Louisa Necib is a passionate advocate for women's football. As the France international told FIFA.com: “If there’s growing enthusiasm for it, it’s because, quite simply, it’s prettier and more enjoyable to watch." The female game is indeed on the rise, and its surging popularity is thanks in no small part to eye-catching performers like Necib.
By virtue of her Algerian roots, childhood spent in Marseille, playing position and ability on the ball, Necib is endlessly compared to former French great Zinedine Zidane. The comparisons are so frequent, in fact, that she even has the nickname Ziza. And though she is also known for her striking good looks, it is her exceptional ability on the pitch that really turns heads.
The beautiful game
“I love beautiful football. It’s a vehicle for enjoyment on the football pitch. And without enjoyment, it’s impossible to play well,” said Necib, before addressing the inevitable Zidane question. “Zidane is a role model for me. He was always the player that I most enjoyed watching. The comparison was made frequently when I was starting out, and now, as the years pass, it happens less and less often. But I wouldn't say I’m tired of it.”
The 25-year-old grew up in the 14th arrondissement of Marseille and acquired a passion for football at a young age. “My [male] friends used to play football down in the street, and I just wanted to be like them,” she explained. At the age of 16, Necib left local club Celtic de Marseille to continue her development at the Clairefontaine academy, before joining Montpellier in 2006 and later moving to Lyon in 2007.
Necib has really flourished since her move to L'OL, but she is still too modest to see herself as a star. “I’m far from being one of those,” she said. “But it’s true that, with the World Cup and new-found media interest in women’s football, people recognise me a bit more than they did a few years ago.” Just a few weeks after winning the UEFA Women's Champions League with Lyon, Necib lit up the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ and played a leading role in France’s unlikely run to the semi-finals.
One of Necib’s biggest admirers is Bruno Bini, coach of the French women’s national team. “There aren’t many players like Louisa. She can do things you wouldn’t even find in an instruction manual for the perfect footballer. Quite simply, she’s an artist,” Bini said of the midfielder during Germany 2011. “OK, you could say that sometimes she holds onto the ball a bit too much. But there’s so much sunshine when she does touch the ball. I’m always cold, and it warms me up and makes the whole team glow. So I think she can get away with it more than others.”
Necib knows that success is a team effort, and she reserves particular praise for Bini’s contribution. “Our national team coach deserved his place among the top three coaches of 2011,” she said. “He proved at the World Cup that he is capable of great things. This nomination is a source of pride for him and for his players,” she added, before reflecting on her own nomination as one of the ten best players on the planet. “I owe it to my team-mates, to our World Cup campaign and to my Champions League experience with Lyon. I see it as both an individual and a team award.
“Overall, it’s been a great year for French women's football,” she continued. “Lyon won the Champions League, which is one of the best club competitions you can play in. And the World Cup was, I feel, a success, even though we didn’t go all the way. The hard work of the coaches and players over the last few years has been rewarded. It’s a long-term project, but it’s paying off today.”
So, what does the future hold? “We’ll be hoping to win as many club and international titles as possible,” said Necib at the start of what is shaping up to be an eventful year, with the Women's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 in particular just months away. “When you take part in that kind of competition, you have to start with the aim of winning a medal.”
Given their recent progress, Les Bleues should have every chance of challenging for an Olympic medal. And, with Necib in the side, they will no doubt be hoping to do it in style.