantly – defense.
According to Hope Solo, I think you should define what is a good team. Well, usually – especially with the Americans – a good team is when they’re winning. And they’re winning all the time. That’s the best team in the world. But for once they didn’t go the whole way through. We won the game. They played more attacking football than we did. We defend very well. And the fact that…it went to penalty kicks says something about our defending. U.S. played better in the attack, we played better in the defense. And at the end of the day we won the game and that’s what all counts. It’s OK to be a coward if you win.
Thing is, she’s right. Solo’s diatribe, in addition to being downright unprofessional and unsportsmanlike, is inaccurate. It seems that team USA is used to playing a certain way, and dominating the field. This time around, they were met with an impenetrable defense, and they couldn’t deal. They freaked. They kept applying their same strategy, and while it was close, they did not prevail.
You have to wonder if at some point, Solo will apologize (she should) and take the loss for what it is – a learning opportunity. Although I have to admit, it sounds very much like from the interview, she has no intention of doing that. Instead, she just kept adding more fuel to the fire.
You’ve got to take your hat off to them because they beat us. So they’re going on, like I said, and we’re going home. They don’t have as quality of players as the American team does or as Brazil does, so they have to play a way that’s going to give them hope to beat a team like Brazil or the USA. And I think that’s part of the tactical side of things. And Pia is somewhat of a tactician, so she dropped her team into a 50 and tried to hit long balls. They could only really score on the opportunity for a long ball or on set pieces. So I guess you can say it’s smart, but I don’t think it’s respectful to the game.
From where I’m sitting, it sounds as if Solo could use “somewhat of a tactician” right about now as well.
Girl, pull your socks up and get on with it. This is the stuff that makes you a better athlete.
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