She bows out as the top scorer of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but Célia Śaśić would not have wanted to end like this. Sasic scored six goals for Germany in Canada and won 111 caps, yet in the short term she’ll be remembered for missing a second half penalty against the United States in the semifinals, when the score was still 0-0. The Americans, of course, went on to win, 2-0. Germany lost to England in the third-place playoff.
Śaśić gave some of the same reasons for retiring as Lauren Holiday, who’s stepping down from the U.S. team to put her family first, also in her prime at the age of 27.
“I regret Celia’s decision, but she also understands that football is not everything in life and there always comes a moment in life when you need to focus on other priorities,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid.
Female internationals typically play far more matches for their countries than the men – Holiday made 130 appearances even though she’s in her mid-20s. There’s a certain logic about quitting at the top, because how does it get any better than winning the World Cup? Who wouldn’t want to go out a winner?
Still, jumping before your body, or your coaches, give you a push, is always jarring, because we’re conditioned to hearing star athletes talk about how privileged their lives are, how much of an honor it is to represent their country, how they cherish every moment because their careers are so short and perilous. And they’ve reached the peak by defying the odds, refusing to give up, always expecting to win.
The intensity and importance of a World Cup only magnifies the sense of significance, making the sport seem all-encompassing. No coach or fan would want a player who, faced with a decisive match, can shrug and say, “well, there’s more to life”. Perspective is a dangerous thing in top-level sports. But the retirements of Śaśić and Holiday remind us that the notion that soccer is everything is a fun indulgence, but a temporary illusion.
As Holiday told SI.com: “I feel like this team isn’t my identity, it’s my choice. I think there’s power in making a choice. I chose this team for 10 years, and now I’m going to choose my family.”