When I tell people that I cheer for the French Women's National Team—or rather, that I don't cheer for the U.S. Women's National Team—there is invariably shock and awe. Even people who don't know anything about women's soccer will look at me with wide-eyes and ask "Why?"
The reason is quite simple: the France Women's National Team made me fall in love with soccer.
In the summer of 2015, I followed men's soccer casually, but didn't follow women's soccer at all. I saw that FOX was running the Women's World Cup. The summer before, I had followed the men's World Cup closely—but this tournament wasn't even my radar.
I examined my personal biases and realized that the only reason I wasn't watching women's soccer was because I thought it must somehow be inferior. Because, you know, sexism. And that was completely unacceptable to me. So, I decided to watch the next game: France vs. England.
It didn't take me long to fall in love with France. I didn't know soccer could be played with such a beautiful combination of physicality and grace. Eugénie Le Sommer scored early in the game off a rocket that just had too much power for Karen Bardsley to stop and that turned out to be the lone goal of the match. By the end of the game, I already had my first favorite player—Laure Boulleau—and I was determined to watch more.
By taking a chance on one match, I became swept up in the tournament and a team that I still love. France lost their next match to Colombia 1-0. Here, I was introduced to the most frustrating aspect of my new favorite team—that they could get 15 or 20 shots and completely dominate a match, but not score—but that wasn't my big takeaway.
Watching Colombia celebrate, I saw for the first time what soccer meant—or could mean—for women's freedom and equality around the world. I realized that human rights wasn't separate from women's soccer. It was a defining aspect. This realization would change how I looked at soccer, and sports in general, forever.
Ultimately, France would lose to Germany in the quarterfinals after a hard-fought match that was decided on penalty kicks. I was on pins and needles the whole game, alternating between shouting at the television and being too terrified to move. In the end, it was one of my other favorite players—Claire Lavogez—who missed her penalty shot and I sobbed. I would cry my eyes out again four years later when France lost to the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Women's World Cup. Some things never change.
In the coming months and years, this sport has taken me on an incredible journey that continues to this day. Six months after watching that first game, I was interning with Orlando City Soccer Club and getting ready to work the Orlando Pride's first season. Over the next year and a half, I would get to work with Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Marta, Ali Krieger, and other superstars as though it were just another day at the office. I've met countless friends, visited stadiums around the world and across the U.S., and developed an entire career around writing about this game that I love and its power to change the world.
But it all started with that one team, that one game, that one moment. Who knew changing the TV channel was going to change my life forever?