Soccer players at the 2016 Deaf World Cup weren’t allowed to wear hearing aids during games to prevent players from having unfair advantages over others. From June 19 to July 2 in Salerno, Italy, local women Danielle Wheeler, 17, and Meghan Maiwald, 26, represented deaf American women soccer players and played at the 2016 Deaf World Cup as members of US Deaf Women’s National Team (USDWNT). The USDWNT defeated deaf women from other countries – Turkey, Russia, Poland, Italy, and Great Britain – and brought home the prize Gold Cup and gold medals. The Women’s Sports Foundation assisted with funding for the team’s training and travel expenses.
Maiwald, a goalkeeper and a 10-year veteran of the USDWNT, said that a game against the Russian team was the most challenging.
“Our matches with Russia are always close and competitive,” Maiwald wrote in an email. “Within the first ten minutes, we were down by an own goal – accidental header into the goal from a free kick serve into the box. This was the first time we were ever down. Right away I saw this basically as a make it or break it moment for us in the tournament. Instead of putting our heads down, we composed ourselves quickly and it lit a fire under some of the players. In the next three minute span, we scored two back-to-back goals. Then we controlled the rest of the match for a solid 4-1 win.”
Like Maiwald, Wheeler felt that the Russian team was the most challenging, but she pulled through.
“We have a great team and we worked together to get in some good plays,” Wheeler wrote in an email. “I helped push up the field, make some big runs and crosses to give us shooting chances.”
A Santa Clara resident and student at San Jose’s Leigh High School, Wheeler reminisced about the beginnings of her soccer career, rooted in Santa Clara.
“I started playing in a Kids Love Soccer class at the community center [through Santa Clara’s Parks and Recreation Department] when I was three years-old,” she said “Then I played for the Sweet Peas [in the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League]. My coaches were Eddie Laranjo and Joe Brasil. They still live in Santa Clara and we are family friends. I remember Coach Eddie used to wear the FM system when I played soccer for him. He was able to talk into a mic and his voice went right into my hearing aids. I also played for two Santa Clara Sporting teams for Mike Kutney and Dave Ballard. Soccer for now means training with my club team, the DeAnza Force. I’m excited to play with my high school team this Fall…I also plan to train for U.S. Deaf Team for the Deaflympics next year in Turkey.”