The United States women’s national team is rampaging through another FIFA World Cup this summer, having won its first two games of the Group Stage by a combined score of 16-0. For the first time in four World Cups, they don’t have star forward Abby Wambach menacing goalies in front of the net.
The 39-year old retired after the USWNT’s final game of their 10-match victory tour following their 2015 World Cup triumph. She totaled 184 goals in 256 international caps, including a memorable last-minute header versus Brazil to advance in the 2011 World Cup.
While Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and others clog up the headlines now, Wambach has had a busy, sometimes embarrassing but ultimately redeeming aftermath to her soccer career. Let’s take a look.
Painkillers & DUI in April 2016
Only a few months after her retirement, Wambach was arrested for a DUI. According to the Telegraph, it started a long process that forced her to reckon with prescription drug abuse that helped her body fight through the rigors of international competition.
“I didn’t know how to deal with my body starting to fail,” Wambach said. “There were so many parts of me that I felt like a fraud. I didn’t have the education or the sobriety to be able to solve some of these problems.”
Part of her recovery involved her airing it out for public consumption in her memoir “Forward.” She admitted to using Vicodin, Ambien and Adderall.
“That night getting arrested was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Because if I don’t get so publicly shamed and publicly humiliated, I don’t think I wake up,” she said to the Associated Press. “I think I was asleep for a lot of years. Asleep to the pleas from my family and friends, and even myself, to get help. So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.”
Divorce & a New Marriage
In 2013, Wambach married long-time girlfriend and former soccer player Sarah Huffman. Despite a very public display of affection after beating Japan 5-2 in the 2015 World Cup Final, the couple filed and completed a divorce only a year later.
Through her recovery process from drug addiction, Wambach met Christian blogger Glenn Doyle, who herself has admitted to recovery from addiction and bulimia. They struck up a relationship and have been happily married since 2017.
The couple talked to People this past April about their compatibility.
“To be in a relationship with another woman, there’s a ton of talking all the time,” Wambach, 38, told the outlet. “We’re so passionate about the work that we’re trying to accomplish. We’re trying to solve for big problems, we want equality, and it calls for a lot of discussion between us.”
“I think that’s one of the reasons we fell in love with each other,” Doyle, 43, added. “We were doing similar work before we even met, and it was like ‘Whoa, you’re like the business-slash-sports version of me.’ “
“It’s like she’s Sporty Spice and I’m Spirit Spice,” Doyle continued. “We have so many of the same beliefs and goals.”
USWNT vs. USMNT Pay Equity
Wambach is at the forefront of ensuring pay equity between the men’s and women’s national teams. According to the Telegraph, she made just 37 cents to the dollar of what her male peers made, despite far less success on the pitch.
In addition, the women’s team generated $8 million more in revenue in 2017.
“The real story is that, the Women’s National Team has not only had more success, but also has, in recent years, actually had more financial success than the Men’s National Team,” she said to The Cut this past March. “Two plus two doesn’t equal four anymore — so what now? What is U.S. Soccer gonna do? Are they going to step up, and pay the women what they deserve?”
She is working with members of the current team, including Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenburg, to work with US Soccer on closing the pay gap.