Football Talks

Football Talks: Laura Georges & Christie Rampone

Lyon captain Wendie Renard lifts the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy
© Getty Images

Laura Georges of France and USA’s Christie Rampone took part in the first ever 'Football Talks with FIFA Legends' on Thursday 3 September.

For 45 minutes, the two former internationals shared their vision of women’s football and answered questions from the media. picked out some of the highlights from what the two legends had to say.

Laura Georges & Christie Rampone montage

Laura, who did you support for the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final between Lyon and Paris, both former clubs of yours?

Laura Georges: We were lucky enough to have two French teams in the final four. That particular match-up is always a special one for me and I often get asked who I’m supporting, but I’m neutral. I just want to see a great match and a tight scoreline at the end! Once again it was OL who won and then went on to pick up their seventh European title and fifth in a row. And that’s something that we can be proud of in France. We shouldn’t underestimate the significance of the title – it’s incredibly impressive and any victory should be worth celebrating. Lyon are the dominant force in European and arguably world football and we need to recognise the work that has gone into that. They sit down and analyse things every season to see where they can improve.

Christie, what did you think of the battle between two of Europe’s big-hitters – Lyon and Wolfsburg – in the final? How did it compare with what you saw on your side of the Atlantic with the NWSL Challenge Cup final?

Christie Rampone: It’s always interesting to see what goes on in other competitions around the world. It was a tough match for the players under the circumstances but they certainly didn’t hold back. Houston Dash played as a team and showed a lot of character. They improved as the tournament went on and managed to maintain their high energy levels right to the end. NWSL is more about speed and how you transition. The Champions League is a little bit slower but technically stronger, with more building of possession. We’ve got some good teams and women’s football has got real momentum, with some very talented players. Lyon is virtually a team of all-stars and it’s great to see so many big names playing in a team like that and producing good football.

The last FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in France broke a whole host of records. How do you look back on the past year in women’s football?

LG: To begin with, you have to look at the legacy that we now have in France. We’ve now got 200,000 licenced club members and that was one of the objectives of this particular project. I am lucky enough to be in charge of refereeing and we have seen an increase there from 860 to 1,200 officials. Numbers are up across the board, you can see the quality of the training centres, and a lot of women’s football academies have been established. Spectator numbers in the stadiums aren’t necessarily up but we set a new record with 31,000 fans for Lyon-PSG last year and TV audiences were very good for the Champions League. We’re still promoting the sport and I believe that we’re in a good position for progress to be maintained on a global level.

CR: The success of the World Cup in France and the contagious levels of enthusiasm of the fans has helped our sport to develop. The key is getting people to realise the quality that we have on the pitch, and the commitment that it takes from the women’s players who are out there simply because they love the game. There’s not a lot of money in it at the moment, but that will change once everyone becomes more aware of everything. The next few years promise to be exciting because women’s football is going to continue to develop. We need to work on tactics, offence, defence… in the 19 years that I played for USA, I came to realise the importance of the formation and this understanding of the game needs to spread throughout every level of the game. When I started out, we were just athletes who played soccer. By the time I finished my career, we were real women’s footballers.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the world of sport and women’s football has been no exception. How can we make the best of this tough situation so that we can look ahead to 2023?

CR: I took it as an opportunity to recharge my batteries and to think about the ways in which we can attract more fans. That includes the players being more available to the public who can then get to know them better and start to follow them. We do that well with the national team but it’s more difficult at club level due to a lack of resources. More fans need to realise just how good the product out on the field really is!

LG: This period has proved to us that we are all vulnerable, men and women alike. The league was shut down in France, while in Germany the men continued to play while still managing to support women’s football. I get the feeling that sponsors are looking to return to traditional values and put the focus on ordinary people who work hard, rather than on superstars. That will open up opportunities for women’s football. As Christie said, the fans need to get to know the players so that they can engage with them. We’re not just sportswomen – we’re human beings.

What are the values in women’s football that sponsors can convey?

CR: The players are balanced, passionate about the game and connected to their environment. Women in this game give a great deal and carry others on their shoulders. We have leadership qualities, an ability to work with other people, a sense of responsibility… Everything that the sport has given us, we can share with others and help them to benefit from it – and these are the values that sponsors are interested in. There are also so many mothers who play the game and who prove that anything is possible – that you can have a career and still enjoy a balanced family life.

LG: I agree with Christie and I’d add that women’s players are more available to fans, which is a big difference compared with men’s football. We’re not surrounded by security like they are. The women’s players are accessible via social networks and even in person after the matches, whether they’re World Cup winners or just club players. Being close to the fans and humble, but with a passion for the game, are the kind of values that really appeal to brands.

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