By Joan Grey
They say you should never meet your heroes … but I wasn’t going to miss my chance to get face-to-face with superstar Alex Morgan.
The star-studded USA team had secured a 3-0 victory against a defiant Vietnamese side in their first FIFA Women’s World Cup match.
A remarkable 41,107 crowd piled into Eden Park to witness the two-time defending world champions play Vietnam’s first-ever World Cup team.
The Vietnamese side, ranked 32nd in the world and given 100-1 odds of winning, defied expectations and defended wholeheartedly against the United States.
The final whistle blew, and the players headed to their tunnel, with opportunistic fans overhead calling and reaching down, hoping for a photo or signature.
Meanwhile, the media made their way to the mixed zone.
What’s the mixed zone?
It’s the passage between the field and changing rooms designated for media to meet the players once they exit.
It gives reporters the chance to capture the players’ post-match reactions and insights.
I navigated my way through the sea of journalists and positioned myself toward the end of the passage, hoping to glimpse US superstar Alex Morgan.
It may be her fourth World Cup, but this is my first, and probably the only tournament to be held in my own country.
I got in line.
First, the Vietnamese players passed through the zone.
The press had a couple of questions for the heroic Asian team. They’d done exceptionally well against the world champions.
Then, the US team entered the zone, and reporters surged around each player, calling out questions, hungry for scoops and catchy quotes to make their headlines.
Though mildly disappointed by their many missed chances, the champions were positive about the final result; diplomatic and clear with their media-trained answers.
Alex Morgan was swamped by journalists from media juggernauts like ESPN and USA Today.
The 208-capped American has scored 121 goals for the US women’s national team. She has a following of 10 million on Instagram and starred in her own Warner Bros movie Alex&Me.
Wearing #13, she goes by the moniker AM13, up there with Cristiano Ronaldo CR7.
Alex made her way toward the changing rooms — my direction.
I knew it was my moment.
She’d dealt with ESPN and USA Today.
Would she have time for a young writer for Friends of Football?
‘Alex’, I called out.
She headed over.
Somehow, I managed to muster enough courage to speak to the player I’d idolised since I was 13.
“How did the USA supporters in the crowd help your performance as a team?” I asked.
“It was great to see so many fans out there in the crowd, being loud for most of the game. There were also a lot of Vietnamese people in the crowd too, cheering for them, so all we want is high energy, a good crowd, and couldn’t ask for more today.”
Off she went to the changing rooms under the stand.
For her, the answer rolled out as smoothly as one of her shots on goal.
The response of a well-trained professional at the tail-end of her career.
For me, a writer at the start of my career, it was an unforgettable moment that will remain my personal legacy of this World Cup.
The main photograph? While dealing with media questions, AM13 expertly signed the US shirt I’d taken with me.
It now belongs to my 12-year-old football-mad cousin, Ivy, who says she’ll dream about it for days … her own legacy from this remarkable tournament.
Friends of Football writer Joan Grey loves playing and writing about football. She plays football for Franklin United.