Chastain: Ten years of progress

FIFA.com continues its series dedicated to important personalities in the women's game by catching up with American Brandi Chastain, best known for her title-winning penalty in the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999 and her ensuing celebration. Having blasting her side's fifth spot-kick past China PR goalkeeper Gao Hong after 120 minutes, the defender put a fitting exclamation point on a summer of football by falling to her knees and whipping off her jersey, waving it above her head as the crowd roared.

Ten years on, and now playing with Women's Professional Soccer team FC Gold Pride, Chastain shared her perspective on the new league, how far the women's game has progressed since 1999 and its future.

FIFA.com: Brandi, July marked the ten-year anniversary of the US's historic victory at the FIFA Women's World Cup in 1999. How have your club and fans been celebrating this milestone?
Brandi Chastain: I think we've been celebrating ever since 1999. Women's soccer has grown by leaps and bounds. The attention women's soccer gets has grown exponentially. We don't have to explain what soccer is; I think people get it. The way we celebrate at WPS stadiums is by cheering on good play by either team. I think the quality of soccer in the league and the world has gotten so much better and that is the way we've celebrated '99, by improving.

Which teams or players have surprised you? Are new fan favourites coming to light?
I don't think I've been surprised by anyone. There is quality on all teams. The players that were supposed to do well are doing well and the international players are showing their experience. The players that were drafted high in the draft are doing well. LA is a quality team and have gotten good results, but I don't think any of the other teams aren't capable of the same thing.

Personally, what has been the highlight of the season thus far?
The first home game against Boston has been the highlight thus far. Walking into the stadium and having the fans be so great... playing at Buck Shaw, it's like my home stadium. Similar to the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA] and playing at Spartan Stadium, it's like home for me. It's a wonderful feeling I get inside, like I'm meant to be there. It's very special.

Which of your team-mates from 1999 has surprised you most, in terms of what they are doing today?
Tiffeny Milbrett has gone though a similar situation as I have. The latter part of her [US Women's] National Team career was not what she anticipated and she never gave up loving the game and wanting to play. I'm happy to see her out there [with FC Gold Pride] in charge of her own destiny. She wants soccer to be part of her life and she makes it happen. She's a feel-good story for me.

There are a lot of players that are becoming mothers now. We didn't change the fact that you could be both a player and a mother, but it is a wonderful example that we can be mothers and still have a career. Showing everyone that it's possible and there's no reason it shouldn't happen and that's a really positive aspect of the WPS.

Your involvement with The Superstars television show has the potential to bring awareness of WPS to a wider audience. Do you think that others should be doing more to identify similar opportunities for visibility?
I think the situation with Superstars was great fortune when they asked me if I wanted to do it. Our players transcend the lines of the soccer field. I think we're a microcosm of women that are working hard, raising families and why they're not highlighted more, I don't know. I think the women that are part of this league are shining examples of being strong, smart, healthy and community/service-oriented. I think all of our players should be marketed other places off the field.

In your view, has the league granted players enough freedom to pursue external compensation arrangements?
Our team has certainly given players the flexibility to work outside of soccer to help supplement the small salaries that we make. They understand we're not making six-figure deals so we need to make a living, pay our rent and support our families. There are deals that are out there that are outside of soccer. We are able to get sponsors as long as we adhere to the rules while we're with the team. The league has been good about that as well.

How important do you think the league's efforts to leverage social networking tools will be in terms of building a passionate community of WPS fans?
I think technology has opened more opportunities from the stands to get an inside look. The Pride is using it and I think the fans appreciate it. Soccer has been a very inclusive group. I think the technology that is out there allows more people to feel like they're part of the team, even from across the country. It has a great potential to bring more people to the game and that is something we all hope for.

Looking forward, what is your hope regarding what WPS will do to build on the achievements of US women's soccer in the years to come?
I think WPS will do what the WUSA did; it will give players an opportunity who may not have been seen or recognized by the national team a chance to be seen or play at the highest level. Shannon Boxx is a perfect example. She wasn't on the national team, played great in the WUSA and was brought into the player pool because she stood out. That is what the league will do for our domestic players and it will strengthen women's soccer around the globe.