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From The Congo to the EURO, French midfielder Grace Geyoro's long road to success

Grace Geyoro is hoping her team will put on a heartened performance against England (Photo: Getty Images)
by Antonio Lamorte, AIPS Young Reporter, Italy

UTRECHT, July 30, 2017 - “She is formidable. I am going to ask her to marry me”. Midfielder Grace Geyoro is becoming the star of the national team, if you ask the numerous French journalists in the Netherlands for the UEFA Women's EURO.

In spite of being the youngest player in the squad, Geyoro, 20, has step by step, earned a place in the starting lineup of Olivier Echouafni’s French team. Her specific combination of technical and athletic skills have also helped her become a pillar in Champions League finalists Paris Saint Germain. Her road to the UEFA Women’s EURO in the Netherlands though, was longer than you would expect from a player of her talent.

Geyoro was born in Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and relocated to France with her family when she was a baby. “My mother was already living in France,” she said. “Then she brought us with her to live and study there. I was only two.”

Grace fell in love with football because of her brother, Yann, who she used to play with when they were children. “Zidane is in my first memoires about football. With his roulettes and his elegance. He was my idol. But for my position I inspired myself to the Spanish Xavi and Iniesta,” she remembered.

Her father and brother always supported her love for football while her mother initially used to think that it wasn’t a suitable game for girls. “My brother helped me convince [our mother],” Geyoro said. “He told her that I was a good player and that I had to start playing for a team. In the end she accepted my passion and now she loves football too!”

Like the majority of female players, Geyoro began playing with boys in her hometown. “It was not so easy for me because sometimes the guys did not let me play with them,” she said.

Geyoro started playing in a team when she was eight years old. “I began playing in the team of the city where I grew up, Orléans. I was the first girl in the squad but I never had any issues with that.” At 15, Geyoro moved from SMOC Saint-Jean de Braye to Paris Saint Germain.

“It was like a dream come true for me. I supported PSG ever since I was a child.” Geyoro was a starter in PSG’s Champions League final loss to Olimpique Lyonnais earlier this year. With the national team she won the FIFA U-17 Women’s Cup in 2012, the UEFA U-19 Women’s Euro in 2016 and the She Believes Cup in 2017. The senior Women’s Euro is the high point of her career in the French shirt, so far at least.

According to Geyoro, it is no longer a strange sight to see a girl playing football in France. She said: “There are more and more girls who are starting to play football. The movement is improving in my country. Sometimes people also recognize me in the streets and in the shops asking me for an autograph.”

France face England in the quarterfinals of the EURO on Sunday evening in Deventer. She said: “It will be a very tough match. We have to score as soon as possible, in the very beginning of the game. We have to do what we did in our match against Switzerland when with 10 players against 11 we did not give up. We played with our hearts.”

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