Family support spurs on Le Sommer

Eugenie Le Sommer’s 11-strong family fan club is not hard to spot in the stands of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Comprising her doting father Thierry and boyfriend Florian, they sit together in the same row wearing blue France jerseys with the same number No9 on the back, above which is emblazoned the name of their favourite Bleues player.

The France forward is delighted to have them all in Canada to cheer her on, as she told “I’m so happy to have them here. They give me a lot of encouragement and support and it helps to have them so close when I’m away with the team for so long.”

“I’m a very proud and happy father,” said a clearly thrilled Thierry, a retired policeman who now devotes his time to travelling the world to watch his daughter, the only football player of his seven children, only two of whom are boys.

“I go to all the tournaments I can,” he added. “I went to the U-20 World Cup in Chile in 2008, the World Cup in Germany in 2011 and the Olympic Games in 2012.”

“Now that he’s retired he’s got the chance to do so and he comes whenever he can,” said the 26-year-old French international, who has fulfilled the rich potential she showed when stepping out at Chile 2008.

“I’ve obviously matured in the way I play and the way I approach games,” she explained. “I feel more complete. I’ve taken a big step forward since I started playing in midfield and I feel very comfortable there.”

The switch to a holding role just in front of the defence has proved to be a smooth one for Le Sommer, who has been in superb form at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, threading seemingly impossible passes to her team-mates and also getting forward to score goals, so much so that she is her side’s leading markswoman with three.

It was her strike that gave the French a 1-0 win over England in their opening game, while the other two came in the heavy defeat of Mexico. Not content with that, she also set up two of her side’s goals in the 3-0 victory over Korea Republic in the last 16.

Perhaps her biggest fan of all is boyfriend Florian, who has made the trip with his parents, the most enthusiastic flag wavers in Le Sommer’s appreciation society.

“It’s very exciting to be here,” he said. “I’m very proud of her and it’s great to be part of such a huge event.”

A devoted football fan, Florian likes nothing better than to watch games with the love of his life, though they do not play the game together.

“She’s a professional and in her free time she doesn’t feel like playing with me much, though we have the odd game on holiday,” he explained, before adding with a smile: “Sadly, I’m not a professional. I’m not very good.”

A volunteer at next year’s UEFA EURO finals in France, Florian can vouch for the excellent team spirit in the Bleues camp: “They’re great friends and they get on really well. I think the defeat to Colombia was a good thing for them, though, because it was a wake-up call and showed them that any team can make life difficult for you.”

The French can certainly expect a challenger in their next outing on Friday: a quarter-final against Germany no less.

“They’re a very strong, powerful team,” said the Lyon player. “We’ll have to work very hard to impose our style and neutralise the threat they present. We can’t afford to switch off for a single minute.”

While she has been training hard with her team-mates in preparation for the last-eight tie, her family, of which only three of her siblings are missing, has been doing some sightseeing in Montreal.

“There are a lot of cultural links with France here and we feel right at home. And then there’s the fact that the people here are right behind the team. We’re delighted,” said Florian, who explained that he has been having fun learning the expressions used in this French-speaking part of the world.

“It’s a fantastic city, for sure,” concurred Thierry, who, along with his football-playing wife, passed his passion for the game on to Eugenie.

Recalling her childhood days, the Le Sommer said: “When I was four I kept nagging my mother to enrol me at the football academy. She didn’t want to begin with because women’s football had a very negative image when she was playing.”

Little Eugenie got her way and more, going on to form part of a generation that has changed that image completely, smoothing the path into the game for her little nieces, should they ever want to take it one day.

Together, Le Sommer and her colleagues have brought down a lot of walls to get this far. Their next obstacle is Germany in a match crucial to their hopes of going into the 2019 Women's World Cup in France as defending champions.

“I’m in no rush to buy my ticket home. I can stay on till Vancouver, no problem,” said Thierry, contemplating that prospect.

“Me too, Daddy. Me too,” chuckled his high-achieving daughter in reply.