【Women's Football Visit in Europe】Dialogue with Li Mengwen: The dream of migrant workers in Paris
In March 2023, I embarked on a journey to Europe, where I visited six female Chinese footballers who played in Europe. They are the representatives of the Chinese women's football craze in the ocean, and their courage to go out is also inspiring many girls with football dreams. I tried to understand all the joys and hardships of their lives abroad, hoping to record them. Their experience in the ocean does not determine whether the Chinese women's football team can rise because of this, but at least their experience, whether good or bad, will become part of their growth experience, and may also help the girls who go out in the future.
Written by/Zhang Nan
The author is with Li Mengwen
"When I stood in the Champions League, I thought, isn't this the stadium I've always dreamed of?" As the second Chinese female footballer to stand on the field of the Women's Champions League, Li Mengwen feels as if her dream of staying in the ocean has really achieved something.
She said that here, in addition to training, she just drove home to cook, typical of Parisian migrant worker life. But the changes she has made here may also inspire many people even more.
She is so brave in the national team
Opportunities are left to those who are prepared
Zhao Lina, who lived in a room with Li Mengwen's national team, recalled that when she lived in a room, Li Mengwen insisted on learning English every day. That energy really impressed them at that time.
Coming out to play football, this is Li Mengwen's dream all along. Unlike other players, this time she went abroad all personal contacts and did not go through the agent.
Of course, everything is also a coincidence. Frenchman Jeslyn Prescher, who coached Jiangsu Women's Football that year, followed his father to coach Paris Saint-Germain Women's Football, and his father Gérard Prescher also coached Jiangsu Women's Football Team before and is now the head coach of Paris Saint-Germain. When they were in the Jiangsu team before, both father and son admired Li Mengwen, and when they learned that she was coming to play, everything was arranged logically. Li Mengwen joined the wealthy family, far easier than the outside world imagined. And Li Mengwen has a good relationship with the father and son and even their family, and Gérard will prepare a special gift for her on her birthday.
In fact, when the Prescher father and son invited her, Li Mengwen was not so sure about herself. "After all, it's a wealthy family, and I don't know if I can do it." After that, she compared players in her position. Canada international Ashley Lawrence has yet won another Olympic title. Eliza de Almeida is also a very good defender on the left and looks so good at everyone. Li Mengwen herself muttered a little.
And the Prescher father and son also tried to reassure her: "They told me that the first thing is to trust my ability. And their team still has a rotation in the style of play, and all aspects will still give me the opportunity to play. I also hope that I can seize this opportunity, and with so many top athletes in this team, being able to play against them is also a learning opportunity and strengthens my determination to come out and play. ”
Independent, after all the transfer procedures were completed, her father drove her to the Shanghai airport, and she embarked on a flight to Paris just like that. "We used to go abroad a lot, but I didn't have any other ideas. But I was really excited because I finally got everything out smoothly. Li Mengwen recalled.
Of course, to play football in Paris, it is indispensable to find Wang Shuang to ask for some experience. And Wang Shuang told her that the most important thing is language. But what is different between himself now and when Wang Shuang played here is that French players still accounted for the majority of the team at that time, and more often they spoke French. When Li Mengwen joined, the whole team was already more international, with players from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and many countries, so everyone communicated more in English. Coupled with her trust in the coaching team and a more familiar technical and tactical system, even the training method was similar to that of the Jiangsu team at that time, which made it easier for her to integrate into the team.
She remembers the first time she reported to the team, the day before a school game. I met the Prescher father and son, who I hadn't seen for a long time, and my teammates were also very enthusiastic about her. Instantly relieved her loneliness of living in a foreign country.
During the first training session, she quickly got into the rhythm of the game. Perhaps because the Prescher father and son originally had the same training rhythm when they were in the Jiangsu team, and the overall training arrangement did not feel too much discomfort. But the deepest feeling is still playing in France, there are many games, which has not been seen in China.
