Megan Rapinoe, the iconic soccer star who has transcended her sport to become one of the most outspoken, accomplished and dynamic athletes of her generation, didn't want to wait until the end to say that this season would be the one.
She will not play match-by-match at the Women's World Cup, which starts later this month in Australia and New Zealand, holding back that she will retire at the end of this year, after her last major tournament for the United States. and his final season for his professional team. With Rapinoe's impeccable style, there was no way she could stay silent about something that mattered to her.
So at a press conference on Saturday ahead of Sunday's US game against Wales in San Jose, California, Rapinoe, 38, announced that it was time to say goodbye.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone,” she said to a room full of reporters as the US team prepared to fly to New Zealand for the Women's World Cup. “I never imagined where this beautiful game would take me.” He called playing for the national team “the greatest thing I've ever done.”
After 17 years on Team USA and nearly as many years speaking out in support of causes including LGBTQ rights, equal pay, the Black Lives Matter movement, and voter rights, Rapinoe will be playing in her fourth Women's World Cup and her final season in the National Women's Soccer League. . He said he was at peace and grateful that he was able to end his career on his own terms, and also at the top of his sport.
During Rapinoe's highlight-reel career both on and off the field, he has played in 199 games for the national team and has scored 63 goals for the United States. He is a three-time Olympian and won gold with his team at the 2012 London Olympics. And it seems just when his team needed him most, he came out with a clutch game, establishing himself as a creative and dangerous forward.
Perhaps nothing has demonstrated his ability to perform under pressure more than when he scored twice in the quarter-final against France at the 2019 World Cup. His goal came just days after former President Donald J. Trump criticized him on Twitter for his stance that he would not leave to the Trump White House if his team wins the tournament.
Trump said: “Megan has to WIN before she TALKS! Get the job done!”
Rapinoe, however, was unmoved. In the fifth minute of that match against France, he scored with a free kick and dashed into the corner, spreading his arms wide and enjoying the applause of the fans. Sporting purple-dyed hair that often changes color with the seasons, he scored again in the second half to catapult the team into the semifinals, a 2–1 victory. The Americans went on to win that world title, their second in a row.
Rapinoe has been stunning on the pitch in 2019. She won the Ballon d'Or as the FIFA women's player of the year. His six goals in that World Cup helped him earn the Golden Boot as top scorer and the Golden Ball as top player.
“He's a great player who has done so much for this program, so much for football in general,” said Alex Morgan, Rapinoe's longtime teammate. “I'm really happy for him that he's going to go with a bang, hopefully.”
He added: “Now we have to win it all.”
Rapinoe said she was very grateful that her body had survived all these years, but that she had “borrowed a little bit of time”. Like most elite athletes who have been around for nearly two decades, he battled injuries.
This season, Rapinoe has injured his ankle and due to a calf injury he missed the two national team friendlies against Ireland in April. Even if he is less than 100 per cent, his lead will be key for a relatively inexperienced US team with 14 World Cup rookies from a 23-man roster. So many of them idolized Rapinoe when they were growing up, and still do.
“It's all for him,” said defender Crystal Dunn adding that Rapinoe has been an inspiration to him throughout his career.
“He is someone that I look up to and rely on from time to time for random things, not even football related,” said Dunn. “I think he is someone you always want in your corner.”
It's the random things and “little things” that Rapinoe says she will remember and miss the most. Like the feeling when he walks into the locker room after a championship game to see lockers covered with tarps in anticipation of a wild champagne celebration, or the joy of seeing his teammates rejoin the squad after they finished their maternity leave.
Or what it's like to compete in the Olympics: His retirement this year means he won't be playing in the 2024 Paris Olympics next summer. “There are certain things in the game that I think you should grieve for when you leave,” he said.
Rapinoe will try to contain those feelings now that the news of her retirement has passed and the final hours of her career are imminent. He said he could now focus on winning the World Cup without distractions.
One thing she learned “very, very early on,” says Rapinoe, is that “if there's one second, that's enough time.”
Claire Fahy reported from San Jose, California.