With Christie Rampone’s attic creaking under the weight of 260 caps, it’s hardly surprising that she holds the record for international appearances among active players. The USA captain is also preparing to set two national records tomorrow evening when she takes the field in an Olympic Women’s Football Tournament match for the 17th time and becomes the first American to appear in four separate editions.
Yet what keeps Rampone's competitive juices flowing at the age of 37 is not quantity, but quality. That is why the idea of notching up yet more appearance records is thrilling her less than the prospect of becoming the first footballer of any nationality, and of either sex, to win three gold medals. Even more exciting, the veteran centre-half is convinced that USA’s class of 2012 have what it takes.
“We’ve come here to win gold, there’s no doubt about that,” she told FIFA.com. “It’s important we peak at the right time, but this team’s been together for a while now and we’ve been getting better as the year has gone on. I just can’t wait to get started now.
“Even though it’s my fourth Olympics, it still feels as exciting as when I turned up at Sydney for my first all those years ago. As an American, you grow up dreaming of the Olympics and everyone knows what it means and what it takes to succeed. Although the culture is changing now, it’s taken people some time to understand the significance of World Cups. The Olympics is still the big one back home.
“Plus, my kids (Rylie, six, and Reece, two) will be here to watch me play, so that makes this one extra special. We didn’t fly them over for the World Cup in Germany as it was a little expensive, but we thought we’d go for it this time. After all, this tournament might be my last.”
Not that Rampone is resigned to London 2012 acting as her international swansong. Pressed further, she concedes that, “physically, I feel I could play on,” and with coach Pia Sundhage reluctant to lose a player she has hailed as “the best captain I’ve ever had”, leading USA onwards to Canada 2015 remains a distinct possibility. As the 37-year-old admitted: “If the call-up comes, it’s hard to see me turning it down.”
That, though, is a decision for another day. For now, Rampone and her colleagues are focused on an awkward opening match against a France side that pushed them all the way at the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™. “It couldn’t be any tougher,” acknowledged Rampone. “That semi-final was one of our most difficult games at the World Cup and from what I’ve seen, France have got even stronger since then. Then again, so have we, so it should be a great game.”
With Glasgow hosting the Americans’ first two Group G fixtures, Rampone has also been taking the opportunity to explore an unlikely connection to Scottish football. As the US skipper explained: “I found out last year that my great grandfather, William Dowie, played here professionally for Raith Rovers (currently in Scotland's second tier) for ten years. He emigrated to the US in the 1930s, but apparently he was a good goalkeeper and got the nickname ‘The Octopus’.
"I won’t get a chance to visit his team as they’re based out on the east coast and we’re out west here in Glasgow. But it’s so cool to know I have a connection here, and I now have a signed jersey from the club and a little booklet with some old photos. It’s all been so exciting to learn, and the people here in Scotland have given me such an amazing welcome. I’m really enjoying it here."