AP Interview: Mia Hamm 'humbled' to join Roma's board
ROME (AP) With three kids at home, Mia Hamm already had plenty on her plate when two professional clubs called over the space of just a few days in October.
They weren't asking her to play the 42-year-old soccer star has been retired for more than a decade rather they wanted her to join their management teams.
Hamm, who won the women's FIFA world player of the year award in 2001 and 2002 the first two times that honor was given quickly said yes to both the MLS expansion squad Los Angeles Football Club and Roma, the three-time Italian champion controlled by Boston executive James Pallotta.
"It all kind of happened in one week," Hamm told The Associated Press during an interview before Roma's 1-1 draw with Juventus on Monday. "It was kind of crazy."
Hamm and her husband, ex-baseball star Nomar Garciaparra, joined an ownership group for LAFC, while Hamm alone was asked by Pallotta to join Roma's board of directors in a purely advisory role.
While Garciaparra had been working on the LAFC project, the Roma call was completely unexpected.
"I thought he was inviting me to a game," Hamm said, recounting Pallotta's surprise call. "But I'm very humbled and excited about the opportunity to help in any way I can."
On Monday, Hamm attended her first Roma board meeting.
"She understands football, which maybe I don't," Pallotta said. "She's done a lot with our academy, some of our philanthropy stuff, some of our training stuff. She's been great."
Boston Bruins president Cam Neely and American investor Stanley Gold are also on Roma's 13-person board, where members serve three-year terms.
"Jim has done a great job with assembling a really diverse group, members with a lot of experience in their own right," Hamm said. "Just to see everyone's energy in the room was a lot of fun."
A hedge-fund manager, Pallotta is also a minority owner of the Boston Celtics.
"Jim has used his success and his relationships and experiences to think, 'What is going to make a successful team?'" Hamm said. "Whether it's marketing, whether it's technology, whether it's real estate, it's bringing all those people's minds together and trying to make this the best club in the world."
For Hamm, the opportunity also gives her a chance to reminisce about her childhood in Italy.
When she was a toddler she spent about two years in Florence while her father, who was in the Air Force, studied foreign affairs. Then after she graduated high school, her family moved back to Italy Rome this time where her father worked as an Air Force attache for six years.
While Hamm went on to star at the University of North Carolina and led the United States to two World Cup titles, she spent holidays and some summers in Rome.
"Roma was the colors that I would see when I walked around the city. It was the team that I watched on television, so I knew of the team," said Hamm, wearing a scarf featuring the red of Roma's jerseys. "It's been kind of special for me personally. When I think about Roma I think about my parents, and sharing those experiences with them."
While applying herself to Roma, Hamm is also keeping tabs on the preparations for this year's women's World Cup.
In January, U.S. forward Abby Wambach and a group of fellow players withdrew their complaint of gender discrimination over the artificial turf fields to be used at the tournament in Canada from June 6 to July 5.
But did FIFA do enough on the issue?
"I think they can always do more," Hamm said. "I would love to see it on grass. But I understand why in Canada they have turf in those venues.
"I don't know what the bid process was," Hamm added. "I just know personally I like playing on grass rather than turf. And if that's a requirement for the men's World Cup then that should be the requirement for the women's World Cup."
The most time Hamm spends on soccer fields these days comes when she watches her twin 7-year-old girls play, toting along her 3-year-old son Garrett, named for Hamm's adopted brother, who died from a rare blood disease in 1997.
Not that the girls Ava and Grace play only soccer.
"It's busy. They play a little bit," Hamm said. "They're kind of that age where sports is extremely social. So it's kind of whatever they're friends do they want to do, whether that's basketball, soccer or softball."
The family has some new teams to follow now.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf