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Julie Foudy: Soccer StarShe is the co-captain and star midfielder of the reigning FIFA Women's World Cup Champion U.S. Soccer Team, and has represented her country at the highest level of international competition since 1988, when she was just 17. In addition to the World Cup, she earned an Olympic Gold Medal in 1996 and a Silver Medal in 2000 with the U.S. Team. As a midfielder, her primary duties are to defend the goal and to set up scoring opportunities for her teammates, yet she ranks eighth all time among U.S. goal scorers.

Despite these impressive athletic credentials, most Americans got their first up-close and personal introduction to Julie Foudy last fall on the popular television game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? In a special edition of Millionaire that featured Olympic athletes, Julie found herself in the "hot seat" chatting with host Regis Philbin about Uniroyal TOPSoccer, the charity for which she was trying to earn money by answering a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. With her enthusiasm, dark-haired good looks and light-up-the-room smile, the Stanford University graduate charmed both the studio audience and viewers across the country while winning $125,000‹half of which was designated for TOPSoccer, a national sports program for children with disabilities.

In addition to her duties as official spokesperson for TOPSoccer, Julie currently serves as president of the Women's Sports Foundation and will be performing in the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) professional league when it begins its inaugural season this spring. Julie lives in southern California with husband Ian Sawyers, and‹when she has the time‹enjoys playing golf, especially with teammates like Brandi Chastain (whom she beats regularly) and Mia Hamm (whom she doesn't).

ABILITY's Bob Reed had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Foudy in January about her involvement in Uniroyal TOPSoccer and women's soccer in general. A longtime fan of the sport‹he covered soccer for his college newspaper in a previous life‹Reed nevertheless wanted to hear about Julie's Who Wants to be a Millionaire? experience first.

Bob Reed: Tell me, what was it like being in the hot seat?

Julie Foudy: Nerve wracking. It was a little scary. You could cheat for the first sixteen thousand‹get help from the other contestants. It's kind of funny...trying to think of the right answer and having someone behind me shouting, "it's beeee!"

BR: They do seem to have different rules when the show features celebrities playing for charity. I noticed they didn't "dumb down" the questions, though.

JF: Yeah, some (subjects) you're familiar with, some you're not. It was fun, and it was great exposure for TOPSoccer. There's been a lot of good follow-up from a lot of different people who were watching it.

BR: When were you first asked about being a spokesperson for TOPSoccer?

JF: About a year ago. Uniroyal approached me and said they wanted to go on board with this, not just youth soccer per se, but on the disability side of it. I actually had not heard of the program before. What Uniroyal recognizes is the importance of making people aware that they can start programs in their own communities. It's out there and it's available. Someone's just got to volunteer to get the ball rolling. That's really our campaign‹to make people aware that if (TOPSoccer) is not already established in your community, there's a way to set it up and Uniroyal will help. They provide a brochure and a manual, and advice about what's worked and what hasn't worked while creating an awareness about the program.

BR: The program's been around since the early nineties, but it seems it didn't really receive much exposure until Uniroyal signed on a sponsor.

JF: The thing I love about it‹and I've been involved with a lot of sponsors who want to tie their name in with something but don't really believe in the cause‹the thing is, Uniroyal came right out and said, "We're going to re-vamp the website. We're going to... help you organize it. We're going to get all our dealers involved, and get them to help start this program in different communities." They've really been proactive in saying, "Let's get this program organized. Let's make people aware of it. We're not just going to put our name up there, we're going to get behind it." I really love what they've done. Their dealers love it too‹it's been really wonderful for them.

BR: What are some of the activities you participate in to support the program?

JF: We've done some clinics. For example, we held one in New York City where they bussed in kids from northern New York. I did a clinic with a group from the Yorba Linda and Placentia area here in southern California. We do a lot of TV stuff, too. We did a half day of satellite TV to create awareness‹me sitting in a chair and doing about fifty different interviews with TV stations around the country. We did the Today Show, too. When they asked me what charity I wanted to play for on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? the first thing that came to my mind was that this would be a great opportunity to let people know about TOPSoccer.

 

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More stories from Jack Lemmon issue:

Interview with Jack Lemmon

Interview with Hotel Hassler's Roberto Wirth

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