Total Futbol players traveled to France from June 15 to June 23 and attended a FIFA Womens’s World Cup (WWC) match on their first night in Paris at the storied Le Parc des Princes stadium (this was the June 16 match between the USA and Chile). The game kicked off a whirlwind trip that included another WWC game, three international “friendly” games, a skills clinic from a professional coach, and (of course!) some serious sightseeing. Accompanied by Total Futbol coaches Nadir Moumen and Tina Valente -- as well as a diehard group of parent chaperones -- 27 players from the 2003/2004 and 2005/2006 age groups formed two teams to compete against French Club players of similar ages.
We asked Coach Tina Valente a few questions to get an idea of how the trip went
What was the highlight of the France trip?
I think the highlight was playing in the friendlies because it felt professional: they did a walk out, exchanged flags or tokens, and they had the opportunity to communicate with the French about the game they loved, even though they did not speak the same language. It was fun to see them talking and learning about each other.
Of course, the World Cup games were amazing and it was surreal being in that environment with the energy and excitement for the sport we all loved. People from all over came together showing their countries pride by dressing the part and cheering loudly for the USWNT.
Total Futbol players (in red jerseys) pose with players from the French Club team ISSY before one of their friendlies. Players in the front center are holding the Club flags that are traditionally exchanged before professional matches.
How does playing matches in a foreign country improve the game for US-based Total Futbol players?
Playing soccer in France was an exciting experience. Playing in the friendlies challenged the girls to think more and read body language because they couldn’t understand what the other team was saying. They had to depend on body language instead of relying on what they heard (switch fields, turn, shoot, even players asking for the ball). The girls were exposed to a different soccer climate as well as different playing styles.
What surprised you most about how the young French players play?
I think we were all surprised by the physicality of the French teams we played. Especially in the younger age groups. It was a definite adjustment from our norm and we had to adjust our style a bit after the first game to deal with it better. They are a very proud group and do not let shots on goal easily. They will do what they need to do to prevent goals and we came to expect some bumping and grabbing when we were threatening. I think it made us stronger and smarter on the ball as we played more games.
Players attended a special skills clinic run by coaches from the Val D-Oise area and led by Alain Bornand (in red shirt at right), who is most notably credited with recruiting Manchester United star and World Cup Champion Paul Pogba.
Did the girls enjoy watching the US Women's National Team play?
It inspired the girls to work hard for their dreams. It was also great to see some of the things we talk about in training being done at such a high level. The amount of support being demonstrated for a women’s sport was truly amazing to be a part of.
What do you think the players learned from the trip?
This was such a wonderful experience and we learned so much. We learned about French culture in talking with our guides as well as visiting all the tourist attractions (the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Palace of Versailles, etc.) I think the girls learned life lessons in patience because our group was so large it took a while to do things and we had to be mindful of our group above ourselves at times. They also had to take care of their bodies because we were jet lagged for a bit and we had long days, so they needed to make sure they were hydrating and eating properly because they still had to perform as athletes.
You can't visit the City of Light without a little sightseeing! Players, coaches, and chaperones took a cruise along the Seine, visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral (shown above with heavy scaffolding after a catastrophic fire), and the Palace of Versailles, among other attractions.
"It was a wonderful trip with a balance of seeing Paris and taking part in an awesome soccer experience.
I got to know players outside of soccer and I learned that some of them are very musically gifted, very outgoing and funny, as well as interested in History and knowledgeable about many of the places we visited."
-- Total Futbol Coach Tina Valente
It takes a village: Players, coaches, parents, and family members gather before one of two FIFA WWC matches the group attended.