No sooner had the last ball been kicked at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018 than it was time for the Team Services department of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) to focus on recruiting Team Liaison Officers (TLOs) for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™. A total of 25 have been appointed – but what are their roles and what kind of challenges can they expect?
Whether called upon from time to time or throughout the tournament, each TLO is dedicated to serving one of the participating nations. With a list of duties that includes verifying schedules and dealing with requests to change training times, their mission is governed by one overriding principle: making sure that all the services put in place by the LOC and FIFA meet the needs of the teams. After all, it is supremely important that the players at the eighth FIFA Women's World Cup can express themselves on the pitch in the best possible conditions.
For Elisabeth, Blanche and Danlu, the respective TLOs for Spain, Argentina and China PR, their task begins at the Draw on 8 December. All three come from different backgrounds but share a common desire: to experience a major international sporting event up close and to help women's sport flourish.
'Ready for the challenge'
The Local Organising Committee knows that their job will not be a simple one. Every TLO will need to master a diplomatic approach, both to the players and their entourage on the one hand, and the LOC on the other. Despite the requirements of the role, it is one that Danlu is relishing after having already served various Chinese delegations in France. "As an interpreter and Chinese native, I've had the chance to work with Chinese expats during their activities here in France, and I've also helped out the French border police and took part in a Franco-Chinese economic summit in 2015," she explains. "Even though there will obviously be pressure during this tournament, I'm used to that and ready for the challenge."
Elisabeth will also bring her own knowhow, having worked as TLO for Mexico during this summer's U-20 Women's World Cup in Brittany. Returning for more at the Women's World Cup 2019 felt like a natural progression. "Brittany was a great experience, on both a sporting and human level," she says. "I was able to integrate very quickly with the Mexican delegation and, above all, I got very good support from the LOC. I never once felt alone. Taking on that role at the U-20 Women's World Cup also allowed me to understand certain needs. For example, I now know that food is an important aspect in the day-to-day lives of the players. FIFA proposes set menus, but the players also want different specialities from their home country. I spent hours redoing some of the menus, but it was worth it and our tortilla night was a big success."
Mastering the language: a crucial asset
Organisational savvy and interpersonal skills are not the only requirements of the job, however. Each TLO must have a perfect command of French, English and, most crucially, the language of the team with which they will be working. Knowledge of national customs is a plus, but understanding the language helps to establish a bond of trust and represents a vital asset for the TLOs, who will be working closely with the players and their staff. "What really surprised the LOC during my interview was the fact that I speak Spanish but with an Argentinian dialect," says Blanche. "Thanks to my university exchange programme in Buenos Aires, I got to learn the language the way it's spoken over there and all the local expressions. As a result, I also know a lot about the Argentinian way of life, their approach to things and their direct way of speaking. So it's true, I imagine that'll be a real bonus in terms of interacting with the players day to day."
Having arrived in Paris on 6 December, the Team Liaison Officers will finally get to meet the 24 national delegations at the Draw. The 25th TLO, meanwhile, has a very specific mission: to fill in should one of their colleagues become unavailable. All of them are raring to get started. "It still hasn't hit home that I'll be joining up with the Argentina team," says Blanche. "But I can't wait for next summer and for the World Cup to kick off. I love sports competitions, whatever the discipline, and the emotions they provoke. I'm more of a rugby fan, but since I got this job, I've been watching more and more football matches. This Women's World Cup is going to be a superb event."
After the Draw, the TLOs will accompany their teams to the stadiums where they are set to play their opening games. The LOC will then organise several training days, so that each TLO is ready for action right from the start. For the whole group, that moment cannot come soon enough.