You might not know her – but if it’s the case, you will soon get to know her a little bit and follow her on her YouTube channel -, but Miki Ratsula is a talent who deserves to be known. At only 17, she’s writting songs about the USWNT that are not only great but also inspire the team. Passionate, curious and wise beyond her years, she’s a fierce representative of the next generation of women’s soccer fans. She is our first guest as part of the community of fans and it is our pleasure to welcome her.
Meeting the USWNT – A Story of Hope
She began soccer at the age of 4 or 5. In her club team, she used to play right back. A few years ago, the goalkeeper of her team left, leaving her to assume the position. She fell in love with it. And she has brilliant role-models to inspire her in her career. Who inspires her? Without any hesitation: “Hope Solo. When I went to my first game back in 2012, she was the first player I met. And I was already totally in love with her. Her personal story, what she’s been through… She is my idol.” And despite all the controversies that we know about her private life, the fact that Hope Solo gets over it on the field and stay so humble, especially with her fans, empowers Miki – to learn more about Hope Solo’s life, we can only say that “A memoir of Hope” is a must-read: Solo’s journey from the University of Washington to the different World Cups to the 2012 Olympics is so strong and powerful, as well as really well written -. “When you are able to come back from such hard times and not let them poison your life, it’s inspiring. During the World Cup, she shined. I think it’s inspiring how she handles herself, besides the fact that she is obviously an amazing goalkeeper.” Solo is such an inspiration to Miki that she actually wrote a song, “Thank you Hope Solo“. The best thing in this beautiful story of inspiration? Hope was to watch the video and loved it so much she tweeted it, with those words:
— Hope Solo (@hopesolo) 24 Avril 2015
And guess what, it is not the end: Miki and Hope still meet each other at games. And it’s of course always a unique and special moment. “She’s such a genuine person and I know that when she heard the song, she took it to heart. She really does appreciate what her fans are doing for her. That’s what makes her even more genuine.”
For Miki and many people, this is the very DNA of the USWNT. What makes it that special is not only the incredible performances and its domination on the field: it’s the bound they have with each other but also with fans. If you ever wondered why, Miki has an answer that we agree with – and Ashlyn Harris shares this point of view, actually – : “The main difference between 2007 and 2015 is that there is a developping sense of pride about this team. They are gathering more and more people and creating a more and more important fanbase around the world. Having a connection with the fans is important, because we are their support: we’re spending money on tickets and merchandising for sure but it’s so much more than that. I feel that if they lost their special connection with their fans, they would be on their own and that would stop this process.” Indeed, unlike the men’s national team, stadiums are not necessarily full when the USWNT shows up to play. Remember the words of Abby Wambach: if people want to show their support to women’s soccer, they have to attend games, go to stadium or watch it on TV and support their local teams. So, does caring about fans is part of the game? “I think that not only do they need to keep this connection because it’s helping them, but I think they genuinely want to. I think they even work better knowing that there is this connection.” Some players around the world should get inspired by this attitude. And it’s true: the atmosphere in the stadium is unique in the US. With all the American Outlaws gathered, the chants and the cheers, playing at home, everywhere around the country, should feel so special. And Miki to conclude: “Seing them in person, as cool as it sounds, is also weird because there are all of those video by the US Soccer and they look like hilarious and great people. And this is real: they are gorgeous human beings.” And of course, this special connection with Hope helps a lot. What should we learn about that? It might be that they are incredible role-models on the one hand but in the other hand they are genuine persons who really appreciate their fans and can be friends with them as far as people respect each other. Exactly like the everyday life.
I think that not only do they need to keep this connection because it’s helping them, but I think they genuinely want to. I think they even work better knowing that there is this connection.
Sometimes, there is no word to describe why you are obsessed with a team. We all have a story about the USWNT and why we love this team. Sometimes there is a specific moment, sometimes it’s a whole bunch of moments that makes you realize that you fell for them. For Miki, it was the latter: “I was watching the 2011 World Cup. Each game was unique. But it was at the end of the elimination round that I felt their fight and the passion they had. When they ended up losing, I felt heartbroken. This whole tournament made me realize that this team existed and they were so empowering and inspiring. They are all inspiring, just have a look at the 23 stories released by the US Soccer before the World Cup: they all have been through hard times and they are not letting their personal issues impact them negatively on the field. They are fighting so much to develop the game and that’s why I look up to them. They are so much supportive with each other, you can really feel they are a big family, look at JJ, when she fouled Popp and got a PK: they were here for each other, and they encourage each other, when they have personal issues, to get their stuff back together and get a little push in the back, which is really important. It’s powerful to watch.”
As she attended the World Cup final in Vancouver, she clearly remembers the legendary midfield goal of Carli Lloyd and how the stadium went crazy: “what Carli did in that final is the reflect of what this team is all about, what they’ve been through and why we are so passionate about them.” And we agree. All those memories that the USWNT creates are her inspiration for her songs: the Backline, the victories, the retirements… We were debating for minutes about the reason why people can be moved in such a deep way to eventually realize that there are so many different reasons that sometimes you are just speechless. “I’m not good with the words” she admits. “But writting music is for me a way to put down my feelings and express how grateful I am. It’s my way to share with them with a media that I felt comfortable with.”
