Within this past month, we were lucky enough to connect with women’s professional soccer player Yael Averbuch. Yael is a very unique and talented player who has a lot of experience in the women’s game. She started her “adult” career at UNC Chapel Hill as one of the nation’s premier college players and set an NCAA record for the fastest goal scored in a game (4 seconds)! Yael has recently signed to play with the Washington Spirit in the NWSL and is currently on the USA Women’s National Team. We are also proud to announce that Yael Averbuch will be a GIS ambassador and will help us continue to make a difference in the soccer world and enrich the soccer experiences of youth clubs across North America. With this being said, here is the first Q&A with Yael about her overseas playing experiences!
- After graduating from UNC, where have you had the opportunity to play professionally overseas?
- Since my college soccer career finished, I’ve played for club teams based in both Russia and Sweden, but also had the opportunity to travel and play throughout much of Europe while on those teams.
- Where was your favorite place to play overseas and why?
- My favorite place to play overseas was Göteborg, Sweden. The community was extremely welcoming and supportive of women’s soccer and I had many wonderful teammates. I loved our home stadium and locker room, which had a very European feel. I really enjoyed the city of Göteborg in general, but also loved the style of play on that team and the approach to training.
- Where was your least favorite place to play overseas and why?
- I had a very difficult time when I played for FC Rossiyanka in Russia. I joined the team during a difficult time within the club and that turmoil really had a negative affect on my overall experience. It was interesting to travel to Russia and see a part of the world I am very unfamiliar with, but I didn’t feel very welcomed by the team and I wasn’t prepared for some of the challenges in terms of the language barrier and other obstacles that come with playing in another country.
- How did you gain access and the opportunity to communicate with teams overseas?
- The opportunity to play in Russia came through my agent. They had reached out about signing a few American players to help them compete in the quarterfinals of Champions League. Once I got back from Russia, I spent months searching for a good playing opportunity. I contacted everyone I knew who may have known of a high-level European team that needed a midfielder. Both my agent and I looked into all possible avenues. A former coach of mine, Charlie Naimo (currently based in LA), was the one who had a contact at Göteborg and put me in touch with the team owner. It was not easy and was a long process to find a situation that fit!
- What kind of process did it take for you to get onto an overseas professional team?
- It was a long process of finding the right fit in terms of an elite team that could afford to bring a player outside the European Union (in some leagues there are logistical or financial rules limiting this) and needed a central midfielder. I also had decided that I wanted to ideally play in Sweden, but was also open to Germany and France. So, first I narrowed down where I wanted to be and what type of team was ideal (a team in Champions League was a big plus for me). Then my agent and I had to figure out what the options were, and there were not many. I feel very fortunate that Göteborg needed a midfielder at the time when I was looking.
- What is your most memorable overseas experience?
- I definitely had a bunch of very memorable experiences, but perhaps at the top of my list is winning the Swedish Cup final at our home stadium in Göteborg. We played against Tyresö, who on paper should have destroyed us. They have Marta, Caroline Seger, Verónica Boquete, and many other full international stars on their team (also currently American stars Christen Press, Whitney Engen, and Meghan Klingenberg). We beat them, in what was a massive upset, and were able to lift the trophy in front of our home crowd. Plus, my sister had traveled from the US to visit and she was at the game. A very special moment!
- What are the pros of playing overseas?
- Playing overseas allows you to experience a different culture and language and live in a new city. Those experiences are wonderful life experiences and it’s amazing that soccer can help create them. Soccer-wise playing overseas is very eye-opening in terms of adapting to a new playing style and expectations. I faced many new challenges in training that forced me to adapt and learn. I also really appreciated hearing a completely different outlook on the game and many new tactical and philosophical ideas.
- What are the cons of playing overseas?
- It can be very lonely to move to a new city across the world and try to make a life. Often, the language barrier can be challenging. It is very difficult to build a life off the field and can put a lot of stress on what goes on on the field for that reason.
- What are the differences between playing overseas and in America?
- Overseas, the game has such a rich cultural tradition. Soccer is everyone’s main focus and people everywhere are more aware of the nuances of the game. In the US, the expectations for women’s soccer are that there will be nice facilities and larger crowds than what is expected many times overseas. Player for player, I would say that there is usually a higher level of individual talent and athleticism in the US. Overseas, there is more of an emphasis on the technical and tactical areas generally and working together as a cohesive unit.
- In what ways do you think the women’s game, globally, should improve and what should they focus on more?
- The global women’s game has made huge strides in the last 5-10 years from what I have seen. Systems for player development and full professional leagues are cropping up in countries all around the world. I think that as funding and interest continues to increase, the level will naturally get much higher and more competitive.
As you can see, playing overseas is a great experience to have that not many people may have had the opportunity to have in the past. Luckily, Global Image Sports is one of the few companies that can give youth players and older players the experience of playing overseas. With our partnerships with European Professional clubs , men’s and women’s, we are able to send our partner teams and players overseas to train with the professional club’s academies and the 1st team based on their age.
This concludes our first Q&A with Yael Averbuch everyone! Don’t worry though; this is just the first of many Q&A’s and blogs to come from our new women’s ambassador! Stay tuned!