James Lawton: Hamm, US soccer's femme fatale, takes final bow

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The Independent Online

Mia Hamm, the phenomenal American soccer player, has ended a superb career which saw her play 275 internationals and win two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals.

Mia Hamm, the phenomenal American soccer player, has ended a superb career which saw her play 275 internationals and win two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals.

Tributes here were respectful rather than euphoric in some places because Hamm suffered from a crippling liability. She was a woman, demonstrably, and she played football in a way that shamed her male compatriots.

Indeed, if a few young men from places like Seattle and St Louis - hotbeds of the round ball - had shown similar aptitude back in the days when George Best and Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer came over, who knows, the world game might no longer be quite such a marginal factor on the American sports scene.

The bitter truth - and one that shows that male chauvinism remains in rude health - is that in one way Hamm performed a disservice to the game in which she shone so beautifully.

It was concluded in too many of those sports bars where they used to provide cheap television sets for patrons to throw bricks at the image of commentator Howard Cosell that if a woman could play this foreign game so well it had no place in America. As a recreation, well, fine - as a major league sport, no way, man.

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