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Janss: WUSA start 'unbelievable'

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


Her name is Emily Janss, and the 22-year-old former Bloomingdale High star is one of a group of pioneers trying to make women's professional soccer stick in the United States. Presenting Janss on the WUSA (the new women's soccer league), being a professional athlete, having children, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, Anna Kournikova and more.

RM: What makes you think this new league will work, considering how hard it has been for men's soccer to find its niche in the U.S.?

EJ: That's true, it has been hard. But I think that there are a lot of different things that will make it work, anywhere from the investors to the players to the fans. It's a combination of everyone putting their effort into it and us finding our own niche. We're not going to target the same people.

RM: But is women's soccer that much different from its male counterpart?

EJ: Personally, I think that the women's game is totally different than the men's game only in terms of the supporters. We are attracting families and that's going to get the kids involved, the little girls. In the past, young girls really had to channel their energies to track and field or swimming or gymnastics. This gives them something to watch. It gives them role models to follow. That's very important for the sport.

RM: Considering that things are just beginning for the WUSA, how have the early steps been?

EJ: It's been absolutely unbelievable. Surprising at times, a little hard at times. Of course, certain things did not go our way immediately. For example, our equipment brand just came through for us and at the last minute we had to switch affiliation. That was a little tricky. Before we got stuff, there was a point when we looked like the Bad News Bears. Look, some people are a little tentative about investing their money into something that they are unsure is going to work. We understand that. But as players, we have to have the mind frame that it is going to work.

RM: For female professional athletes, is having children an overlying concern?

EJ: I've spoken a little bit about it with my boyfriend seeing that one day we probably will settle down and have kids. It's not an easy thing. This is the first year of the league and obviously we want to have it work. But I have to evaluate it year by year. I'll have to consider, "Am I in the starting lineup? Where is this taking me? Am I still enjoying it? Am I still in shape?" Those are the questions I'll try to answer when I do get married.

RM: Is it unfair that the female athlete has to take time off to have her children?

EJ: Sometimes it does seem a little unfair, doesn't it?

RM: Tell me the chewing gum story.

EJ: When I take a stick out of the wrapper, I put half on one side of my mouth and half on the other side of my mouth.

RM: You chew it that way? Two sides at the same time? That's a little odd, Emily.

EJ: It keeps both sides of my mouth happy.

RM: Give me your take on the abortion pill.

EJ: It should be there for women to take because there are certain situations that are exceptional. Now it should not be sold on the street corner or anything like that, but we have to consider the circumstances that happen.

RM: Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition?

EJ: People are blessed with different bodies and that's a great thing. It just so happens that (we soccer players) have more muscles than they do. Now it depends on how it's portrayed. If it doesn't have taste then I don't like it.

RM: So who makes your list of models for the male swimsuit edition?

EJ: You know the model, Tyson Beckford? He'd be one. I like Russell Crowe. Probably Mel Gibson, when he's buff.

RM: You do know he's a shrimp?

EJ: Do you know how short I am?

RM: No football players make the cut?

EJ: You can't see their bodies under those crazy pads.

RM: What if I told you Russell Crowe wears a rug?

EJ: That's okay. I can tell you a lot of things about the girls that aren't real.

RM: Everybody has an embarrassing family member. Who's yours?

EJ: My Aunt Joanne. She is definitely in a world of her own. She's got this golden retriever which is pretty much her son. He means the world to her. It's too bad that he's got cancer and fighting it. What's really crazy is that you know how every woman doesn't like to divulge her age? Well, my aunt's in her 40s and she still claims she's in her 30s. She even claims it to close family members who know her age. She even tells my boyfriend.

RM: Does Anna Kournikova deserve the pub she gets?

EJ: She has definitely used what she has to offer and is taking advantage of magazines and the media.

RM: And men?

EJ: It doesn't take too much to take advantage of men.

RM: Very funny.

EJ: But it's not like I'm saying more power to her. I think that when you're a pro athlete, I would hope that you would earn your marketability, as a player, before everything else falls into place.

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