Briana Scurry: "I am so incredibly honoured"

One the greatest goalkeepers in the history of women’s football: former USA international Briana Scurry played a key role for her country as they hosted and won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The stopper saved the only missed penalty during the Final's shoot-out, providing the platform for Brandi Chastain to secure victory. Today, Scurry is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the women's game so it's only right that the museum pays tribute to her contribution. 

The gloves and jersey that the two-time Olympic gold medalist wore during her side's opening match against Denmark on 19 June 1999 take pride of place in our showcase on the tournament. Playing in front of 78,972 spectators in the Giants Stadium in New York/New Jersey, Scurry kept a clean sheet as her team got off to a flying start with a 3-0 victory.

Enjoy a Q&A with the world champion as she talks about her memories of the tournament, the development of women’s football, and her thoughts on becoming part of the FIFA World Football Museum...

Briana, you were in goal for the USA throughout the entire FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999, helping your country capture the title. How did it feel to be the first and, at the time, the only nation in history to win on home soil?

It was a fantastic honor! To be honest, I didn't even know that was the case until recently. The expectation to win in one’s home country is heavy - it was for us - I'm so glad we were able to bring home the cup!

A record crowd of 90,185 were at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl watching the Final. What was going through your mind as you entered the stadium with your teammates?

I understood we were on the verge of achieving everything we wanted, yet we would have to take it and do so against a Chinese team that had been playing at the top of their game. It was astonishing to see 90,000 people all willing you to win. I knew I had to have complete and absolute focus, that I would be called on to do my job - and that I could ’keep’ China from winning.

Did you expect the Final to be goalless after 90 minutes, and were you expecting extra time?

I expected it to be an epic game, and it was. All I wanted to do was keep my net still and for my teammates to do the rest. I expected a shutout for me, but not for them too! Once we survived extratime and went to the shootout, I knew in my heart it was just a matter of time.

In the shootout you saved China's Liu Ying's shot, how did you feel knowing this save would then provide your teammate Brandi Chastain with the chance to score the winner?

Normally I don't look at the kickers as they approach the penalty spot, but something in my head said ‘look’ and I looked - you can see it on the video. I watched her walk to get the ball, her shoulders were down, her body language spoke to me as someone who did not want to take a penalty. At that moment I said to myself ‘this is the one’. And it was. No matter where she kicked it, I knew in my heart that I knew was going to save it.

How important was that World Cup for the growth of women’s football in the USA? What legacy has it left in your home country?

Our success in the 1999 World Cup was essential to the growth of so many things in this country and internationally. We went from the girls next door to America's Sweethearts overnight. We showed that women can be beautiful and powerful at the same time. We showed other federations that they should invest in their women's teams. We made a statement in the US that put the sport of soccer on the map and help explode the participation rate. Most importantly, we inspired a whole generation of young girls to believe that they could become champions.

Briana Scurry We showed that women can be beautiful and powerful at the same time. We showed other federations that they should invest in their women's teams...Most importantly, we inspired a whole generation of young girls to believe that they could become champions

The FIFA World Football Museum opened in February this year in Zurich. How does it feel to be part of it?

It is a fantastic place to experience and to understand the history of the beautiful game. I am so incredibly honored and humbled to be a part of such a long and storied history of sport, and to be connected to all the wonderful footballers that came before and after myself.

You were kind enough to donate two items from the 1999 tournament to the museum. How important do you think it is that players and coaches provide historical objects for other generations to enjoy?

It is of the utmost importance to have items of the trade on display. They provide a real and authentic understanding for those who come to see the FIFA World Football Museum. From the actual gloves I wore, to the boots that have scored some of the greatest goals in football history and the jerseys from the backs of the greatest players - all these items show the evolution of the sport. They are important because they were a vital part of the critical moments in our beautiful game.