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SOAS Football Teams Gain Gold and Silver Titles in Paris Tournament

Omala Abrol, BA Chinese and Economics and Lina Currimjee, BA International Relations

Les Parisiennes is an international sports tournament organised by Sciences Po university students in Paris. Both the SOAS Women’s and Men’s Football Teams went for an 8-a-side football tournament which lasted three days, with the men’s team winning a first-place title and the women’s team winning a second-place title. During those days, we were met with several challenges, including some questionably stale baguettes provided by the organisers and their dangerous interpretation of an AstroTurf pitch, which consisted of a solid concrete slab with a worn-down piece of green carpet gently cemented on top to represent grass. May our many bruises and cuts be proof of the horrendous pitch conditions. 

SOAS Women’s Football Team out in Paris (credit: Vee)

The matches started early Friday morning with a nail-biting London derby match against LSE 1 where we shockingly lost 3-2. After this, we vowed never again. The second match was against AUC from Amsterdam, where we won 3-0. 

When Lil Benson wasn’t stopping, Captain Vendela Werkelin’s nose bleeds, we all enjoyed watching the men’s games in our free time which always ended with a feisty argument to keep us entertained. The men’s team must get an award for the most fights started during a game. A special mention goes to, SOAS Men’s, Khadar for live streaming and recording all of their games. 

At the end of day one, the goal tally was headed by Werkelin and Lina Currimjee, who collectively scored five goals. We also had Mimi Longchamp’s little sister Jojo there, who came to cheer us on and was dubbed as our ‘little biggest fan’.  

In the evenings, the tournament organised social events, but nothing could match the team dinner our executive committee planned. 

The dinner on Friday was serene but the trek up around 27 flights of stairs, not so much. However, this led up to the amazing view of the city’s lights in Montmartre. The French culinary classics like escargot, duck and beef tartar filled us all up, and a wholesome dish of gossip was served for dessert during our walk towards the bar night. 

The city’s metro system must be mentioned for not loving tourists, so readers, if you’re taking the metro in Paris, please keep your metro ticket on you – especially on a Friday night! 

Events led us to skip the bar night planned and instead enjoy the serenity of the Parisian waterways. A group meditation and team bonding by the Seine River led our minds to be at peace and prepared us for the games to come on Saturday. 

Saturday was a day for the books. Mariam Beltran-Lozano was able to join us after taking many many planes to reach France from Spain, providing us with an extra oomph of energy. 

We had our second leg of the AUC versus SOAS match, which we won with a score of 3-0. Goals from Eva van der Vliet, Werkelin and Currimjee were beautifully scored. They were celebrated in style by both the men’s and women’s teams screaming in celebration each time. If anyone needs cheerleaders, have the men’s football team on speed dial. We greatly recommend them. 

The second game was the return fixture against LSE 1. This time we thrashed LSE with a win of 3-0, thanks to goals from Werkelin and Timaf Yacoub. Although Vicky Indreiten spent a lot of time falling over, her attacking prowess was one of the highlights of the tournament, in addition to Benson giving the opposition a concussion.

The two wins meant that we finished top of our group, putting us through to the semi-finals against Sciences Po. Despite them having a home advantage, Yacoub heroically squeezed in the winning goal leading us to a 1-0 triumph! 

A member of the SOAS Women’s Football Team playing at the tournament (credit: Les Parisiennes Photographers)

Following a long day, mama Werkelin and grandma Benson hosted drinks and catch-up in their room. No football was discussed, and it was a good opportunity for the team to get to know each other outside of the sport. Several of us left to go to the organised clubbing night with the ounce of energy we all gained from our afternoon power nap. Seeing everyone from the tournament not in football gear was a small shock to some of us, with Currimjee’s newly made LSE fans kidnapping her mid-night and dancing away with her. 

The whole tournament led up to this day. Sunday, the tournament final. The final was against Edinburgh University, who, like us, were tired and exhausted from the past matches yet gave us a good battle. The game was tight; however, Omala Abrol got confused between football and handball, giving the opposition a free kick. Mimi Longchamp was challenged (finally…) as goalkeeper, and despite all her efforts, Edinburgh netted the ball. 

1-0 Half-Time

Members of SOAS Women’s Football Team at the tournament (credit: Les Parisiennes Photographers)

This was nerve-wracking and had us all on edge, with Diana Son making sure the referee knew what she was thinking. The second half was filled with beautiful attempts from both sides however, we, unfortunately, conceded another goal sealing the 2-0 loss. At the final blow of the whistle, Currimjee’s revenge plans included spraying both teams with fake ‘champagne’ leaving us all sticky and ending the tournament on a somewhat sweet and bubbly note. 

‘Even though we were second best, we were content with the outcome of the tournament, and it taught us that we can’t always win.’

Monday arrived, and it was time to go home. As we zoomed past the French ‘paysage’ in the Eurostar, we reflected on this wonderful experience. Even though we were second best, we were content with the outcome of the tournament, and it taught us that we can’t always win.   

Oh well, C’est la vie!

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