Julie Foudy spreads love for women’s soccer in Brazil and the U.S.

Julie Foudy with x (Photo credit: X)
Julie Foudy (R) with 15-year-old Brazilian soccer player, Barbara. (Photo credit: DGA Productions)

ESPN’s Julie Foudy, alongside former U.S. soccer teammate Brandi Chastain, recently traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil as part of the Sports United program overseen by the U.S. State Department.

“Our mission was not to help train the next Marta Vieira da Silva [five-time FIFA World Player of the Year],” Foudy said. “But to encourage Brazil to support programs that would help produce the next million Martas.”

All eyes are already on Brazil as the country prepares to host the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013, 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Front Row spoke with the busy Foudy — who also recently interviewed American soccer star Jozy Altidore — about her South America trip.

How are female athletes perceived in Brazil?
Many Brazilian women told us their culture encourages girls to play only specific sports, largely volleyball and dance. We heard many stories about how soccer for girls in Brazil is very hard to find. It is seen as a male sport and as a result, many parents and coaches do not encourage girls to play. Just to give you some perspective, 13 million girls play soccer in the US and only 400,000 girls are playing in Brazil. This small number seems impossible in a country synonymous with soccer. The path to playing for girls is just not there… yet.

What was the biggest takeaway from your trip?
The universal need we all share — first, having the courage to dream and then having the chance to pursue that dream. Barbara, a 15-year-old we followed from a small town outside Sao Paolo, told me she just wants to be able to dream about one day playing soccer for Brazil. She wants to play the sport she loves and have her country embrace that dream.

What’s ESPN’s presence like in Brazil?
They have three channels of ESPN in Brazil so they are very familiar with ESPN. I saw a lot of Cleveland Indians games while I was there!

What’s next for you at ESPN?
Up next for me is completing an ESPN Films project on our 1999 World Cup-winning [U.S. Women’s National] team. “The 99’ers” documentary airs in August as part of the Nine for IX series. We are weaving in lots of footage I shot during the ’99 World Cup along with recent interviews with that ’99 Team and the current US Women’s National Team. It is full of bad dancing, bad mullets and bad singing, so consider yourself warned.

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