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Clarisse Leigh Behan: “Women’s soccer in America is another world” – Women’s Soccer – NWSL – Angel City FC

You signed a contract with Angel City FC in March 2022. How did the first contacts happen?

The connections were very late, and at the same time, it happened very quickly. We had the first exchanges in mid-March and that happened at the end of March. I was in the season with Montpellier and in the USA, transfer windows are not the same. Me, I have nothing to play with Montpellier, Angel City sent a proposal, I looked internally with the club and the president. It wasn’t easy to leave my team during the season, but when I got this opportunity, I immediately put myself forward. I always wanted to play in America so I couldn’t refuse. I was happy and at the same time I was driven there in a few days. Suitcases, Move and Presto, I’m in California (laughter)

Do you already know a little about Los Angeles?

No, I’ve never been to America in my life, so it was brand new. I got down there and I must have had stars in my eyes (Laughs) Everything is different here: the way they treat the players, the facilities, the trips, the grounds… even the climate is different, 20 degrees full sun in December, it changes!

The excitement around the stadium and the team, with a lot of star attraction around the club, you never see that in France.

Clarice Lebihan

What changed you the most compared to France?

In my daily life, a little bit of everything. Here, everything is big and uneven, and you always have to travel by car. The way we live day-to-day is very different, but the other girls on the team have helped me adapt. Athletically, I would say training intensity. It was something that really affected me. It’s a bit cliché, but in a three-minute game, you’ll burn out. Preparing for matches, analyzing opponents, organizing his pressure, his team plan, etc. are also different. It’s so much better than what we do in France and I’ve never experienced it before. Finally, the excitement around the stadium and the team, with a lot of star attraction around the club, you never see that in France. Natalie Portman on Grass’s Edge, It’s Still Dizzy (laughter)

Precisely, do you think the excitement surrounding the club was due to these stars or the lack of a club in Los Angeles up to that point?

I think it’s really a combination of the two. “LA” is a very spangled city, and we love new things. What they have been able to do in such a short time with this team is exceptional. Last year, for the club’s first season in the league, we had 16,000 subscribers, which is crazy, it’s unheard of. Even the number of sponsors… the people here had a need and the creation of the club responded to this demand. Then again, we’re in America, so everything can go very quickly. When they decide to do something, they do it 300% and they put in a lot of resources and that makes a difference.

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Besides Natalie Portman, have you met any other stars since you arrived?

Yes, but unknowingly! Two friends came to visit me and we were strolling along the Venice beach with our bicycles and we saw a crowd not far from the beach. We’re getting closer and I see a super blonde guy in pink, a blonde girl with him and lots of cameras. I thought it must be an ad so I left. In the evening, I was hanging out on Instagram and realized that it was actually Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie who were filming. Barbie, the movie (laughter)

Tell us about your first months here.

I came away with a lot of inspiration and I always wanted to play. But first, because my teammates were coming out of a prep course that I didn’t, I had to be a little tight-lipped. Although I didn’t play much in the beginning, I participated in all the tournaments. I’ve really pushed myself since the middle of the season, I would say. Then I wanted to play every game and finish every game (laughter) My only regrets are that I didn’t score and I didn’t assist. My competitive content was good, but today, performance depends on statistics. And in America, we have a statist culture with the NBA.

You were talking earlier about training intensity. How are they really different from the people you know in France?

I think we work more, it’s more athletic. This is what makes women’s football so fascinating here, as there are fewer calculations and tactics involved. Of course there are, but it focuses more on physical exertion, outdoing oneself and putting on a show for those who come to the stands.

Although France has some good players, not all teams have four or five players. Whereas here, yes.

Clarice Lebihan

Are there any players who inspire you?

