For the last year it was assumed U.S. women’s national team captain Christie Rampone would retire at the end of the Olympics. She’s 37, has a family, and three years out from Canada 2015, there wasn’t much to play for. She’s won World Cups and Gold Medals, and as (by far) the last of the 99ers, Rampone has been to the mountain top of mountain tops. Coming off gold in London, what was left?
How about the love of the game? That journalistic cliché; the hollow axiom bludgeoned into customer’s head; the thing that actually turns out to be true every time we actually touch a soccer ball.
Turns out Rampone just likes playing soccer, and since she is still one of the best central defenders in the world, the only reason to retire could be the desire to go out on a high note.
Rampone decided she doesn’t care about that (quotes from ESPNW):
“After the Olympics, I thought I’d be like, ‘This is it, this is awesome. Let’s ride off on a high note,’ ” Rampone told espnW after the U.S. training session here in Denver before a match against Australia on Wednesday.
“But then I was like, ‘I don’t need to end off on a high note. I just want to continue playing and doing something I love.’ “
You won’t get any complaints from U.S. national team fans. Despite being the team’s oldest player, she’s the U.S.’s best option at the back. While Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Buehler are both decent players, their pairing would be a noticeable step back from one featuring Rampone.
The thing to watch with Rampone will be the foot speed. She’s still able to keep up with most of the world’s best. Once that goes, we can start talking about whether the captain should reconsider.
But given the incredible shape in which she keeps herself, Rampone’s unlikely show up one day and need to be replaced. Her fade will be gradual, and since that wane has yet to begin, it’s not difficult to imagine her playing at the net World Cup.
Though for now, Rampone’s taking it one year at a time:
“They may want to wipe out the older players, but you never know. So I’m just going to keep an open mind to it, give a good year commitment to it, see if I like the coaching staff, how I fit in, how much travel it is and take it from there.”
Unless Rampone starts detesting the annual trip to Portugal for the Algarve Cup, travel shouldn’t be much of an issue. The qualm seems like more of an out clause. With two kids at home, Rampone might wake up in a hotel one day, look across the room and see a sleeping teammate, and ask ‘Why am I still doing this?’
For now, she’s doing it for the love of the game.