The Prescher father and son never spared their praise for Li Mengwen, even praising her as the best defender. They continue to give encouragement, give Li Mengwen more opportunities to play, and make her more confident.
Join the giants of Paris
The giants played football faster and learned the ability to read the game
Playing in the giants and being able to get a lot of opportunities in the top league, Li Mengwen's first experience in the ocean is undoubtedly lucky. At the end of just half a season, the Chinese women's football team came to Europe to train, and Li Mengwen changed a lot. She not only maintains her solid defensive style, but also contributes assists to the team.
In fact, it was not until that time that others said that Li Mengwen had risen the ball, and she gradually began to realize her changes in the past few months of competition.
Let her sum up, it is the ability to think about the game on her own, that is, the ability to read the game that the coach likes. Played football before. If you encounter some problems on the field, or even lose the ball, you will not be able to walk out for a long time, and you don't know how to deal with the following games. But at a high level in Europe, there's not much time for you to adjust in the game. Therefore, players are required to complete their thinking in the shortest possible time, and even make predictions in advance. "For example, a lot of balls, how I should handle this position, how I should choose positions when attacking, you need to think independently on the field. And the confrontation and rhythm of the game are very fast, people come up and get on the body, you will suffer if you don't think about it. Losing the ball doesn't give you time to get nervous, to repent, to reflect, and your attention to the next ball right away. "This is Li Mengwen's biggest feeling when playing in Grand Paris. When you race at high intensity and at high density, the accumulation of experience will become faster.
It is precisely because of this improvement in this aspect of ability that Li Mengwen can better reflect her offensive progress in the new technical and tactical system, assisting the midfielder to control the ball and stretching the space on the wing.
At Grand Paris, she not only secured her playing time, but also made her the second player to stand in the Women's Champions League after Tang Jiali. The game against Chelsea also became an unforgettable game of her career. "Isn't this the stage I've always dreamed of? That's how I felt at the time. As if I had really achieved something, there were two Chinese fans who supported me at that game and were friends of my friend, and I felt full of strength inside. ”
Playing in Paris, Li Mengwen also truly understands the life of a professional player. In addition to training, other times need to be arranged by yourself. After each away game, when you get back to Paris, everyone drives home, and no one likes to stay in a hotel. In addition to training, everyone has their own living space. "Actually, I like this kind of state because I think as a professional footballer, it should be like this, playing football and life are separated." Li Mengwen said.
Li Mengwen's hand-painted sneakers Zhang Nan/Photo
Treasure Girls know how to deal with loneliness
The house Li Mengwen rented in Paris is in the same town as Wang Shuang lived in, both on the outskirts of Paris, and you have to take the RER train to get there. The most prosperous part of the whole town is the commercial street next to the church. Back then, when Wang Shuang lived here, he could memorize almost everything that was delicious in the entire street. But most of the team at that time communicated in French. Because of her driver's license, she can only take the bus to train every day.
Wang Shuang's experience that year also provided more suggestions for the players who stayed in the ocean later. After Li Mengwen came to Paris, in addition to the coach she was already familiar with, the sponsors of the women's football team also specially equipped her with the services of overseas players' homes, from language to life and even physical rehabilitation equipment, as long as they could help, they were arranged. So it will soon relieve the stress of living in a foreign country.
And Li Mengwen just came to Paris, Yang Lina also joined the team, although the two did not live in an apartment later, but they can be regarded as a companion. The two will go to the city of Paris when they have time, and will meet to eat hot pot shopping together, and will take street photos with each other. "Nana is a jack of all trades, how to go, she knows all this. I'm with her, just follow behind her. Although she only learned to cook when she arrived in Europe, Yang Lina seems to have some talent for cooking, and she often cooks Chinese food. Therefore, when Yang Lina left the club, the person who was most reluctant to her was Li Mengwen. "Now I am 'commuting' alone, a worker in Paris." She joked like this herself.
