Allie Long spoke exclusively to 90min about her football journey thus far, explaining the highs and lows of winning the 2019 World Cup and the pressure that comes along with tackling a male-dominated industry as a female.
Long has been widely successful since kicking off her professional career in 2009. The midfielder played with several teams in the National Women’s Soccer League before making her international debut with Paris Saint-Germain of the Division 1 Feminine in 2011. Since France, Long returned stateside to feature for the famous OL Reign and just recently transferred to the newly rebranded NJ/NY Gotham.
Beyond the pitch, Allie Long has taken it upon herself to fight for gender equality in sports of all forms. During the interview, the NWSL star expressed how childhood memories and World Cup experiences led her to feel strongly about becoming a figure for change.
First off, how did it feel to be traded to NJ/NY Gotham FC, a team that represents your hometown?
Before I found out I was traded, I would obviously watch all the NWSL games to see how the teams look, and noticed there’s something about Gotham that was really cool to witness. From afar, they had this culture that was developing, a new brand that a lot of players respect, so all the pieces were coming together to make it the most professional environment. It was amazing to find out I was traded there. To also be back home, I feel so passionately about growing the game of soccer, both female and male especially as close to home as possible, so for girls to come see me play from Long Island where I grew up is just such a great feeling. I am very passionate about where I grew up from, and now to be able to give back to that area is a very different feeling than playing in Washington for the Reign.
How have you noticed the women’s league evolve over the course of your career?
To look back and compare to where we are now, I think the change is just so remarkable and telling of the future of women’s soccer. Before there was a narrative of popularity related to the national team, hearing the sport would only be on when the USWNT played, but after winning back-to-back World Cups, you can see more sponsors getting behind NWSL teams and players. We have new teams coming in, an unbelievable new leadership group in LA and big names coming to soccer. We are right in the middle of growth and it’s so exciting to experience. I am so hopeful and it is so encouraging to see where the path leads. We paved the way to get this going, and we are at a really good point. It makes me so happy to see how many people are on Twitch streaming the games and big broadcasters showing them.
Speaking about the World Cup, how did it feel as a player to win the tournament and dealing with the aftermath that came with it?
I don’t think people realize the emotional aspect to it. You go through this training block, through the World Cup and win only to have a million different things pulling on you. It was one of, if not the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Moving forward though, I think it is our responsibility as women football players of this wave to take this stance on equality and fight for what we hope the next generation won’t have to fight for. All of us, as a unified group, have taken that on and it is very empowering to be surrounded by this group.
We’ve seen you fight for equality on several fronts, on and off the pitch. What are some experiences that lead you to feel so passionately about this?
Growing up was weird, because when I was younger if you asked what I wanted to do, I would answer a professional soccer player but never realized there was a separate women’s league for that. I didn’t understand that, because in gym class and recess I would be with all the boys playing, I didn’t know professionally it was separate as well. I’ve always been the only girl, and the initial reaction of a male would always be funny to me and a bit sad, but it came with an immense responsibility to prove yourself. Once you proved yourself it was fine, and the guys would give you their respect, but men never had to go through that stage. It would only be me that would have to earn that or prove something first. I hope for future generations there’s no reaction from the guys, because they know she can beat or be better than any of the other people on the pitch. There was never a game that I could take it easy, because all eyes were on me and if we lost it was because there was a girl on the team.
Anytime I am playing soccer, even if it’s just pick up with guys and I am the only girl I feel as though I am representing every single female. I am on the board of Queens Game Collective, an organization that promotes equality and female representation in the gaming community. In the gaming world alone, I think I am the only female athlete that takes Call of Duty so seriously like streaming while playing. Being a female in the gaming world felt exactly the same way as being a woman soccer player, they are both very male-dominated industries.
Also Kelley O’Hara, Alex Morgan and I started a clothing company called Beat Everybody when we were first going to the World Cup because we realized there was no gear or merch out there besides just the jerseys. We felt passionately to create because there was nothing out there, for the men’s team you have every major sports store carrying different merchandise or order it online so we felt strongly about having that feeling for the women’s team as well.
What is your advice for the younger generation of female athletes looking at you as a hero?
The best thing you can do is set your goal and never take your eyes off of it, no matter what people will say about you or to you, you have to have blinders on. You have to go out after whatever is it you're going for. When you are so passionate about that, and you let nothing else enter your bubble, you can do anything you want to. It’s easy for girls to feel inferior, but it’s now about believing that you are not from the beginning, taking no bullsh*t from anybody. For everyone who ever told me I wouldn’t make it, or those telling me I can’t make it back on the national team, that’s my goal now and that’s what I am going to continue fighting for.