Honestly, all teams have impressive players. In fact there is a very high level. It’s true that if we focus only on tactics and techniques, we can sometimes get disappointed. But on the other hand, there are real athletes and real footballers. It is very interesting. I, in my team, have players who impress me only because of their career. I was thinking Kristen Press or Sydney Leroux, I found out when I arrived. I didn’t necessarily watch the US Championship, so I found a lot of players in my opponents as well. Sometimes I play against girls and I think: Ah, who is she, she is very strong “. It really changes from what I experienced when I played in France. Because in France there are some good players but not all teams have four or five players. Whereas here, yes.

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Do you think the game lives in a different way?

I would say that in general they look at the game differently. They have a progressive vision in everything they do. That is, there they started the Major Women’s Soccer League (MWSL). They put money into it, they thought, V.SIt will be our flagship product, we will sell it, we will build it, we will build itR “. Everybody’s working on it, everybody’s pulling in the same direction. Well, there’s a lot of money, and that helps, but it’s well spent.”

You said that when you were little, you were the only girl playing football, only playing with boys. In America, it’s the reverse. There are more girls than boys in the teams. Does this change anything about the competitiveness of this game?

Well, of course, yes. They already have a country the size of a continent. So there are an incredible number of licensees. Then there is the constant promotion of women’s football, which has been going on for years. They built structures around it, and that helped it grow. Then why football appeals so much to girls here, I cannot say. I think it’s cultural because other sports create more dreams for little boys like basketball, baseball, American football.

In France, we get a little excited around the French team during the big tournaments, but D1 Arkema is much less well known. What’s wrong with women’s football here?

Many things. Already, the championship is not independent of the federation and is not professional. It will happen, but it will take a long time. In many teams, there are still women working on the side… We are very far behind in terms of personnel, infrastructure, medical etc.

When I arrived, I didn’t have to do anything. They showed me the apartments, I had to choose which one I wanted, and then they brought me a car downstairs: “Here, this is your car”. It’s another world.

Clarice Lebihan

Here, is it different?

It is day and night. Here, all players are professional. There are a lot of regulations, which are very much designed in terms of labor rights. Sportingly, we are going to introduce VAR in the league and they have invested 5 million dollars. They showed me the apartments, I had to choose the one I liked, and then they drove me down in a car: “ youWell, it’s your car “. It was another world. Still, a few years ago, the American championship was a disaster, the players were paid 100 dollars a week … But at some point, they decided to take matters into their own hands, invest, and in ten years, they changed. Everything. Beware. Wait, everything is rosy, there have been a lot of dirty stories lately (About disturbing coaches, note to the editor)But on the other hand everyone is pulling in the same direction, there is no omerta in these subjects, we want things to move, things to progress.

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Is it also a different world in terms of salary?

Of course. There, they have established a minimum wage for a football player which is 36,000 dollars per year, so 3000$ per month. This is the minimum wage and does not include any bonus offered by the club. In France, even in D1, there are still players who do not play for anything, so even with the overall progress of the championship, we reinforce the disparities between clubs.

I have a feeling that in women’s football, you always have to fight to achieve something, and sometimes it’s tiring.

Clarice Lebihan

For you, here I come, playing in a highly competitive championship, and a way to discover the French team in the jersey you haven’t worn since 2017.

Honestly, the France team is always in my head because I’m a competitor and I’ve already worn the colors, but I’m not here to win the France team again. I came here to enjoy, to progress, to discover a new championship, a new football. When I was at Montpellier, I didn’t get the chance to play much in the Champions League, so this was my equivalent of high-level matches. There, I live them on a daily basis and it’s even better.

With the sacking of Corinne Deacon, you can imagine what has happened with the French women’s team in recent months. Did it surprise you?

Not really, no. I was surprised to see the time than it happened. We have known for a long time that cracks in relationships, I did not experience it from the inside, but I knew. But I feel very brave on the part of the girls who dared to talk about it and make their voices heard. I have a feeling that in women’s football, you always have to fight to achieve something, and sometimes it’s tiring. In the end, it made things happen and was much better. Hopefully this will allow everyone access next summer (V.SWorld Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand, Editor’s Note) And quiet.

D1 Arkema: Paris revives in Montpellier

By Eric Maggiore in Los Angeles. Photos: Berserker