Charles Barkley once said “I am not a role model”…Paula Cole once sang “Where have all the cowboys gone?”…In a day and age where most female role models that the media puts out there for young women go by the names of Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Lady GaGa and anyone from the cast of “The Hills”, it was refreshing to hear during a recent interview with the Spot, FC Gold Pride Illisa Kessler state: “I hope what we’re doing on the women’s side is creating opportunities for young women to think about hopes and dreams they didn’t already have. We want to fill a void for young women and give them role models they didn’t already have.” It was with this quote in mind that the Spot traveled to Castro Valley High School to take in the FC Gold Pride vs. the Atlanta Beat. Were GM Kessler’s words just buzz words you use with anyone in the “media” or would the Gold Pride organization actually back up what their GM was trying to do. The Spot is very happy to say that GM Kessler’s word’s didn’t ring hollow. What the Gold Pride is attempting to do is both admirable and much needed…giving today’s young women role models to follow and look up to that their mother’s and fathers would be proud of. If his initial trip (hopefully they’ll have the Spot back!) to an FC Gold Pride match is any indication, they are well on their way to accomplishing what GM Kessler has set out to do.
First off, the Spot would like to state how professional and smooth everything rang when arriving at the Gold Pride match, especially for the game being played at a temporary venue. (Castro Valley High School will be the temporary home of the Gold Pride until renovations at their permanent home at CSU East Bay are complete in time for their June 19th match vs. the Boston Breakers). Parking was clearly marked, and the Spot had no hassle getting into his assigned parking lot. Once checking in at the media table (yes, they gave the Spot a media credential…does that make me official now?!) I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth the ticket and bag check line ran…in and out in no time. The Spot was also pleased that most everything was in one location. Concessions, merchandise, restrooms, all located at the south end of the stadium, unlike most stadia, where concessions are on one end, merchandise the other, so on and so forth. All this made for a very easy and convenient flow of the 3000+ fans from the entrance, to concession area to their seating. Once at his media location (of which the FC Pride Staff were very helpful as I meandered around aimlessly trying to find said media area) all the necessary amenities that us media types require were available: free wi-fi, up to date stats, and most importantly…yes, free pizza…and some pretty good pizza at that too! (yes people, the Spot is easy to please). All in all, a professional staff, creating a professional atmosphere out of a temporary residence…that’s what being a class organization is all about and the Gold Pride definitely succeeded.
Upon entrance, and thru the entire game actually,
the one thing you notice is how fan and family friendly the entire experience is. Pre-game you’ll find scores upon scores of young girls, all dressed up in their youth soccer jerseys, from teams such as Mustang FC, Pleasanton Rage, and the Spot’s new favorite all time sports team name, the Albany-Berkeley Soccer Monkeys, lined up along the entrance to the field getting ready to escort the Gold Pride team onto the pitch. You had Ali Riley’s father singing the national anthem for all to hear, and wondered not only how proud Ali must have felt having her own father sing our nation’s ode to freedom, but how proud her father must feel looking out upon the field and seeing his daughter’s dream come true. You find the best seats in the house, the field level seats, literally right behind the ad boards along the west sideline, putting a fan so close to the field you could probably easily reach out and touch your favorite Gold Pride player. You have your half time entertainment of four youth soccer teams playing on the same field that the pro’s played on just minutes before, and knowing that at school on Monday they are going to be telling everyone about it. You had the sight of dozens up dozens of teddy bears being hurled from the stands after Tiffeny Milbrett’s 9th minute goal put the Pride up 1-0…because lets face it, who doesn’t love a good teddy bear toss, and it definitely beats throwing octopus out on the ice (Detroit anyone?) and last but not least, you have the lucky fan in the front row of section 103 who was able to snag the official game ball after it was kicked into the stands in the 2nd half, and unlike most other professional sport leagues, be able to keep said ball as her memory of her trip to an FC Pride game. Yes, the Pride seek to make their games as family friendly as possible, and the Spot is happy to say that they definitely are succeeding at doing so.
Now as fun as all of the above might be, it still isn’t the main attraction…that honor belongs to the players on the pitch, the women who make up the team called the FC Gold Pride. You have Tiffeny Milbrett, the 37 year old Olympic Gold Medal and World Cup winner, showing that “age ain't nothing but a number” by blowing past defenders 10 years her junior to score the opening goal for the Gold Pride…..There was Marta, the two time FIFA World Player of the Year, who’s skill and grace with the ball were a sight to behold. She would maneuver the ball around like it was a direct extension of her body, commanding the ball at will to do as she pleased. Many a time during the match she would leave an Atlanta Beat Defender asking themselves the question “ok, what just happened here?” But more importantly, it was the grace and composure under fire that Marta showed during the 2nd half that we wish our daughters, sons, even ourselves, could emulate. Time and time again Marta would be hacked, tackled, pushed (insert your own adjective anytime now) and wouldn’t get a favorable call from the referee. Time and time again Marta would just pick herself back up and get back to work, remain poised and professional, and know that the best revenge would be to help her team wind up on the winning side of the scoreboard. How many times would you see that in any other professional sport? Hockey? Unlikely…football, not a chance…any soccer match with Zinedane Zidane in it? Not even close….last but definitely not least, we had rookie Kelley O’Hara, who encapsulates everything a mother and father would want their daughter to be when she grows up: tough, smart…and strikingly beautiful (not as beautiful as Ms. #1, but then again, who is!). Time after time this Stanford Grad would make a run down the right side of the field, and more often than not, Kelley would get knocked to the ground more often than her classmate, Toby Gerhart, during a PAC-10 Game on a Saturday Afternoon, and each and every time, she would pick herself back up and get back to work. It’s a drive and determination that parents seek to teach their children on a daily basis, there in full evidence for everyone to see.
After the conclusion of the game, a 2-1 victory for the Gold Pride on the strength of a Carrie Dew header with 2 minutes left in the match, that fan and family presence returned as players from both the Gold Pride AND the Atlanta Beat spent as much time as necessary signing autographs and meeting the fans that make it possible for them to make a living playing the sport they love. Just think of it, do you think Terrell Owens would be signing autographs after a loss? Monta Ellis? Joe Thorton? I’d be willing to bet the mortgage on my parents house that wouldn’t be the case, yet here you have members of both teams, the victors and the vanquished, making sure that the fans who came out to watch them perform had an experience they’ll remember for quite some time.
The one indelible moment that captured the entire night for the Spot occurred during our post game interviews with the players on the field. As we conducted our interviews, you could all of the sudden hear a couple hundred young women in the north end zone chant “Marta, Marta, Mart Marta….” They weren’t clamoring for the latest Lady GaGa CD, or watching E! to see what the Kardashians were up to, they were chanting for their new hero, an athlete of displayed nothing but grace and poise on the pitch that night…and no sooner than you heard the chants you could see Marta run across the field to meet her newest fans, and give them an evening they won’t soon forget.
In all, the Spot thinks that the FC Gold Pride is a hidden jewel in the East Bay, one that is more than worthy of your support. So check out their schedule, pick a game, or two, or three, and take your son or daughter, niece or nephew, husband or wife, or any combination thereof, and make it out to a Gold Pride game…at the end of the night you’ll be more than happy that you did.