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How Brandi Chastain remembers World Cup-winning PK and jersey-less celebration 25 years later

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How Brandi Chastain remembers World Cup-winning PK and jersey-less celebration 25 years later

SAN JOSE — Twenty-five years ago, Brandi Chastain delivered one of sports’ most iconic moments, captivating millions from coast to coast and putting the San Jose native on the front pages of newspapers and magazines across the country.

On July 10, 1999, Chastain, a former star at San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty High School and Santa Clara University, scored the clinching goal in a penalty-kick shootout that lifted the United States over China in the World Cup final at the Rose Bowl.

The goal was historic.

The celebration was iconic — and controversial.

When the left-footed kick sailed into the right side of the net, Chastain celebrated by ripping off her white jersey while dropping to her knees, revealing a black sports bra that became as much of the story as the goal itself.

A quarter-century later, it is still a seminal moment in the rise of women’s sports, something that will always be a part of Chastain’s legacy.

“For me, it was just a celebration like I’ve never felt before,” Chastain, who turns 56 on July 21, told the Bay Area News Group for this anniversary story. “I’ve had so many people share their stories about what that has meant to them – and they’ve all been so incredible.

“Even the ones who say, ‘Hey you put a black eye on women’s sports’ or ‘That was unnecessary,’ I get to have a conversation with them. I get to close the gap on how hard it is to be on the national team and the work that goes into it.”

Looking back at the 1999 team, Chastain said she still appreciates what that group of women accomplished and the impact it made on women’s sports.

“When you get to achieve something like that, which when I was born and growing up didn’t even exist, that’s what is really remarkable about these women and this team.”

Sue Phillips remembers exactly where she was when her former high school classmate sent a charge into a crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl and millions viewing on TV with her winning kick.

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach, who graduated with Chastain in Mitty’s class of 1986, was watching with her club players on a small screen in Oregon City, Oregon.

“We just went bananas because the USA won and here is Brandi playing an integral part in winning the game, hitting that PK,” Phillips said. “Celebrating the way she did, it was so cool.”

Phillips, Chastain’s softball teammate at Mitty, is now a highly successful basketball coach at the school and with USA Basketball.

She remains moved by what unfolded at the Rose Bowl in 1999.

“The idea about unapologetically celebrating the successes of your team, or the individual milestone or achievement that she experienced, I think was so incredibly powerful – that moment,” Phillips said. “And that’s what I love about it. But please don’t apologize for being a winner. Please don’t apologize for being strong and powerful and competitive.

“I think that is huge for our young women growing up. That statement was kind of its own moment in time. ”

The 1999 U.S. women’s soccer team brought strength and competitiveness to the field, boasting legends such as Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy and Briana Scurry.

They beat Germany in the quarterfinals in Landover, Maryland, and Brazil in the semifinals on the Fourth of July at Stanford, drawing large crowds along the way and setting up the final against China in Pasadena.

Scoreless through regulation and extra time, penalty kicks were needed to determine the outcome. The U.S. made its first four attempts. China made four of its five.

It came down to Chastain.

Before the kick, U.S. coach Tony DiCicco told the Bay Area star to shoot with her left foot — a risky proposition but one that could keep China goalkeeper Gao Hong off balance.

“After it happened is when I realized I’ve never taken a penalty left-footed,” said Chastain, who was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2017. “So that was a pretty bold time for him to say that, but the reason being is that earlier in the year, I had missed a penalty against China with my right foot. He just wanted to give them a different look, which was pretty brave and quite wise at the same time.”

Sitting in the stands directly behind the goal was JT Hanley, who would become the girls soccer coach at Chastain’s high school alma mater in 2007.

“It was one of the greatest moments of being at a live event in sports history,” Hanley said. “People just absolutely lost their minds. That’s a memory I’ll take to my grave.”

What followed was a celebration unlike any other for a woman on such a stage at that time.

Reaction to Chastain removing her jersey was mixed.

Former USWNT star and Bay FC team co-owner, Brandi Chastain, address to fans during he Bay FC Day in the Bay event at the Presidio's main post lawn in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Bay FC represents the San Francisco Bay Area and is the new expansion franchise of the National Women's Soccer League in which is expected to debut next year. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Former USWNT star and Bay FC team co-owner, Brandi Chastain, address to fans during he Bay FC Day in the Bay event at the Presidio’s main post lawn in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Bay FC represents the San Francisco Bay Area and is the new expansion franchise of the National Women’s Soccer League in which is expected to debut next year. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an editorial a few days after the U.S. team’s win criticizing Chastain’s celebration, writing, “Chastain may have helped win the game, but she scores no points as a role model and hero. And she’s wrong when she says that her actions won’t diminish the perception of women’s soccer. Ask any soccer mom.”

Hanley and Phillips were among those who saw it as progress for women in sports.

“That’s what any player would do in that moment where you just took the spot kick and won the most important trophy in football,” Hanley said. “Guys take their shirts off all the time if they score a big goal and so you know, what’s the difference? It was just an absolute epic moment.”

In 2022, England striker Chloe Kelly celebrated a 110th-minute goal by mimicking Chastain’s 1999 celebration.

“We’re closer than ever to being able to share the emotions and the sentiments of why sports are so, so wonderful on the men’s and women’s side,” Chastain said. “I love seeing that and obviously, it’s inspirational and it makes me feel good. I don’t own that celebration — that belongs to the celebrator. But I can put some value to what the emotions are in a moment like that.”

After winning the ‘99 World Cup, her second, Chastain went on to play her final years in the Bay Area for the San Jose CyberRays of the Women’s United Soccer Association and FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer.

She later helped coach the boys team at Bellarmine College Prep and worked in broadcasting for NBC Sports Bay Area.

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