However, she was able to adapt to this life very quickly. Her teammates call her a party for her birthday, and she will also go; Everyone had a party, and she went to it with gifts. Everyone said that where there was a good restaurant, she would go with everyone to taste it. She has fully integrated into the environment and will not turn herself into an outsider because of the language and cultural unfamiliarity.
But she is also a person who knows how to be alone. The house she rented in Paris was an old-fashioned wooden structure house in Paris, and the whole house was a large studio, she even saved the bed, and directly placed a mattress. The room was clean and tidy, with small cabinets full of her favorite items and figures, and a desk with all the tools she used to make planning notes, as well as her tools for drawing.
Li Mengwen's colored lead painting by Zhang Nan/Photo
In the middle of the desk is a card drawn in colored pencil of the girls throwing Shui Qingxia high into the air to celebrate after the 2022 Asian Cup final. This was painted by Li Mengwen herself. SHE IS VERY PROFICIENT IN USING IPAD HAND-DRAWN SOFTWARE, AND SHE OFTEN WORKS WHEN SHE IS FLYING. SHE ALSO PUT HER ELECTRONIC HANDBOOK IN THE IPAD TO KEEP TRACK OF HER EFFICIENCY.
When she doesn't have training, she paints in her room, reads, learns English, and although she also learns French, it is a bit difficult for her because the French teacher teaches in English. But the weekly English class is basically not left behind.
She also studies food. She said that she was actually a person who had no requirements for food, and that she could eat three full meals. But now, because I have more free time, I have started to study the cuisine at home. Yellow stewed chicken rice, tofu and eggs are now her specialty dishes: "I think it's quite okay to eat it myself, and my cooking skills are not bad." ”
But no matter how strong you are, there will always be occasional times when you are depressed in your life. She remembers that once she was sick, she was already unwell, and it was a little rainy that day, and the coach asked them to go out. Several emotions gathered together, which made her feel very wronged, so she cried. At that time, it was still her teammates who had been comforting her before she adjusted.
"I always thought I might cry because I was homesick when I came out, but I didn't expect it to be because of that." Although she is strong inside, the loneliness of living in a foreign country is unavoidable. "In fact, no matter whether at home or abroad, in any environment, there will be a sense of loneliness, and there may be more of this feeling abroad." But I will take the initiative to contact some friends to eliminate this feeling by videoizing with my parents.
Li Mengwen in the Champions League
The sooner you stay in the ocean, the better But we must be mature in our thinking
This year, Li Mengwen just celebrated her 28th birthday, which is already a veteran among Chinese players, but it is a golden age in Europe. However, after playing overseas, Li Mengwen felt more deeply that it was best to come out younger: "You look at the European arena, whether it is the Champions League or the league, some of their players have stood in positions at the age of 21, and then they can have good performances, you will feel that they are the future." ”
But when young people come out to play football, there is a condition that Li Mengwen hopes everyone is ready for, that is, they must be mature in their thinking: "Many professional players are not so independent in their ideas when they are 21 years old, but if you are a person who has already thought about what he wants to do in the future at the age of fourteen or five, it must also be a person who has ideas and desires for football, then he should really come out and play." ”
The original intention of each player who goes abroad is different, some may be to improve their level, some may be to improve before the World Cup, and some are because they like this environment. But after the World Cup, are there really so many people who will insist on staying in the ocean?
Li Mengwen said that she should be more determined on this path, because she felt the rhythm and intensity of the entire competition here, and also felt the improvement of her ability: "Everyone must aspire to a higher platform and a better team development." If I could, I'd definitely be willing to stay and continue playing here. ”
Li Mengwen still remembers the World Cup four years ago, when she watched the match on TV with her teammates. The World Cup is the stage that every player dreams of, and the players in the same group of Chinese women's football team in this World Cup are either top women's football teams or old traditional strong teams. Having played in the top European league for a season, she believes that trust between the team in the game is the first priority, and the mutual response on the field is the most important.
This independent and tenacious girl completed a gorgeous turn in her 28-year-old youth. And there will be more brilliant stories waiting for her to paint in the future.