Know your history – The Sisters of ’96 (2021)

The Sisters of '96 (2021)

The Sisters of ’96 highlights an accomplishment that seems to barely register in American soccer history. While the 99ers are now easily recognized as the winners of the WWC 1999, how many know that prior to that, these women won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta?

As documented in Meg Linehan’s article for The Athletic, the game was not even televised live, even though the stadium was filled with over 76,000 fans. Julie Foudy says in the film that the raucous fans gave the USWNT the confidence to guarantee to FIFA that the women could fill NFL stadiums throughout the WWC 1999.

This 1 hour documentary, along with a 3-part NBC/Peacock docuseries on 3 womens teams of the 1996 Olympics (The ’96 Effect), were produced to help promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were rescheduled to Jul-2021 because of the pandemic.

The charm of this film is to document how the players have never seen this game for the 1996 Olympic gold medal. After 25 years, 7 of the stars are brought back to Sanford Stadium to sit on the field and watch it together on the big screen: Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Briana Scurry, and Tisha Venturini.

The women cheer on their younger selves, interspersed with interviews on their individual perspectives. A common thread is how their camaraderie and sisterhood are bound by the amount of time they had to live together, as much as 6-months at a time. There was no domestic league or real soccer career at that time. That was what they pioneered.

The downside of this film is that it is not really that entertaining to watch people watch themselves, even if they are having a good time doing it.

What really piqued my interest was to realize that China’s WNT had been a major force for several years. It would be interesting if someone investigated what happened to those Chinese players, as their womens program seemed to totally disappear after their loss to the USWNT at WWC 1999.

BTW, I went to the WWC 1999 Final. A year in advance, I bought tickets for me and my 16 year old daughter. That game is a memory that still lodges in what’s left of my brain. I remember how hard those women played on the field, and how hard they worked off it, signing t-shirts, holding soccer events for young girls, and just being so accessible. The 1999 game made me a soccer fan.

In this film, Julie Foudy mentions how they had to be their own role models. Women around the world should be grateful that those women rose to the challenge.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6