【Women's football visit in Europe】Zhang Linyan: The little girl stands on the shoulders of the "giant"
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.
The author and Zhang Linyan
Written by/Zhang Nan
If it weren't for the fame of the Women's Asian Cup, many people who don't know women's football might have found it difficult to notice Zhang Linyan, a female football player who has actually been playing in the open air since she was a child.
When she was 9 years old, she had the opportunity to meet David Beckham, and she said that her dream was to represent the Chinese team beyond Sun Wen's era. Today, she is still working towards this goal.
Learning English is Zhang Linyan's daily life Photo / Zhang Nan
The life of the little girl's Ruichao
Zhang Linyan's rented apartment is located in a small town in the Zurich region, except for a small living area, some shopping facilities and visits, the whole town is exceptionally quiet.
Come play overseas and see what the outside world is like. This is Zhang Linyan's wish since she was a child. So in the Chinese women's football team, she came to Zurich with two bags on her back alone.
Because of the late reporting time of the club, the apartments that could be rented near the training ground could not be found. Had to find a house in a nearby town, located near the train station. Because she didn't have a driver's license yet, she had to use public transportation every day to train. Although it is only a dozen kilometers away, it is still necessary to take two intercity trains, and there is one transfer between the two stations.
Zhang Linyan commuted to and from the club and apartment every day, and later got a small balance bike by herself, but she was afraid that it would not be safe to catch the bad weather, so she still had to take public transportation to train.
When she first reported to the team, the club took a lot of care of her, and the team management personally went to Zurich to pick her up. Perhaps because she cherished her opportunity to play abroad, she was eager to prove herself when she first arrived at the team. Just a few games without scoring a goal, she was in a hurry. The coach saw her mood and kept encouraging her not to have too much thought burden when attacking or shooting. Generally, teammates train once a day, but because Rui Chao's body collision is very large and the intensity is also very large, Zhang Linyan's body does not have an advantage in such a league, so the club arranges training plans according to different situations, and Zhang Linyan is arranged to have two additional training sessions a week. Monday is technical training, and Thursday morning is suitable for physical training for several team members. The teammates also took good care of this little girl from China, although when she first came to the club, she was not good at language, but the teammates took care of her situation when communicating with her. Because sometimes she missed a scoring opportunity on the field and was very frustrated, her teammates also sensed Zhang Linyan's emotions and would always give her comfort and encouragement, although the language communication was not so smooth at that time, but her teammates would also find ways to make her happy. Everything made Zhang Linyan feel very warm.
Swiss Grasshopper FC is a club with a long history and a very strong fan base, and it is not uncommon to see their fans cheering on the team away from home when they play away. There is an old fan who has gray hair and will give Zhang Linyan a high five-five to encourage her on the sidelines after every game. After a season, Zhang Linyan has become accustomed to such encouragement. There are also many Chinese students studying in Zurich, and they will regularly come to the stadium on weekends to cheer for Zhang Linyan.
In addition to the club, Li Lei, a male football player who played for the grasshopper men's football team in the first half of the season, also took good care of Zhang Linyan, often inviting her to dinner, so that this little girl can still feel warm in a foreign country.
Zhang Linyan still looks like a child
When I am most lonely and helpless, I still rely on my family to always be by my side
Except for less than two hours of training a day and competing on weekends, Zhang Linyan has never felt that she has a lot of time to spend on her own. But she used to live in domestic clubs, and she did have a lot of unaccustomed to it.
Like many players who play overseas, the first step in life is to learn to take care of yourself. Although Zhang Linyan is from Sichuan, her father also does very good Sichuan cuisine, but before she went abroad, she never went to the kitchen, and she didn't even have time to learn two hands with her parents before leaving.
But after coming to Zurich, Zhang Linyan went to a Chinese supermarket to buy various Chinese food ingredients, learn recipes online and cook for herself. Although you can make a decent dish, sometimes you can simply eat a sliced bread in the morning and spread it with cheese to deal with it.
There are two Chinese restaurants in the town, one of which she frequents when she has no time to cook. The hostess will always take care of her, every time she adds more food, she can't eat, she can pack back and make one less meal. The proprietress often joked with this Sichuan girl that playing mahjong was "bloody to the end", but there were not enough four people in the whole town to play.
Zhang Linyan and Shen Mengyu were teammates when they were young
At Christmas, Shen Mengyu also came to ask her out to play together. Two people chose Madrid. Later, Shen Mengyu also asked her to go skiing together. The two have been teammates since the national junior team, and Shen Mengyu came out to play overseas a year earlier than her. Mengyu has always been the kind of girl who is very optimistic about everything, and any difficulties are an understatement to her, even if she has just lived overseas and feels particularly homesick, she will simply brush it off. Since childhood, she has known each other's personalities better, and although Zhang Linyan knows that she may not get any answers from her, her understatement can also make Zhang Linyan learn to see things like her.
Zhang Linyan is a person who loves to study, and on her desk is a tactical book, a Chinese translation given to her by a coach of the team at the time. She has a notebook dedicated to learning English, which is densely and carefully recorded with each class note.
Zhang Linyan's English Learning Photo/Zhang Nan
Training, grocery shopping, cooking, learning English, reading, just day by day, time flies quickly. It seems to be filled every day.
But that's it, there are times when she feels sad and wants to cry. Especially the winter that first came. They all think that Switzerland is a good mountain and water, and it is God's back garden. But in winter, the cold weather can also make people feel lonely. After Zhang Linyan came to Switzerland, the saddest period was that time. "At that time, it was very cold, and the whole sky felt very depressing, and there was no blue sky and white clouds in sight. At that time, it was just in time for the club holiday, and there were no friends here, so I really felt bored and homesick all day. Zhang Linyan later recalled.
