While the spotlight on sports this summer will almost certainly shine directly on the Pan Am games, there’s one sporting event that should upstage it. The FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted in six cities across Canada (minus Toronto, sad face), kicks off with Canada facing off against China on June 6th.
Historically, male sports dominate female sports for our attention. Men’s size and strength are natural attributes for most sports, but when it comes to the strategy and finesse of soccer, women rule. And then there’s the fact that the men’s world cup draws such bad press (lest we forget the infamous head-butt, not to mention biting and faux injuries). Women keep calm and carry on, taking soccer (ahem, football) to a new level of athleticism.
Leading up to the big match, we sat down with one of Canada’s fiercest mid-fielders, the formidable Sophie Schmidt, who’s won bronze for team Canada at the London Olympics as well a gold medal at the 2011 Pan Am games, held in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Vv Magazine: With teammates like Christine Sinclair, and fellow mid-fielders midfielders in Diana Matheson, Kaylyn Kyle and Brittany Baxter, Team Canada has never looked so solid. Leading up to the big game, how important is it for you to represent Canada at home?
SS: It’s such honour to play at home. It’s something that throughout my career we haven’t done enough of. We’ve always travelled abroad, and to be able to play at home and have little kids come up and see us in person, it’s more impressionable and has a lasting effect. When there’s more passion and emotion with the game, it’s more memorable. The opportunity to play for friends and family doesn’t happen very often, and to represent Canada is such an honour.
Growing up, did you have your sights set on being professional athlete?
When I was younger I wanted to do whatever my older brother was doing, and he played soccer. I was a very shy kid growing up. I didn’t speak a lot. But I used to get very excited to go to soccer practice. I found it was easier to make friends with people while playing soccer; we had something in common. It made me want to go and play even on the days I didn’t have a game. It’s the idea of a team sport, it brings people together. It can shape you into a person that individual sports just can’t.
And when did you start playing?
I started playing when she was 8, in Abbotsford B.C.
How do you cope with the staggering differences female athletes face versus their male counterparts?
It’s interesting. There’s the debate about males playing on grass and females we get turf. Canada was the only country to bid for the World Cup, and they put in the bid for turf. I mean, that’s just the reality of playing soccer in Canada. I made a joke that I grew up playing soccer on gravel, so turf’s not so bad. It’s just a reality now that turf is so much more accessible and reliable. I mean, everyone would love to play on grass. But it’s not feasible.
It is hard to hear the comments about how the women’s game isn’t at the same level as the men’s. Physically we’re not as fast or strong as they are, but we work just as hard and understand the game and use the same tactics they do. It’s the same storylines of excitement and drama. It’s hard hearing that from people. They just haven’t even given it a chance.
Who are your soccer idols?
My favourite male soccer player is Zinedine Zidane. My fave female is a US player: Michelle Akers, with her crazy curly hair.
Nutrition-wise, what foods are your main sources of energy?
I’ve been a vegan for a year and a half. I’m a big smoothie junkie. Before games I prefer not to have protein, it just sits in your stomach your body doesn’t use that anyways, it just sits there like a lump. I mostly fuel up with carbs, fruits, toast with jam.
Who are some of your favourite female soccer players? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.