#GustiesAroundTheWorld: Dispatch from France

Sophie Leininger blogs from the January Interim Experience course Sport and Culture in France.
Posted on February 8th, 2018 by

Members of the Gustavus Women's Soccer Team pose with players from a French women's professional team following a match.

In an attempt to travel beyond tourism, this class allowed many of us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in French sport culture and play soccer while abroad. Before leaving, I knew that we were scheduled to play full 11 v 11 matches, play against teams from the French women’s professional division, and all the while pretend to not be out of shape. As a team, we were psyched for this exciting possibility. For me, I was also grateful to be able to play alongside my teammates one more time in a black and gold jersey. But in the end, the parts we did not know and did not expect are the experiences we will never forget. 

A group of Gusties at the Dune du Pilat before their first game.

After a day of touring the city of Bordeaux, visiting the Dune du Pilat, and learning about the history of French wine at a local vineyard, we had our first game. We were scheduled to play two teams, US Talence, a DH league team in French women’s professional soccer division and FC Girondins de Bordeaux, a League 1 professional team. As our bus pulled up to the field, we were greeted by loud cheers from a dancing group of local fans. We could not help but smile. We knew that our fellow Gusties would be cheering from the stands, but we did not know that they would be joined by such a large crowd.

Walking to the field, a group of young kids followed closely, asking to trade jerseys and trying English as we tried French. At the start of the match, we knew that we would have a professional start followed by a group photo with both teams, but we did not know that the beginning kickoff would be performed by the Mayor of Bordeaux and that our photo would appear in the French newspaper the following day. 

Following the game, the players from the opposing team invited us to join them for dinner. We shared stories, talked through our teams’ similarities and differences, and even swapped social media to stay in touch. The language barrier didn’t mean much when we could all talk about soccer. 

The Gusties faced Montauban, a League 2 professional team. 

A couple of days and many sites and cities later, another match was scheduled. Leading up to the game, we knew we were going to face Montauban, a League 2 team in the professional division. However, until the morning of our game, we did not know that we would also be playing in a small sided tournament with local teams. Over the loudspeaker on our bus, our tour guide passed along the exciting news. Women’s teams from local towns had heard a women’s team from the United States was visiting and they wanted to play.

In between the shortened games, we met the players from the local towns. Ranging in age, talent, and experience, all of them loved the sport. As the tournament closed, we said our goodbyes as many of the women ventured up to the stands to watch our match-up with Montauban on the same field. The end of the game brought another after-party and further opportunities to practice French and learn more about professional women’s soccer.

As I write a couple days later, the soccer is blur (except the 40 yard stunner a Montauban forward scored that even our favorite All-American goalkeeper complimented as unstoppable), but all together, the experience was unforgettable. We experienced community and gracious hospitality, met new people with very cool interests, played high level soccer, learned a lot, and made the paper. We might have to stay.


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