VIEW FROM LYON
Editor’s Note: Cooperstown’s Bill Waller, whose son Scott played for CCS, took Scott’s daughter – and aspiring soccer player – Kira to see World Cup play in France.
By BILL WALLER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
LYON, France – “USA, USA, USA.”
Over 30,000, more than half of an enormous new Lyon, France Olympic soccer stadium’s crowd are screaming their support for the U.S. Women’s soccer team. Flags waving everywhere, chants of “USA, USA” drowning out the soccer songs of the orange-clad Dutch fans; this was Lyon and the scene at the finals for the 2019 Woman’s World Cup.
This final game pitting the European Champion Netherland against the three time world champion American women would decide the 2019 World Cup.
While heavily favored, the U.S. women ran into a tough Dutch squad, ending the half with the score 0-0. My granddaughter Kira and I were glued to our seats hoping for a U.S. score.
We went to Lyon to be part of the Women’s World Cup effort and had seen the U.S. beat England and a tough Dutch team win over the taller and “blonder” Swedish squad.
Now we were ending our week by screaming for a goal by the U.S.
I had thought a great birthday gift to my newly 13-year-old granddaughter from Alexandria, Va., would be the opportunity to see the Women’s World Cup in person.
Kira is following – or rather, ahead of – her father’s footsteps as she is part of the U.S. Olympic Development Program, the prelude to the U.S. Women’s team. Her father Scott Waller was a Cooperstown High soccer star.
So off to Lyon it was. We teamed up with friends and the group rented a flat on top of the hills of Lyon. We also met up with other friends of Kira’s from her home team in Alexandria and tailgated at the stadium, visited sights in and around Lyon and had a great experience in France.
We had the unique experience of touring a 150-year-old winery in Beaujolais, traveling to Annecy at the foot of the Alps and winding our way through the extensive train and Metro system of Lyon, not to mention the hills and climbing all their steps. They are not called the “Grand Massive Montee,” the Great Big Steps, for nothing.
Mixed in with the soccer experience was granddad’s attempts at culture; the required cathedrals: Notre Dame of Lyon, naturally atop a massive hill; the Museum of the Confluences, the juncture of the Rhône and Saône rivers, and even the historic Saône River tour passing by sights along the banks including the first veterinary training hospital.
“USA, USA”, England vs U.S. Our half of the stadium waving American flags.
First, we had spent a couple of hours at the “fan experience” at the entrance. There really wasn’t much to do, as the organizers underestimated the American attendance and our propensity to “tailgate” before an event.
This underestimation was evident the whole week.
Restaurants were scrambling to deal with the onslaught of steak, hamburgers and other typical American orders, ran out in many places. Uber was overloaded, with wait times going to 30 minutes and in some cases, “no driver available.”
English was sometimes the dominant dialog in the squares, but fans weren’t into breaking out in soccer songs in spontaneous fashion, as Dutch, Swedish and other supporters often did. We even had some beer-holding orange supporters rocking our train car in song during one evening trip back.
Chants of “Pay Them” and “Equal Pay” also rocked the stadium once during the match, alluding to the pay inequity between the Men’s and Women’s soccer teams from the U.S.
Many we talked to in Lyon expressed the feeling that the U.S. was the best environment for woman athletes and sport employment. One French lady vendor with her Master’s Degree in Sports Admin told me her only place for a job was in the U.S. and she planned to return to Texas as soon as her Visa was approved.
All of a sudden, Alex Morgan is taken down in the box. Calls and shouts alerting the officials to the foul, as if they weren’t watching a championship match; shouts turning to chants and then sudden silence as we all realized the call was under “review.”
The referee trots out from under the cover at the center of the field, draws the box with her hands indicating review results and then signals for a US penalty kick. The entire stadium shakes and roars with the screams of fans as Megan Rapinoe walks calmly to the spot.
Bang, she kicks to the right and it’s 1-0, U.S. over the Dutch. Intense play and then a pass to midfielder Rose Lavelle as she works her way towards the goal, then left foots a bullet into the back of the net, passed the outstretched hands of the Dutch goalie; it’s two zero. Everyone knows the match is over.
“USA, USA,” we all wait for the ceremony, fireworks, confetti cannons, cheering and waving. Then the US women walk around the stadium, wrapped in American flags obviously thanking the fans. Some are making “snow angels” in the multicolored confetti scattered on the stadium grass, but most wave and smile as they circle the stadium.
Outside the souvenir stands are packed. All the U.S. shirts and most of the neat stuff was gone earlier in the week. FIFA, the international organizing body obviously underestimated the impact of the American Woman’s Team. U.S. fans filled over half the stadium on both games we saw, U.S. v England and U.S. v Netherland, but a rainbow appeared over the stadium ending the experience with a cheerful finale.