- February is Black History Month
- To celebrate, FIFA.com spoke with USWNT forward Jessica McDonald
- McDonald talks about the legacy of Kim Crabbe, Sandi Gordon and more
Representation matters. Just ask FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winner and three-time NWSL champion Jessica McDonald.
An 11-year-old McDonald was watching when Briana Scurry made countless crucial saves en route to helping USA win the World Cup on home soil - an iconic and seminal moment in women’s football history.
“She stood out,” McDonald told FIFA.com. “She wasn’t just a goalkeeper but she was just dominant as well. As a female athlete in general just seeing a woman of colour dominating in her career, that was just a really cool thing for a little girl of colour to see. That’s why I always looked up to her, even though I was never a keeper. But her presence on and off the field was admirable, and I was very excited by that.
“I remember her making this incredible save [in the 1999 World Cup Final vs China PR]—not only did she save it, but it was her reaction after she saved it; I have goosebumps right now just talking about it. I remember getting pumped up after that. It was this incredible rush of happiness to see something so historical happen. That really hit me.”
But before Scurry even starred between the sticks, the foundations for black players in the USWNT were laid by the likes of Kim Crabbe and Sandi Gordon.
Crabbe was the first woman of colour to receive a call-up to the national team in 1986, while Gordon became the first black player to play in an official match the following year under influential coach Anson Dorrance.
McDonald’s inspirations go beyond football. Last year during the SheBelieves Cup, she wore the name of the late Maya Angelou on the back of her jersey. “Her 'Phenomenal Woman' poem has always stuck with me since the first time I heard it in high school. It was absolutely amazing to me. I wasn’t even into reading, but I’ve always enjoyed poems. Everything she had written down felt so pure. It hit a home run.
“It inspired me because it’s hard for any human being to walk around with confidence, not being cocky, but just confidence. That’s always a hard thing for human beings to even have. Looking back at Angelou’s writing, it helped me gain confidence carrying myself as a female and being proud of that. She was someone else who was dominating at what they do.”
McDonald has been dominating at life herself. Back in 2010 she suffered a horrible knee injury during her rookie season of professional football that required a two-year recovery period. Doctors told her she had a small chance of playing at a high level again. “According to science, I’m not supposed to be where I’m at today.”
During her recovery period, she gave birth to her son Jeremiah. After that, she was able to train again and Jeremiah became her inspiration. She was traded to six different teams in five years in the NWSL, but that didn’t stop her. Her inspiration during all the adversity was always Jeremiah.
Jessica McDonald’s message for young footballers of colour
At the end of the day I understand how hard life in general can be. Life is hard. It really is at the end of the day. But if you’re inspired by something, if you have a dream or a goal, don’t stop until you get there. Stay inspired by whatever it is you’re trying to capture in your life. Find your purpose. If you find your purpose, I think that you’re going to be happier with your life. There are going to be hard days and times that you’re going to fail or lose.
It’s about how you bounce back from those hardships that will define your character. Know that you’re not the only one who goes through tough times. We all do. There are going to be people out there who will doubt you, they’re going to talk badly about you and try to hold you back, but use that negative energy and turn it into something positive and something you’re able to inspire yourself with. Know that it is possible to make your dreams come true.