Yep, this is a photo of the USWNT when they returned from China in 1991. (Photo by Michael Lewis/

By Michael Lewis Editor

LYON, France — The U.S. women like to talk about how they returned home from China after securing their first Women’s World Cup title in 1991 and that they were greeted by only one journalist at the airport.

That’s not true. There were three who showed up. I should know. I am proud to say that I was there at the International Arrivals Building at JFK Airport on Monday, Dec. 2, 1991.

The reception for the travel-weary team at the airport that afternoon was rather reserved compared to what we have seen bestowed on recent  world champions. As the players and then-coach Anson Dorrance walked out of the baggage area, they were applauded by maybe a dozen people.

The historic witnesses included three reporters, one photographer, several U.S. Soccer Federation officials, a referee from New York and Swiss Air officials, who gave each player a rose.

Asked if she thought the feeling of world champions had sunk in yet, Carin Jennings (now Gabarra), voted the Golden Ball as the outstanding player of the tournament, replied, “Not yet, not after 52 hours of traveling.”

Of course, she was exaggerating about the travel time, but it was understandable.

The players, who weren’t in much of a mood after traveling so many hours, had to catch a connection or two for their final journey.

“I just want to go home,” one tired player said.

As it turned out, Bora Milutinovic, then the U.S. men’s national coach, was in New York for the 1994 World Cup qualifying draw. He took a cab to the airport and greeted and congratulated Dorrance.

“I am very happy for the women’s team,” Bora said then. “I am happy for all of American soccer.”


Bora Milutinovic, then the U.S. men’s coach, took a taxi to JFK Airport to greet the U.S. women on their return in 1991. (Michael Lewis/ Photo)

Local soccer officials in 1991 tried to get several girls players and/or teams to greet the American women, but could not get them out of school.

I have had a unique bond with the U.S. championship sides. I was honored to cover the 1999 and 2015 champions, the former for the New York Daily News, Soccer Magazine and Soccer New York, the latter for Newsday and

Back in the stone age of 1991 — before the internet as we know it and before smart phones — I still wound up playing a role communicating to the Long Island soccer community who won the championship game between the USA and Norway.

I was covering the Long Island Junior Soccer League’s Exceptional Seniors games for the top high school players on the island at Farmingdale State that Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend. I went to a pay phone, called an 800 number given to the media by U. S. Soccer to learn the score. With several dozen hopeful soccer fans, players and parents gathered around me, I gave the result without saying a word.

I put up two fingers like a peace sign, followed by my index finger. Then I put up a thumb’s up.

Translated: the USA 2, Norway 1.

I repeated that a few times much to the delight and the cheers of the assembled observers.

I realize whatever transpires at Le Stade de Lyon between the USA and the Netherlands Sunday, the rest of the soccer community — LI, U.S. and international — will know about the result just as quickly as myself. Yours truly doesn’t have a problem with that due to modern technology and the growing popularity of the game.

It has been fun and an honor covering the USWNT, having written under credentials for five of the past six World Cups. They always were entertaining with their team personality on the field and with some intriguing personalities off it.

Don’t know if I will get an opportunity to cover another World Cup final in the future — I have learned to savor them one at a time — but it has been quite a blast.