World Cup Champion Briana Scurry’s Interview with NPR on Race, Celebrity, and Soccer

 In Additions to the Archive

Briana Scurry, the goalkeeper for the United States Women’s National team that won the 1999 World Cup, was recently interviewed by Oliva Christian for NPR’s sport’s program “Only a Game.” The interview covers Scurry’s inspirations, the experiences surrounding the 1999 World Cup, and the career-ending injury that has put her life into perspective. As the interview moves through a number of conversations, the narrative of an African-American woman telling her story from her own perspective provides the listener with powerful insights. This discussion is a useful and important Addition to the Archive.

I still remember watching Scurry’s game-winning save during the penalty kick shootout in the World Cup final. My friend Shawn and I were at his house in Asheville, North Carolina preparing for a hiking trip into the Pisgah National Forest. Our plan was to watch the game, then hit the road for the trailhead. The tension and eventual excitement of the game kept us glued to the television until the trophy was presented to the U.S. players. We ended up being desperately late by the time we left and ended up hiking to our campsite in the dark, still talking about the game with no regrets for leaving late to watch the conclusion of the overtime match.

I remember Scurry and her heroic save, but like most people, the image of Brandi Chastain celebrating with her jersey in hand was the one cemented into my mind. It was a hard image to miss, as it was emblazoned on nearly every newspaper, magazine cover, and news report after the memorable final. Chastain, in that triumphant image, became iconic to both soccer and women’s sports in the United States for the foreseeable future.

I was reminded of Scurry more recently when I came across the article “A Black Fly in White Milk: The 1999 Women’s World Cup, Briana Scurry, and the Politics of Inclusion” by Eileen Narcotta-Welp in the Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of Sport History. This is an article I read at the time and now hope to include as one of my article reviews for the Soccer Scholar site in the near future.

Scurry’s interview with “Only a Game” is worth a listen. Her words about how she navigated celebrity, race, gender, success, and sport are something worth giving an honest listen to.

The crux of this piece, along with the above mentioned academic article plays on the role race had been key in lofting Chastain to hero status, despite the fact that it was Scurry who had won the game. The question being, had the goalkeeper been blonde and white, would she have been acknowledged as the genuine hero?

What this interview does, that the prior academic article doesn’t do, is ask Scurry herself how she felt about the whole experience. You can listen to and read the interview on the Only a Game site here. 

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