The Orlando Pride are in the very fortunate position have having a truly global fanbase. The popularity of this team continues to go from strength to strength on the international stage, as the sport of women's soccer continues to grow. Prominent fans and content creators on social media continue to exacerbate this growth. We were honoured to have the chance to catch up with Elodie Touzet of Orlando Pride France (@OrlandoPrideFR on Twitter). Elodie told us all about the growth of women's soccer in France, the challenges she faced wanting to play the game, her upbringing as a supporter of Marseille and Montpellier and what the Pride's aspirations should be for the 2021 season...
Have you been a football/soccer fan all your life? If so, who were your idols growing up? Yeah! I've always been a big football fan. I always played football when I was a little girl. Playing at school with friends. or with my cousins in the backyard. Unfortunately there were no girls teams in my area so I started to play very late! I was only 16 years old when I played in a team for the first time. As a result, I missed a lot of football. But these memories will always be a great souvenir for me. I’m from the 98 generation. At that time I was 10, so to see the French (men's) team win a FIFA World Cup was amazing. Zidane was one of my favourite players. Who was your favourite team growing up? It was Olympique de Marseille. My cousin was a very big fan of this team, so he was talking to me about it all the time and I used to watch games with him on TV. I’m from the south of France but Marseille was too far so TV was the best option.
That being said, after a lot of years without really following the team, I just fell in love with my local team, the Montpellier Herault Sport Club (MHSC). Olivier Giroud was there, and at the end of the season the team won the Championship, just in front of PSG! It was the 2011/2012 season. It was during this season that I started to follow the MHSC women’s team.
In all honestly, it was the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup who made me watch football again. I came across the World Cup during the summer 2011, without knowing that a such competition could exist! And it was at this moment I wanted to dive back into football.
How did you end up following the Orlando Pride and what excited you most about this club? Thanks to Alex Morgan. I’ve been a big fan since 2011, when I discovered her during the World Cup. When she came to Lyon in 2017, I just wanted to see how her team in the U.S played. And I've never stopped since! We're glad you didn't! You’ve become a well know presence on social media for Pride fans. How important is it for the club to have prominent supporters overseas? There are other accounts such as Orlando Pride Brazil who are similarly well known. If we can help to spread our love for women’s soccer and for Orlando around the world it’s a real pleasure. We are showing that there is no border in sports. And the NWSL understood that by airing a lot of games on the streaming platform.
We are not in the same town, the same state or the same country... but we are really in love with the club. If we can give more support to the players, if they can feel this love, this support can give them more strength; and we (as fans) will have won!
What is your favourite thing about Orlando Pride?
Everything, haha. The community, the fans... Everyone. They are extraordinary. They are always there to help fans like me who are so far away.
I love to see that the players are very available for the fans.
The relationship between the club and the fans is just amazing. Everyone is very helpful. And I just want to give a shout-out to Kay Rawlins who is just incredible with the fans. She is always there to help when we have questions. And it’s just a little part of what she is doing for the club. This is priceless to have people like that in a club. And this make me love this team much more. Couldn't agree more, Kay is such a huge part of this club. She's amazing.
Covid-19 has kind of put a stop to international travel. Have you been able to make it over to Orlando and watch the Pride live? And how do you usually watch Pride games at home in France? No... But I was supposed to. My trip to Orlando was planned for April 2020.
I was so happy because it was one of my dearest dreams. It's been a dream for me, since I was a little girl, to visit the US. So visiting Florida and watching my favourite team would have been just amazing.
And the best news was seeing that the 2020 home opener vs Sky Blue would have token place during my stay. I even bought tickets for the City vs Atlanta game, but Covid-19 ruined everything.
I’m still sad about it, but I hope everything goes well(in the fight against Covid-19) soon. Then I will be able to make two of my dreams come true: to see my favorite player play for my favorite team in the US ;) In the meantime, I can watch the game on the streaming platform Twitch. Sometimes I stay awake until 4am but when you love, you don’t count the cost. Always there during the wins or loses. I can relate to that! Those West Coast away games are a killer for us, aren't they? The Pride have made a lot of interesting transfer moves during the off-season. Which new player has you the most excited? We have lost a lot of midfielders, so I can’t wait to see how Gunnhildur Jonsdottir will fit in with the team.
What do you make of the Pride’s roster this season? Are there any areas of the team that you think still need to be strengthened? I think we have a really good roster! If they find the chemistry, the girls can do something great. And after three very hard seasons, I hope 2021 will be a good one. The players and the staff deserve it. But I think the defense and midfield need to be strengthened a little more. What’s your favourite memory of watching the Pride? The qualification for the playoff in 2017. That's a really good memory. Do you have a favourite goal? I think the one from Marta against Washington Spirit on July 7th 2018 (2-1 win) is amazing. You can see the fight in her eyes, she gave everything she has.
But if I have to choose one, it's Christine Nairn's goal against Portland Thorns in May 2018. She scored an amazing distance goal, so beautiful. And at the end we won , against Portland in Portland, so huge.
Who is your current favourite on the Pride squad? Alex Morgan for sure! That was probably, an obvious question, haha. In your opinion, who is the greatest player to ever play for the Pride? As you know I’m a big fan of Alex. She is a really good player, on and off the pitch but Marta is a really good one too.
So, for me, they are the greatest players to ever play for the Pride. Women’s football/soccer in France is becoming even more popular. Big clubs such as Olympique Lyonnais and PSG are investing heavily in the sport. How important is this investment in helping to grow the game in France, and globally? OL and PSG are the biggest teams here. Everyone around the world knows about them. A lot of players from the US have come to play for Lyon: Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Morgan Brian or Allie Long, Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan for PSG. They know that it’s a huge opportunity to play for ones of the best teams in Europe. And Mr. Aulas (owner of Lyon) wants to grow that. We saw it with the OL Reign. He wants to invest in this sport and it’s amazing. But we need more presidents like him. If the clubs invest in their women’s team it will be more attractive for the players, then for the fans, and for the sponsors. We know that there are fans around the world. Not as much as the men, but there is still a lot of work to do. But it’s much better than in 2011, when I started to watch women’s football.
How popular is the NWSL in France? The league seems like it is growing in popularity all over the world. Yeah, I think the NWSL is growing in popularity here since the 2019 FIFA World Cup. But, with the time difference (6h with Florida), it can be hard to attract new fans.
With the OL team now in the US I think that the NWSL will have better visibility here in France. This will continue to increase, if Dzenifer Marozan and Sarah Bouhaddi come to play in the US.
When I first started my Twitter account, I hesitated a long time because I was like "but who is gonna follow you, no one is watching NWSL here". Then I was really surprised. It’s not a lot of followers but it encouraged me to keep going. What do you think represents a good season for the Pride, this season? How far can this team go? If we finish in the top 5 it will be great. We have the players to do something good so going to the playoffs will be so amazing and I hope they will. What would you say to any soccer fan overseas, who is thinking about following an NWSL team? Why should they follow the Orlando Pride? I would say to do it. It’s a great league, there are great players. We see beautiful football. Even if we have to stay awake very late, or should I say very early! It's worth it! And if they want to support a great team, with great players and a great community, come to follow the Pride. We don’t have titles, we had hard times these past few years but this club is so amazing, it’s much more than a club it’s a family.