Hundreds of people piled into Baton Rouge's The Londoner pub to watch the U.S. women's national soccer team win its fourth World Cup title Sunday morning, but just one person almost lost her voice leading group chants throughout the game.

RosaGale Abella brought the enthusiasm.

Halfway through the game when neither team had scored, she was still chanting with confidence: "I believe that we will win." An hour later her confidence was replaced with celebration when the U.S. team clinched a 2-0 win over the Netherlands: "I believe that we just won."

That was the moment when the entire bar erupted in cheers. Fans jumped up from their seats and spilled their mimosas in excitement. One woman ran between tables using an American flag as a cape.

In a state where football takes center stage, Baton Rouge soccer fans were glad to have their time in the sun during Sunday's game, especially female players and coaches.


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Recent criticism of the women's national team — over how and when the players celebrated their goals during previous World Cup games — made the win even sweeter for some fans who consider that criticism indicative of the impossible double standard that female athletes often face.

Questions about unequal pay have also surrounded the tournament since members of the women's national team are paid significantly less than their male counterparts even though their team has seen more success on an international stage. The team filed a lawsuit in March against the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging gender discrimination in its compensation practices. 

"Seeing all these people coming out to watch the game … it's opening people's eyes that women's sports are important," said Abella, 28, a lifelong Baton Rouge area soccer player who was watching the game with some of her current teammates. "These women deserve equal pay and they should be able to express their excitement on the field without getting attacked for it. … I think it absolutely is a double standard." 

One of the U.S. team's star players, Alex Morgan, received criticism for pretending to take a sip of tea while celebrating her goal against Britain last week. She said it was a tribute to British "Game of Thrones" actress Sophie Turner who makes the same gesture in her Instagram posts, which often end with her saying: "That's the tea." But critics said Morgan's celebration was a distasteful dig at the British who are known for being big tea drinkers. 

Sean Larken, a sports reporter for LSU's student radio station, has been one of Morgan's biggest fans since he started following women's soccer several years ago.

Morgan gave him a token of appreciation in 2017 after a game at the Superdome in New Orleans when he threw his phone onto the field and, miraculously, she caught it and took a selfie before tossing it back. Larken scrolled through the photos on his phone to show an Advocate reporter the selfie, which includes him posing in the stands behind Morgan. 

"It was a huge moment," he said, reminiscing while watching Sunday's game with a group of friends sitting at the bar. Larken had arrived just a few minutes after the restaurant opened at 8:30 Sunday morning and said it filled up soon thereafter. 

The Londoner was offering a $10 bottomless mimosa special, which many fans took advantage of — so many that the restaurant ran out of champagne before the game ended. 

The U.S. team's first goal came after a Netherlands player kicked Morgan in the shoulder inside the penalty area. Larken wondered aloud then whether his favorite player would "even make it out of this tournament alive" but he celebrated moments later when the team scored off a penalty kick resulting from the foul.

Lauren Arbour, who played soccer growing up and now coaches recreational teams in the Baton Rouge area, said she often points to professional female players as examples for the children she coaches because their playing style is often less theatrical. 

"I personally think they're more entertaining to watch than the men," she said. "They're very skillful players that go out and get it done."

Arbour was watching the game with her family, including her daughter who recently completed her first season on the field. Ella Arbour, 5, was most excited about her outfit but also happy to be celebrating women's soccer with her mom. She was wearing a shirt covered in red, white and blue stars along with a matching hair bow, both repurposed from celebrating the 4th of July just days earlier.

"It's uplifting to see everyone getting excited about women's sports," Lauren Arbour said. "Of course this team exemplifies what I tell my kids — play hard and work together because now you're part of something bigger than yourself."


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.