“We weren’t sure how the crowd would react to us”
Seraina Piubel and Lydia Andrade lifted the Swiss Women’s Cup with FC Zurich earlier this year, but they have their sights set on more honours as FCZ are still in the running for the league title. In 2018, Piubel and Andrade were part of the FCZ side that played in the first girls’ tournament at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup™. It was an unforgettable experience for Piubel, who will soon turn 22, and Andrade, now 23.
Seraina, Lydia, first of all, congratulations on winning the cup with FCZ! Let’s take you back to 2018, the year of the first girls’ tournament at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup. You were both in the FCZ squad. Can you remember your reaction to the news that you would be playing in the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup?
Andrade: We were a little surprised! Playing in such a tournament was beyond our wildest dreams. When you hear that it is an international tournament with some huge names, you just think “wow!” As a young player, it is a chance to get out there and show what you’re made of, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to go up against teams from abroad, which can only be good for Swiss women’s football.
Piubel: The fact that girls were playing in the competition for the very first time made it even more special. We honestly never thought that we would ever be part of such an important event. And, of course, it was fantastic to be picked for the squad.
You made it to the semi-finals before losing to the eventual winners, BSC Young Boys. You must have been very disappointed.
Piubel: We didn’t do too badly in the group stage, especially when you consider that we hadn’t really played together in that team before. We won our first two games, against eventual runners-up Valencia and also Blue Stars. We were disappointed to lose in the semis, but we were still buzzing because of the whole atmosphere. A lot of people watched our games, and the matches in the stadium were particularly special. I had visited the tournament many times before as a fan, but suddenly I was out there in the thick of the action. The support, the atmosphere – it was just incredible.
The girls certainly impressed the crowd with their performances. You and the other teams won the fans’ hearts and minds, and it was almost as if you’d always been part of the tournament...
Piubel: Yes, but there was still a certain amount of pressure. We weren’t sure how the crowd at Buchlern would react to us. The weather was great and many, many people came to the matches. Of course, that made us even more determined to do our best. We were all nervous as hardly any of us had played in front of so many fans before. You have to learn how to cope with that.
Was there a certain level of solidarity among the girls’ teams?
Andrade: Yes, some of us already knew some of our opponents from having played with them in various youth teams. That of course brought us closer together, and off the pitch we spoke a lot about our games and our experiences. That was very special and very useful.
Did you all feel at home straight away in that atmosphere?
Piubel: Yes, but as I said before, we needed a little bit of time to get used to it. I think it was very special for all of the teams. We all showed what we were capable of and it was a great advert for women’s football. We received a lot of support, which also helped us. We felt support from everyone, not just from the fans. FIFA and the organisers giving us the opportunity to play in such a wonderful tournament was also great recognition for us all.
It is well known that many stars past and present have graced the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup. Gerard Piqué[MS(1] , Xherdan Shaqiri and even David Beckham are just a few of the star names who have played here. How do you look back on your time at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup? Also as the launchpad for a great career?
Andrade: For us, most of all, it was just an unforgettable experience. Getting to take on teams like Inter Milan or Valencia as a young Swiss player is an experience that nobody can ever take away from you.
Piubel: It is a chance to test yourself against some big clubs. It is a totally different level, and it was a yardstick for us all. Of course, you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to play for one of those clubs one day and you find yourself thinking about your own career too. You have to admire your opponents because you can see how good they are and you think “I want some of that too.” You invariably start dreaming about playing abroad.
In the end, Young Boys won the girls’ title. Did their victory come as a surprise to you?
Piubel: They have always had a strong U-19 team, and they’ve won all there is to win at that level in Switzerland. We weren’t surprised they beat us in the semis – but yes, we were a little surprised they beat Valencia in the final.
The girls’ tournament made its Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup debut in 2018. The 2019 edition, the last before the coronavirus pandemic, was won by VfL Wolfsburg. In recent years, and certainly since the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019, the world has seen women’s football in a whole new light. A lot more money is now being pumped into the women’s game all around the world. Have you, as players in the Swiss top flight, also noticed things changing?
Piubel: There’s certainly a lot more women’s football on TV now. There was a lot of media coverage for the Women’s World Cup, and that definitely helped the women’s game. It was also very important for us in Switzerland too, even though we didn’t play in that World Cup. The people in the street now know more about the big players in the women’s game, and it is also important for us to see those idols in action. And, of course, it would be a dream to play in a World Cup as well.
Has it also had a positive effect on the women’s league in Switzerland?
Andrade: Not really, to be honest. It is of course a little better, and so much has happened in the women’s game in Switzerland. People are working hard, that’s for sure.
Piubel: I would like to see more fans at our matches, like there were when we won the cup at the Letzigrund recently. There were a lot of fans at the stadium, people who probably normally go to men’s games, and they were behind us all the way.
It’s all going in the right direction, though...
Andrade: Yes, because there are more and more games on TV and on the internet. That helps us a lot, and it gives us a better chance of being spotted by a club from abroad.
Piubel: I think we all deserve this level of attention as well. FCZ are the perfect example. The club has done so much. It has achieved a lot and has been very successful. Other clubs are also working hard. You can see the progress being made and the development. That can only be good for us all.
Where do you see yourselves in three years’ time?
Andrade: Hopefully playing abroad and for the Swiss national team.
Piubel: I have just extended my contract at FCZ.
You are already in and around the national team...
Piubel: Yes, and I want to keep improving and become one of the key players. One day I want to play abroad, for sure.
The Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2022 is just around the corner now. I’m sure you’d love to be playing in it again if you could...
Piubel: If you asked me, and if it were possible, I’d always say yes!
Andrade: Same here!
Will you also attend this year’s edition as fans?
Piubel: Yes, I certainly will. I’m looking forward to it.
[MS(1]Giovi, if you can amend the German still, please do so (the German has “Gerard Piquet” here)