Women’s World Cup fires up Oswego soccer supporters

Oswego’s Claudia Chetney, above second from left, is a homegrown soccer star continuing her career at LeMoyne College and one of many Port City fútbol fans who tuned into the recent Women’s World Cup. Chetney is pictured above at a session of her “Doing It Our Way” soccer camp at the Richard J. Benjamin Soccer Complex at Oswego Middle School.

OSWEGO — The Women’s World Cup has come to an end and local fútbol enthusiasts say the effects of the United States Women’s National Team’s tournament victory should be felt long after the final whistle.

This week saw the women’s team (USWNT) return home as conquering heroes complete with a ticket tape parade in New York City after their championship run captured the nation’s attention during the four-week World Cup final in France.

SUNY Oswego women’s soccer head coach Brian McGrane said he’s seen the popularity in women’s soccer and other women’s sports rise after past World Cups, especially after having a successful tournament.

“I remember back in 1999 after they won the World Cup, it skyrocketed and I think it’s the same type of thing that you’ll see after this one. You saw it in 2015 and they’ve been a lot more outspoken on certain issues so I think having the success that they’ve had I think you’ll see a huge increase in youth soccer,” said McGrane.

Parents who are watching the World Cup and in turn sign up their kids for youth soccer are not only growing the sport but they are getting their kids excited to play, according to Oswego High School soccer coach Tom Benjamin.

“Youth soccer is people’s introduction to organized sports and when the parents watch the World Cup, it gives them some knowledge of the sport coming in. It makes them more knowledgeable of the sport and makes them more enthusiastic,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin is part of the first family of Oswego soccer: his father, legendary soccer coach Richard Benjamin, founded the Oswego Youth Soccer Association and the soccer complex at Oswego Middle School is named in Richard Benjamin’s honor. Each spring, summer and fall, hundreds of soccer players from toddlers to high schoolers take to the Richard J. Benjamin Soccer Complex and fields around the Port City.

One player who grew up on a healthy diet of Oswego soccer was Claudia Chetney, currently going into her sophomore year as a forward for the LeMoyne College Dolphins soccer team.

“Younger kids don’t know how much soccer happens in the world. They need to keep pushing role models into their lives and look at those who’ve made it to the next level,” said Chetney.

Chetney said she watched the women’s World Cup and thoroughly enjoyed it. She thought it was a great tournament — not only how the women’s team played, but how it seemed like it was more than just a game to them, making an impact on everyone back home.

“I think they’re good role models, not just for the players but for everyone. They aren’t afraid to speak out and they’re good role models for everyone,” said Chetney.

The World Cup brings a lot of attention to the sport and it gets younger people into it, Chetney said, citing her younger brother who “really got into” the matches during the tournament. Many players she knows, she said, look up to the World Cup team when they are trying to make it to the next level.

The confidence that the USWNT has on the pitch, their communication during games and the intensity with which they perform are all takeaways young soccer players can learn from, the coaches said.

“(The USWNT) shows how you can be confident and not cocky. I think it was fantastic for young women to see this group be that confident and then win the World Cup. For young kids it’s a great thing to see how confident they were,” said McGrane.

The USWNT won their fourth World Cup in the tournament’s eighth edition, beating quality teams such as Spain, France, and England before beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the finals.

During their tournament, the women were wrapped in multiple controversies because of their outspokenness on sensitive issues such as equal pay, LGBTQ politics. Members of the publicly expressed their disinterest in making a celebratory trip to the White House. Star forward Megan Rapinoe was one outspoken players during the tournament and even traded online barbs with President Donald Trump.

Although the USWNT have made it clear they will not be going to the White House, representatives from the Empire State have nonetheless welcomed the team to the nation’s capital.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, also invited them to Capitol Hill and called for equal pay alongside U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.

Rapinoe was thrilled with Schumer’s actions.

“That’s great! I love that, I’m interested to see what McConnell does,” Rapnioe told reporters during a press conference on Monday. “Thank you Chuck Schumer for inviting us out, we’re very excited to accept your invitation and come.”

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