During an exuberant ticker-tape parade for the country’s World Cup champion women soccer players on Friday, girls in the crowd reveled in the celebration of their powerful, successful idols -- perhaps dreaming of one day riding atop a float along the city’s Canyon of Heroes.
“I want to be like them when I grow up,” said 9-year-old Isabella Murphy.
And how might she do that?
“Train more,” she said earnestly.
The celebration, which was the first time New York honored an all-female sports team with a ticker-tape parade, inspired an outpouring of pride in women’s accomplishments and love of country.
“It was like attending a feminist rally and a sporting event,” said Isabella’s mother, Mistrella Murphy of Tarrytown, N.Y.
Chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” bounced off the buildings along lower Broadway as the players were carried atop floats to the cheers of thousands of fans lining the sidewalks. Showers of confetti rained down on the parade as office workers flung shredded paper from upper-floor windows.
The players basked in the glory of the parade that in its nearly 129-year history has honored such luminaries as aviator Amelia Earhart, astronaut John Glenn and South African leader Nelson Mandela.
The women, wearing black T-shirts with the words “World Champions” embossed in large gold lettering, waved and punched their fists in the air as they proceeded up the parade route.
Star players Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe and coach Jill Ellis rode with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had made the parade happen. The players took turns holding aloft their championship trophy.
“When they brought home that trophy, they also brought back a message about the power of women, about the strength of women and about the need to create a more equal society for all,” De Blasio said later during a ceremony at City Hall.
That sentiment was shared by the fans.
“When I heard that there was going to be a parade, I had to come,” said Joanna Mauceri, 14, of New Hyde Park, N.Y.
An accomplished soccer player herself, Mauceri is a center defender on a travel team that competes nationally. Her favorite player on the U.S. team is Alex Morgan.
Seeing the U.S. women win a World Cup championship “makes me set a goal to one day play on the national team,” she said.
Rapinoe, after the parade, said, “That was insane....I knew there’d be tons of people, but I can’t believe there was that many people. It was just incredible — everyone up in the buildings and windows.”
It was not just young girls who came out to cheer. The crowd visibly swelled just before the parade’s 11 a.m. start as office workers took a welcome break from their desks and streamed outside to join the festivities.
“We urged everyone to come down,” said Kathy Bailey, who works for the YMCA Retirement Fund in offices at 120 Broadway. “This is important. It’s the first time a women’s team is getting a parade.”
Men, too, showed their appreciation. Nick La Cava, 31, of Old Bridge, N.J., described himself as a huge fan of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls and the men's U.S. national soccer team. It was love of the sport that drew him and two friends to the city on Friday.
“It doesn't matter if it's men or women. If it's soccer, we'll watch it,” he said.
La Cava said he and his friends also were celebrating the fact that four players on the women’s team, including Lloyd and Christine Rampone, were from their home state. “We’re proud of our Jersey girls,” he said.
Rampone noted the Garden State connection as well. Rampone said she was inspired to see “my people from Jersey,” many carrying signs touting the state. She summed up the day: “Young kids — red, white and blue — all the smiles. It doesn’t get better than that.”
The mayor has said the parade will cost $2 million, with corporate sponsorships covering about $450,000. Much of the expense goes to clean up the mess left behind.
Almost as soon as the parade was over, city street-cleaning vehicles moved in and sanitation workers began raking up piles of shredded paper.
And the office workers? They returned to their desks.
Haller is a special correspondent.