Griedge MBock Bathy is a popular and important figure in the France team that have battled their way to the last four of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012.
To find that out all you have to do is ask her team-mates what they think of her: “She’s the defender that all the forwards fear,” said striker Pauline Cousin. “She’s the defender that everyone would love to have in their team.”
“She’s such a great player,” added Lea Declercq. “She’s as strong with the ball at her feet as she is on the dancefloor.”
“She’s a pretty amazing girl,” opined coach Guy Ferrier. “She’s got a very cool head and is extremely mature for her age.” In short, MBock Bathy can do little wrong.
A meeting with the central defender provides confirmation of her magical qualities. A larger-than-life character, she is softly spoken, possesses an infectious laugh and chooses her words carefully.
MBock Bathy is equally assured out on the pitch, where she immediately shows herself to be one of those players who is a little out of the ordinary. A perfect reader of the game, her passes are invariably pinpoint and her tackles never anything but firm.
France’s lucky charm
She is also a talisman for her country, a point proved when she was forced to miss the final of this June’s UEFA European Women’s U-17 Championship against Germany through injury to both her knees, with France losing on penalties to suffer their first defeat in months.
“Well, we didn’t lose that game just because I wasn’t playing. It was a coincidence,” Mbock Bathy told FIFA.com, having battled back from her double injury in record time to be on duty for France at Azerbaijan 2012.
“I was worried about not being fit on time,” she continued. “I started training again in August and the coaching team came up with a plan to push my recovery along. I followed it to the letter and it worked.”
The fact that she has not missed a single minute of France’s four games in the tournament so far is proof of that. Coach Ferrier, for one, is delighted with her progress: “She came back not so very long ago and wasn’t in great form. But she’s coming on with every game.”
Hugely impressive in thwarting the USA’s dangerous forwards in the 0-0 draw that opened France’s campaign, Mbock Bathy turned in a repeat performance in the 1-1 draw with Korea DPR, and then stood tall in the centre of a back-line of three as Gambia were thrashed 10-2, a game in which she also showed her scoring prowess by shooting home through a forest of legs from a corner.
“It wasn’t exactly the most beautiful goal of my career, but at least it was an important one,” she explained with a burst of laughter.
MBock Bathy’s contribution to Les Tricolores’ quarter-final win over Nigeria was also immense, the centre-half managing to blunt the lethal spearhead formed by Chinwendu Ihezu, the top scorer in the group phase with six goals, and her sidekick Halimatu Ayinde, who had four goals to her name.
Having helped keep the match scoreless in normal time, she then held her nerve in the shoot-out to convert one of her side’s five penalties.
“I missed a few chances with my head during the game,” she explained. “But I just put that all behind me and concentrated on one side of the goal. I knew I was going to score.”
France’s spot-kick win triggered their now customary “Dougie Dance” celebration, led by none other than Miss MBock Bathy, an expert in the field.
“We dance a little when we have something to celebrate and I like to do the Dougie,” explained the twinkle-toed centre-half. “It’s in right now in the United States, though it’s not the same Dougie as the 1980s one.”
Nothing if not talented, MBock Bathy is also continuing with her school studies as she pursues her football career at the highest level. As well as running out for Guingamp in the French elite, she is also keeping her head down at school and will take her economics and social science baccalaureate exams at the end of the year.
“I’ve been trying to do my schoolwork here in between training sessions,” said the player, who hails from Brittany but is of Cameroonian extraction.
Unconcerned about her long stay in Azerbaijan, she aims to keep her head down for the next few days as well: “I’m going to keep on studying. It’s no big deal. The important thing for now is to carry on this adventure with France.”
“All my players are absolutely delightful, but Griedge is really great,” enthused coach Ferrier. “She’s a leader on the pitch with her technique and off it with her charisma. She’s got a great future ahead of her.”
“If that’s what the coach says, it must be true,” replied MBock Bathy with a smile. “I’m not going to contradict what he says at all.”
The next step in her burgeoning career comes in Tuesday’s semi-final against the high-flying Ghanaians, a game that the dancing central defender hopes will end with her doing the Dougie again.