Brandi Chastain is one of the most decorated American soccer players ever, a two-time World Cup winner, two-time Olympic gold medalist, the protagonist of one of the most iconic moments of all-time, and a pioneer in women’s professional soccer in the United States.
Now a high school soccer coach and a board member at the California Storm, a second-tier women’s club based in Sacramento, Chastain discussed her soccer beginnings in San Jose, where she grew up, during a recent interview with the Sactown FC podcast.
Chastain said her beginnings as a player were almost accidental, but having the right temperament and being in the right place at the right time set her down her life path.
“For me it was in the mid-70s, and it was not out of knowing anything about soccer, it was moreso my parents recognized they had a daughter that was very active and very aggressive and assertive, and didn’t mind getting dirty, wouldn’t mind playing in the street most of the time,” she said. “It just so happened that soccer came to our neighborhood, we didn’t seek it out. It just kind of fell in our lap, to be honest. We had zero experience with it on any level. But we walked down to the local school that was doing the registration, we signed up, I got my uniform and I don’t think I ever took it off. I think my mom had to peel it off me in the middle of the night to wash it, because I loved it so much. It was love at first kick.”
While she was reveling in the sport as a beginning player, Chastain said her interest was truly piqued by the San Jose Earthquakes, where she became a devoted fan growing up.
“Then things took off. Soccer was in full swing with the North American Soccer League, and because I was playing and enjoyed it so much and my parents enjoyed being on the sideline, my dad became the coach — he didn’t know anything about soccer, we basically learned together,” Chastain explained.
“Then we became season ticket holders...whatever league it is, whatever community has a semi-professional, a professional team, you really have an opportunity to influence your community in a positive way. The players become role models, the team becomes a model of what we can become in the community, they become community servants, they help with the enjoyment and happiness in a community. And people really, I think, band around that. For me, we became season ticket holders and our weekend ritual was: tailgate, party, play soccer 2-v-2s in between the cars and then go and watch the game. We made friends doing that. Soccer has a wonderful way of bringing people together in a way that other sports do, but the passion that goes with soccer or football is unlike any other sport around the world.”
If you’re a fan, you probably know the thrill of getting close to the big stars. Chastain experienced that, too, with the Quakes.
“This was back in the ‘70s, when Pele was playing and Beckenbauer and on San Jose it was George Best. I got to see some of the greatest players the world had to offer and I was mesmerized. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off the field. Kids would be running around the stadium, it was a very safe environment, the parents would come and the kids would take off and I was just glued [to the game]. My mom and dad would let me stay for it felt like hours after games to get autographs. I just remember how much that touched me as a player, how amazing that felt to get that close to those players that I really admired,” she said.
In 2019, Chastain was at a Quakes game and spoke to Krazy George about his influence on her fandom.
It just goes to show, you never know where the star of tomorrow will come from, and how they will be influenced in ways that may not be obvious at the time. Perhaps the next great USWNT star is a Quakes season ticket holder right now.
You can listen to the full Sactown FC podcast here.
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