But being close to your fans doesn’t mean that everything should be admitted, especially when it is about private life. We talked about Ali Krieger and the letter she wrote to her fans to apologize for being unable to attend the last game of the NWSL semi-finals against the Seattle Reign. If you don’t remember, Ali Krieger was at her father’s wedding that night and some fans were upset and attacked her on social media. “People must understand that they are professional players but that they also have a families and things that matters. What Ali did was so respectful to her fans. We were talking earlier about the connection, I think it solidifies the relationship she has with her fans. But I think that people should respect a little more the boundary between the fandom and the players. Think about the pressure it’s putting on them and how difficult it should be.”
Standing for what really matters
The discussion slowly moves to a more personal level. Let’s meet Miki not as a young talent and a rising goalkeeper, but as a person, like she did with her role-models. In some of her videos, I noticed a gay flag. She laughs and speaks far beyond her age: “I don’t want to label myself and never felt the need too. Yes I can be attracted by either men or women but it does not define who I am. As far as it’s a good person who makes me happy, that’s the only thing that really matters. Sometimes people feel the need to label themselves but as far as we are ourselves I don’t think it does really matters. I don’t know what the future holds for me, I’m just myself and I’m not gonna live for anyone else but myself. And also I’m 17, I’m still in highschool, what do I know about myself? This being said, I feel the need to keep the flag in my room, because it’s still a part of me and because I support and love everybody. I think it’s important for people to notice this flag, because it’s an important part of women’s soccer. This might be the coolest thing about this sport is that everybody can identify to the players. In the USWNT we have out and proud players and it’s amazing because it shows everyone that their sexuality doesn’t affect the way they’re playing, which makes them even more inspiring. It shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s so empowering to see those players being able to come out and talk freely about their sexuality, especially as they are attracting younger fans. I think it’s important for young girls and boys, no matter their age or their gender, to see that you can love whoever you want and do whatever makes you happy. That it’s ok.” Those words are so precious for the young generation.
I think it’s important for young girls and boys, no matter their age or their gender, to see that you can love whoever you want and do whatever makes you happy. That it’s ok.
It is pretty obvious that Miki is passionate and commited. About the USWNT, about living the way you want but also about gender equality. Surprisingly, this issue is tackled when we talked about FIFA 16. “It’s great to see them in a game. It shows the US and the world that women’s soccer is a thing and that they deserve more than what they get.” Still a long way to go: you can notice it in the comments that a lot of players are making about women in the game. “I mean, it’s 2016, how can we have gone so far as society and still have this debate about men vs women. It’s a videogame, if you don’t want to play women, so be it but let the women be in the game!” And then we talked about the same problem of the comparison between men and women but in real life, which is even more upsetting. “It’s a complete different game. Same rules, different game. The players in the NWSL and women’s leagues must have multiple jobs just to survive, which would never happen with the men. The men are so endorsed and don’t have a reputation to build. The women are on a thin line right now, trying to build a reputation and a community of fans. That’s why they need to be genuine to the sports and play their best. Of course I understand why the men are more endorsed, thanks to the support they have. But people could do a better job to advertise on women so that people could know that they exist. If there is only advertising towards men, what do people expect about women and the revenues that can be make? However what I felt during the World Cup final was so unique, when the whole stadium erupted when they scored. We’re definetly going somewhere with women’s soccer and that’s a great thing. I wish I could do things to change that but as much as we can talk about that, we barely can make no difference. It is not up to us and it’s rough.”
Next goals for Miki
Now it’s time to leave each other, with a last question: what’s next for Miki? Talking about her YouTube channel, she’s obviously after great things, especially with the Olympics coming up. So expect more epic songs about the USWNT pretty soon. Before, during and after, especially if they got the gold medal, which would be the first time a team is World Cup Champions and Olympic Champions in a row. To touch them, inspire them and hopefully help them win the gold medal. Speaking about herself, she will be graduating in six monthgs and hopes to go to the University of Washington to study psychology. Of course, Hope Solo went to this university but it’s not the only reason why she want to attend this university: she definetly loves the state. Our fingers are crossed for her. She leaves us with a final wise reflection about the USWNT and its next generation of players: “Even if we have lost some legends like Abby and knowing that there is an end to everything even if you are Carli Lloyd or Hope Solo, we have a bright future in this team. There are eras in this team and we have just finished one. And it was brilliant. We have lost and the streak is over, but I think it is not that bad, because it’s a clean sheet to start a new thing. It’s actually benefitial, it was also a reality check: defeats can occur even to World Cup Champions. But now, we’re starting a new one with a new generation of players which is rising, and it’s even brighter. I’m super excited about the Olympics right now” And so are we.
Video : Fox Soccer
Photos: courtesy of Miki Ratsula
We really hope you enjoyed reading this portrait as much as we enjoyed talking with her. And hopefully, you understand why Hope Solo felt inspired by Miki. Let’s say it: she’s freaking amazing and lives her dream like everyone should. Thank you Miki for inspiring us!
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