Emma Barois

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How long have you played your sport for?

I started when I was 6,  I think, so about 12 years of playing. But I started being really serious about it 8 years ago.

What is your first memory of playing?

It’s hard to remember, but the first memory that really marked me was a penalty shootout session. I was about 8, surrounded by boys, and we all had to take our penalty. I was quite stressed out because everyone was looking and they all expected me to miss. I really wanted to prove them wrong. So I took the best shot I could and scored top right corner. I remember people screaming and saying “where the hell did that come from?”, even the coach came to me to say it was the best one yet.

What made you start playing?

As I was in the French educational system, my holiday breaks did not match the British ones. My parents were working and needed to find something to do with me. My brother went to Sporting Duet Academy (French club) football holiday camps so my parents decided that I would go with. I have been playing with this club ever since.

Why do you play?

I play because Football makes me feel.

How do you feel when you play?

I’ve always considered football as my own “bubble”. My head, just like many human beings, is usually full of questions, ideas, and problems. When I get on the pitch everything is so irrelevant and only the game matters. The fact that I am focusing on one thing only enhances everything I feel. Satisfaction, confidence, power, anger, stress, excitement, fear, energy, happiness, adrenaline and all these feelings can be overwhelming at some points. But the downs and loss of control are worth all the ups and achievements.

Do you have any memories of sexism in sport- if so, what? (skip the next two questions if you haven’t experienced this)

Unfortunately sexism against girls is very present in the football area. Starting with the ultimate statement “girls can’t play football” to the guys complaining to the coach because he subbed them “for a girl” during a game, sexism was pretty much omnipresent in my football path.

(a) How did you react to this situation and how did you feel?

I definitely felt diminished and lonely but it only strengthens me and the fact that I wanted to prove to the world that girls could play football. Consequently I started training even more and pushing myself. I made a ladies team for my club to be able to train with other girls. My club offered me to pass my level 1 coaching qualification so I could coach a second generation of girls that I recruited when my school invited me to do talks about sexism in football. I channelled all the anger I felt into the energy I needed to achieve my goals. And I am not done yet.

(b) What would you say to someone facing that situation now?

Own it! You’re a girl, you “don’t know how to play”, and you’re a “loser”. Be the best loser these haters will ever see. They’ll be shutting their mouth sooner than you think.

What you would you like to say to young girls in sport?

It’s inevitable that people will try and bring you down. Surround yourself by the right individuals and give yourself what you need to achieve your goals. Because if you stop or break, they win, it’s exactly what they want. Do you want them to win?

Why is it important to you to play sport?

Sport is timeless, social and international. It allows you not only to connect with people but also with yourself. It can bring people together as much as it can bring alone quality time. Sport is extremely powerful and makes people feel so many different things.

What is your best memory of playing football?

My best memory would be the Semi-final of a Spanish tournament with my team. Our striker scored a last second goal allowing us to go through to the Final. It was amazing, I was overwhelmed by emotions, and I am pretty sure I shed a little tear of happiness.

If you do, why do you think it is important to spread awareness of women in sport?

I think we’re in that vicious circle where no one really cares about women’s sport because it’s not promoted by medias. But then, medias aren’t promoting it because no one really cares. The only way of getting out of this situation and ensuring a brighter future for young girls in sport is to raise awareness. Things are already moving forward but there is still way to go.