EqualPlayingField Lyon – Partnering in sport to break the glass ceiling and few records
From as long as I remember, I have always had a visceral love and attraction for football… from my first memories to the last experience who culminated with the EqualPlayingField Lyon project.
I bet my cuddly toy was simply a football ball rather than a “teddy” …. I’ve got picture of myself aged 2/3 walking in the garden with my football ball… Always make me smile…. I guess my dad had mix feelings about it. Delighted to see me happy and in love with his sport but doubting his vegetables would survive my passage…
Playing soccer had helped my build my identity and release and canalise my angriness. On the pitch I was not the lonely shy Carole but the fierce one. Always ALL IN (and actually still true as my teammates can testify). It has given me a purpose and a direction.
Have I been dreaming of playing pro? I would say it was more a fantasy than a dream I would hold in to. I knew at a very early age that my body would not be as strong as my mind… And that my anticipation skills would not always bridge the gap. So no regret.
I cannot remember dreaming of taking part to the World Cup… Or I should say I did but for what I remember the dream was me playing in what was known for long as THE World Cup… I do mean the men one yes and yes I use the past tense as I hope this use of THE will soon be history. And because in dreams everything is possible, I was me: the female player playing alongside men 😉
Why am I saying all this?
Well simply because I hope that the 2019 edition of the FIFA WWC has been a turning point for girls and women in France and all other the world. So that they now can dream and live the dream.
Being in love with football and living in Lyon, I had to find a way to be part of what promised to be an unforgettable event and a shifting moment… Or at least had the potential to be.
I did not went through the obvious path, ie the FIFA volunteers line. Instead I gave time and energy to a more grassroots oriented action. The Football Festival and Record Game put together by Equal Playing Field (27 June – 1 July 2019).
What can I say about the EqualPlayingField Lyon experience?
Since December 2018, I have been involving with the organising team and try to serve as the Lyon contact point. The main aim of the organisation is to support opportunity, respect and equality for #AnygirlAnywhere. So it definitely aligned with my values and work.
I had the privilege of walking along their steps and see through the challenges. I provided some specialized support (would you like to know what kind of support I can provide, please have a look here). Not to mention the obstacles built up by those who probably felt endangered or unsecured by the movement… but would never of course admit it.
The team went through so many hurdles. My role though important upstream is yet nothing compared to what was achieved collectively and through the propelling forces of the 3 leaders: Maggie, Laura and Erin.
Knowing what I know, I am in awe by their bold yet wise leadership and their adaptation and resilience skills…
They are real life example that when life brings you challenges, you can either look at them as barriers that may stop you or as an opportunity to take new perspective, learn and grow. Taking and facing up challenges is nothing easy… But it can be so damn worth it!
Because of them -and the cohort of volunteers they inspired- the Festival of Football was about more than just setting a world record… It was about showing the diverse nature of women’s football. Itwas about bringing more than 800 players representing 63 countries together to connect, learn and grow!
What did I learn?
Two months after the event, I still struggle to put words on it. Yet I know I will cherish this EqualPlayingField Lyon experience for what it thought and reminded me.
There could not have been a better reminder that being a goalkeeper -on the pitch and in real life- is actually about embracing and accepting your vulnerabilities. As a goalkeeper, I can shine and be fearless only because I accept I can fail but will always bounce back. From my perspective being “fearless” in a wise way is not about having no fear or shutting down them all. But rather the contrary: knowing and accepting them so that they don’t stop you from acting and moving. It is about knowing your environment, getting ready for many things, being aware of your strengths and limits and taking all this into account trusting your instinct and training and letting be. I manage to do it on the field. And I keep training myself for being able to transfer it in real life. For you cannot be a keeper if you are only an over protective perfectionist. You need to bring your whole self and in particular the “Daring” part 🙂
As the Festival was not enough, we also organised an Equality Summit on the 5th of July. The summit gathered a crazy line up of high level speakers and top of the top engaged participants. It was meant to discuss high and pressing topics for the future of women football. And it surely did beyond expectations. Some of the key nuggets thoughts can be captured in this quote from HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein calling for more #GameChangeHer. “If you want to change the game and system, you need to get the right women – you have to support the right one, the one who will raise their voice and are skilled.”
In short, I cannot help but think…
What a feeling to take part to something bigger.
What a pride to have your name listed as World Record Holder (ok we are still waiting for official validation) …
What a joy to have slightly contributed to the experience of the 807 players!
What a privilege to work and walk along internationally recognised change makers!
How is this all connected with my own experience of the FIFA WWC 2019?
Beside the the whole EqualPlayingField Lyon experience, I was lucky to get access to two FIFA WWC games played by the US team in Lyon.
Of course I wished it could have been the French team walking this way… And yet to be honest having seen what we saw, the world probably needed THIS very team to win and STEP UP for changes… not only for them and their sport but for society in general.
There are still many roads to build and fight to fight for sport and its benefits to be accessible to all. But I feel more hopeful after this incredible 2019 summer has I know if not from the traditional sport stakeholders, such as sport federation, the change will come from a cohort of courageous and brilliant move makers.
We are more connected than ever before, we can and will level up our game. No mountains or extreme climate conditions can stop us. We are a pack, women and men, coming from all over the world. What unite us is stronger than our differences –which by the way make us all stronger. Not only do we WALK THE TALK, we do it TOGETHER! As Megan Rapinoe said “We’ve got to listen more and talk less. We’ve got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility.”