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Michelle Akers

Mainstream Heroes

Despite her celebrity status, Akers still maintains a person-next-door persona. Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly noted that the winter before the 1999 World Cup, a youngster knocked on the door of Akers' home outside Orlando, Florida and said, "Can you come out and kick the ball with us?" Now, if this were the door of most American male professional athletes, the kid would've been: 1) escorted away by security, 2) rolled away by paramedics or 3) simply trying to make contact with her biological father," Reilly explained further. "What did Akers do? She went out and kicked with her, but only after bringing out an armful of pictures, books and pins. Ain't it great? Ten-year-old girls all over the country are taking down their Backstreet Boys posters and putting up the Goal-Goal Girls."

Awards and Accomplishments

1985 Scores goal against Denmark in first game with U.S. national team
1985 ESPN Athlete of the Year
1988 Inaugural winner of Hermann Award for national women's soccer collegiate player of the year, while at Central Florida
1990 U.S. Olympic Committee Soccer Player of the Year
1990-91 Soccer Federation Female Player of the Year
1991 Scores winning goal late in championship game as U.S. wins inaugural women's World Cup, 2-1 over host China; Akers receives Silver Ball award as second-best player
1991 U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete of the Year
1991 First female American soccer player to sign shoe endorsement deal
1995 Named to U.S. Women's Cup all-tournament team
1996 Member of the gold medal-winning national team at Centennial Olympic Games, scoring pivotal goal in 2-1 semifinal victory over Norway
1996 Most Valuable Player in U.S. Women's Cup
1999 Leads U.S. to World Cup victory despite injury against China in title game in Pasadena, California
2000 Voted FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations) Women's Player of the Century in joint poll of FIFA committee and FIFA Magazine readers
2001 Receives Wilma Rudolph courage award

Where Is She Now?

Akers retired as a player shortly after the 1999 World Cup, opting out of the 2000 Olympics. She is pursuing a medical career and recently began a physician's assistant school in Florida following a stretch as a technical assistant to the former women's national team doctor. She had intended to play for the Orlando franchise of the newly formed women's pro league, the WUSA, in its inaugural 2001 season, but withdrew, citing a shoulder injury. The franchise moved from Orlando, Akers' hometown, to North Carolina.

Akers founded a sports ministry, Soccer Outreach International, in 1997. She belongs to the FIFA Soccer Committee, the NSCAA Women's Subcommittee, and the Sports Outreach America board and teaches at soccer camps. She also lent her name to a high school girls soccer tournament whose 20-year run was in danger after such corporate sponsors as Burger King and Target had withdrawn. It has been renamed the Michelle Akers Soccer Classic, held at Lake Mary High School, near Orlando.

In a commentary for USA Today, Akers, in advance of the 2003 World Cup, warns against the "flameout" that beset her defending champion team in the mid-1990s. "Coach April Heinrichs will need to take it down a notch or this could be a repeat of 1995," she wrote. "By the time the World Cup came in '95-the player roster pretty much remained the same from the '91 squad-overwhelming demands from team sponsorships, player endorsements, media and an outrageous game and travel schedule drained everyone…. There are danger signs of this happening at the 2003 Cup."

Said Akers, who rejoined her parents in Seattle shortly after the World Cup and worked at a nearby soccer camp: "Offers rolled in: Book proposals, movie deals, speaking engagements, endorsements. One of my biggest tasks will be to decide which ones I have the energy, and the desire, to do." During the middle of the World Cup Akers summed her determination: "You get to the point where you get so beat up that another ding is not going to stop you. I've learned how to kind of just put it behind me and focus on the job at hand."

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsSoccerMichelle Akers Biography - "girls Don't Play Football", Embarks On Pro Career, Glory At The Rose Bowl - SELECTED WRITINGS BY AKERS: