SA Q&A with Chuck Blazer: æEverything has to have a beginningÆ

Chuck Blazer, CONCACAFÆs secretary general, was U.S. SoccerÆs executive vice president when he played a key role in launching the U.S. womenÆs national team in 1985.

SOCCER AMERICA: In 1985, things werenÆt looking that rosy for the Federation, were they?

CHUCK BLAZER: Rosy? We were broke. We were insolvent.

During [menÆs] World Cup qualifying, we had to use venues we didnÆt want to use. We had no real level of sponsorship. We inherited a debt from the previous administration.

It was [then-USSF president] Werner FrickerÆs intervention through his local bank that gave the Federation enough operating money to work on based on moneys that were ultimately promised from the Olympic Committee.

SA: So why did the Federation decide to go ahead with the womenÆs team?

CB: I guess it wasnÆt a decision that was left out for a lot of people to decide on. It started out with an inquiry from Aldo Sciarrino, who was the Lam-borghini representative in the U.S. He had contacted us ... on behalf of the Italian federation. They thought it would be a novelty to have the U.S. come to a tournament in Italy.

Kurt Lamm, who was general secretary, thought it was a wonderful idea. There was a lot of support from Region I people, like Mavis Derflinger and Betty DÆAnjolell, and everyone pitched in.

We did everything we could to get this thing to be as affordable as possible. It was probably the most efficient trip a U.S. team has ever taken.

SA: But the U.S. didnÆt have a team ...

CB: I had gotten the women into the Sports Festival by getting FIFA to state that there was going to be a womenÆs world championship in the future, which was the prerequisite to becoming an Olympic sport. Because womenÆs soccer wasnÆt an Olympic sport, the women werenÆt allowed to participate in the Festival prior to 1985.

We got the women into the Festival, and we picked a team, which was intended to be a paper team.

SA: Then the Italy tournament came up ...

CB: We shifted costs around. I was able to get Alitalia to eat some of the airfare. Aldo and I kicked in some more money, and by the time we were finished we had a team that was flying into Milan and taking a bus to Jesolo.

SA: The U.S. lost three ù Italy (1-0), England (3-1), Denmark (1-0) ù and tied once (2-2 with Denmark). What was it like?

CB: It showed us what some of our shortcomings were and what was good about what we had. Michelle Akers, at 19, was already showing her dominance ...

SA: Did you sense what it would lead to?

CB: To say that I had any foresight that weÆd be celebrating a world championship six years later, or celebrating a second one in the Rose Bowl, that prescient IÆm not. IÆm pretty good, but not that good.

SA: But it was the beginning ...

CB: Everything has to have a beginning. If you consider how ignored we were, not only from the menÆs side but certainly from the womenÆs side, and you found there was a reporter from the Gazzetta della Sport and this was something we could read about in the newspapers, it gave a different impression that it wasnÆt just a youth, scholastic or college game, but indeed a very serious endeavor.

It gave everybody a kick and a stimulus to do this and do this right.

The following year they came back with Anson Dorrance as the coach. It was part of a process of learning and developing.

by Soccer America executive editor Mike Woitalla

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