Column: San Diego Wave found a role model in Stanford’s best rookie

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Football on TV, football day and night, men playing football, women playing football.

Inside the San Jose home, watching and planning football has become a family pastime.

The father, a former player, supervised a youth club and sometimes showed the children how to do it. The mother drove the two children to practice and games all the way to San Diego. The girl was 4 when she started playing the game, pushing the ball with her father. “As soon as I was able to run and kick the ball,” recalls Naomi Girma.

Last week, the brand-new Wave Soccer Club of San Diego selected Girma first in the National Women’s Football League draft, making the Stanford graduate the No. 1 pick on the world’s best women’s football circuit.

It wasn’t just a big moment for Girma, it was a step forward for the girls and young women of San Diego who might aspire to go as far as they can with football.

San Diego hasn’t had professional women’s football for nearly two decades, despite being one of the top 10 U.S. cities in terms of population, not to mention its thriving youth programs, proximity to the Mexico who loves football and its pleasant climate all year round.

This void has been filled.

The team that Girma is joining will allow locals to see many of the best players in the world up close. Wave forward Alex Morgan, for example, is a World Cup veteran who conceded 115 goals for the U.S. national team. Visiting clubs will bring other players with World Cup and Olympic Games experience to the NWSL games at the University of San Diego and the new San Diego State Stadium.

“It’s super exciting,” said Girma, 21, two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

She is a huge football fan herself, having returned a few days ago from a football vacation in England where she watched Arsenal in the Women’s Champions League and witnessed Manchester City’s record-breaking 7-0 win over Leeds in of a men’s Premier League match.

Growing up, she watched football shows with her brother Nathaniel, mother Seble and father Aweke. Parents emigrated from Ethiopia as a teenager, bringing with them a love for the world’s most popular game. Maradona. Ronaldo. Ronaldinho. They were among the male stars the family loved to watch. The women’s football played by Brazilian Marta and US World Cup stars Brandi Chastain (a San Jose native) and Abby Wambach caught the Girmas’ attention and sparked Naomi’s hopes, though some of those games did. played years before she saw them for the first time.

“I was inspired by the (women’s) national team,” she said. “The national team seemed to me to be the highest level to reach as a female football player. Especially the United States national team and the success it has had over the years – and how much it has dominated the world. It was really cool to watch him grow up.

Father and daughter watched the Women’s World Cup excessively. They became addicted to the NWSL, founded in 2012.

“It was cool to have role models who were players rather than the male side,” said Girma, who played for the national team’s junior clubs.

A mentor herself, Girma has advised high school athletes on college recruiting and other topics raised in “Go Cardinal” workshops set up by Stanford students. In San José, she enjoys hanging out with the children and adolescents at her father’s youth club. If she can help a youngster, it’s like blocking a shot or directing the ball towards a teammate.

“Something that I have achieved a lot, just looking back over the past two years, is how important performance has been to me and how important it is to young girls,” she said. declared.

“These are younger girls, in general,” she added, “and younger black girls who can see people who look like them succeed at the highest level in whatever they want to do. I hope I can now, as a professional player, be able to give back in this way. “

She is an experienced leader. In her sophomore year, Girma captained the team that won Stanford’s third national title in women’s football. As a midfielder on the back line of the 4-3-3 formation, she led the defense. Her teammates named her captain for three different seasons.

One of her favorite experiences from Stanford was taking a course in decision making. “It was cool to have something more practical, which I could try to apply in my life if I wanted to make rational decisions, which obviously nobody always does,” she said.

When she tells high school girls that it’s not only possible to balance a wide range of activities, but all of them improve through juggling, she speaks from experience. The college career saw him earn a Bachelor of Arts in Symbolic Systems, which encompasses computer science, psychology, philosophy, and linguistics, while also completing a 68-game football career that required diligent re-education from a torn ligament in the knee.

Exactly one year after tearing the ACL knee in her junior year, the 5-foot-7 senior was named the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year for 2021. She scored four goals in the same. season, doubling his career total. .

Calling it a ‘cool’ part of her life, she plans to continue her education towards a Masters of Science and Engineering after diving into her football career. All the while, she will be nurturing her dream of playing the World Cup. If this happens ? “I wouldn’t have words,” she said. “It would be amazing.”

It is therefore a big wave that she will travel to San Diego and a launch in March for the first season of the wave.


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