WEST RICHLAND -- "Scarves up!" is a common chant and show of unity among many soccer fans around the world.
West Richland's Payton Thompson took that to a different level, sending a special scarf to Germany as a sign of Tri-City support for the U.S. women's soccer team and goalkeeper Hope Solo.
If all the passes were completed, a Three Rivers Soccer Club scarf made its way to the Women's World Cup and into Solo's world-class hands in time for last Sunday's thrilling quarterfinal rally past Brazil and Wednesday's 3-1 semifinal victory over France.
"I was watching the World Cup and I knew she played for Three Rivers," Payton said. "So my dad and I came up with the idea of sending her a scarf. I made her a card wishing her luck and sent that along, too."
Payton, who turns 10 on Saturday, will be a fifth-grader at William R. Wiley Elementary School in West Richland. The daughter of Mick and Tabby Thompson plays midfield for Three Rivers' U-11 regional club league team.
This year, Three Rivers SC decided to sell scarves as a fundraising project. And Payton bought one to give to her favorite player. Key assists go to her grandfather, Mel Thompson, who works at Hanford with Solo's uncle, Frank Shaw.
"Frank was very impressed with the gesture," Mick Thompson said. "Most people ask him for something from Hope, rather than give her anything."
Last week, Shaw traveled to Germany for the tournament after the U.S. lost to Sweden.
"He was going to spend at least a day with Hope after that, and she may have gotten the scarf then, but we're not sure," Mick Thompson said.
Payton already has met Solo. It came in Richland at a public reception after the Bomber great -- Class of 1999 -- backed the U.S. women to the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics.
"I got my photo taken with her and a ball signed by her," Payton said. "It's sitting up in a case on my dresser."
The soccer scarf tradition began nearly a century ago in England where the season spans fall, winter and spring, so the scarf not only helps fight off the elements, but it also came to be used by fans as a small billboard of support for their team.
Neither Payton's teammates nor her coach, Andrea Lacher, know about the special scarf, but that shouldn't be a problem.
"We're all friends," she said. "We play hard and have fun."
To buy a Three Rivers SC scarf ($20), send an email through the club website at www.3rsc.org or call Mick Thompson at 509-366-1431.
On Sunday, it will be "Scarves up!" for Payton and many other Americans when Solo and the U.S. face Japan in the final. The broadcast from Frankfurt is scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. on ESPN.
"I wish Hope the best of luck in the championship," Payton said. "I'm hoping they will win -- and I think they will."
-- Eric Degerman, 509-582-1404; email@example.com