At this time, the one who can give her the most comfort is her mother who is far away in China. Her mother has always been Zhang Linyan's strongest support. In fact, as early as when Zhang Linyan was still in the national youth team, she had the opportunity to study and play football in American universities. But at that time, the family did not trust her to go out, and she herself did not have so much courage and determination. But this time, her mother also knew that her long-cherished wish was to come out, so she also supported her without hesitation. Although the heart is full of worry and reluctance.
Although she had never watched much before her daughter played football, since Zhang Linyan played football, she would pay attention to her daughter's every move. Despite the time difference, she would stay in front of her phone every round to try her best to find videos of her daughter's matches. What she does every day is to watch news related to women's football at night, some news Zhang Linyan does not know, all heard from her mother. When she is in a bad state and in a bad mood, her mother will also exchange opinions with her from a very objective perspective. "Although my mother is not so highly educated and is not an intellectual, she has devoted all her efforts to me. Being able to come out, my mother also encouraged me the most. "Although sometimes because of the time difference, I want to talk to someone at night in Europe, but I am embarrassed to disturb my friends in China. But there is always a fixed time every day to chat with her mother online, which is Zhang Linyan's greatest comfort.
After one season, Zhang Linyan said that the biggest change is growing up. She can also make her mother feel more comfortable in the outside world.
I saw David Beckham when I was 9 years old
Going to a higher stage is her dream to stick to
Although the overall strength of the Swiss Super League women's football team is not comparable to the high-level leagues such as the Premier League and La Liga, when she first came to the grasshopper, Zhang Linyan still felt a completely different rhythm from China. In addition to being fast, the physical confrontation is indeed very challenging for a girl who is 1.6 meters tall.
After each game, she not only has to rely on her ability to intersperse between these "giants", but also faces a full 90 minutes of body collision, often after the game, the whole person is knocked apart. But the value and ability of the whole team, she also did it.
It was at the end of such a season that the little girl stood on the shoulders of the Swiss "giant" and won the title of the best player of the season.
Once Zhang Linyan was a child who lacked self-confidence. Although she became famous at a young age and is also a player with outstanding ability in the same age, she was injured during the national youth team and almost ended her football career early, and even her mother persuaded her to give up, but she persuaded her mother with the story of her predecessor Ma Xiaoxu's three cruciate ligament ruptures. That's how I persevered.
It is precisely because of that injury, coupled with the difficulty of having the opportunity to enter the national team, that she has not been so confident. She became famous in the Asian Cup, but at that time she had not played an international competition for a long time, and she was a newcomer, and she was still not satisfied with her state and performance at that time. "It was okay in the final, but I can't recognize my performance just because of one game, and I felt very unhappy with the game against Japan. In fact, it is mainly a psychological problem. Zhang Linyan said.
Just like when she first came to Switzerland, the unknown made her even more apprehensive. But just like that, a season, coupled with this unexpected honor at the end of the season, allowed her to enjoy the honor of standing on the "top of the Alps" and also gave her confidence.
"There's really a big boost in terms of self-confidence. Regardless of what others think, I do feel more confident on the field. In addition to these, it is the ability to live alone, which makes this girl in her early twenties more determined to pursue her own life.
After winning the title of the best player in the Swiss Super League, Zhang Linyan also revealed her desire to go to a stronger club. "The big five leagues are definitely what I aspire to the most, and I still prefer to go to La Liga." Her favorite team in the men's football team is Barcelona, and because she was trained by Evergrande Football School when she was a child, Evergrande and Real Madrid have a lot of cooperation, and many peers went to Real Madrid for training that year, so Zhang Linyan herself also has feelings for Real Madrid.
Zhang Linyan and Shui Qingxia
Like other Chinese female footballers in the ocean, Zhang Linyan knows exactly what she wants. The definition of Liuyang's success only exists in whether what she most wants will be achieved. So her experience can't be replicated. "I don't think there's anything absolutely good or bad, or success or failure. It mainly depends on what you learn and what you get. All experiences, good and bad, are actually their own wealth," just like her teammates Zhao Yujie and Tu Linli who were in the national youth team chose to go abroad to study and play football very early. But if she really wants to come out and play, she always thinks that she must improve herself as soon as possible.
The Chinese women's football team has exploded in a blowout this year, in addition to the improvement of her own ability, Zhang Linyan actually thought of the influence of the entire Chinese women's football team in European football. At a time when European women's football is advancing by leaps and bounds, Chinese women's football players must come out and see. In Japanese football, which is also in Asia, there are many overseas players in both men's and women's football. These players have not only improved their abilities in Europe, but also gained the respect of the entire European population for Japanese football.
Zhang Linyan's manager at the Grasshopper Club was also a former female football player, and after seeing Zhang Linyan, she felt that she and Iwagaki Mana were very similar in style. Even encourage her to have confidence and she can really stand in the Premier League. And these Japanese players have also established a good reputation in Europe with their efforts, and Zhang Linyan also hopes that through their efforts, the Chinese women's football team will be recognized throughout Europe. And the title of Player of the Season also proves that her efforts are recognized.
The best player in the Swiss Super League is only the beginning for Zhang Linyan, and her future will still be full of hardships and challenges. But this year's harvest will eventually support her. Because she always remembers the promise she made when she was 9 years old.