From the Sideline: Alison Lemon
I’ve had the chance to share my story with you, so now I want to focus on others.
Everyone has a story. The life you live today is a combination of all the choices you’ve made and the cards you've been dealt and that’s what makes us unique. With that said, I’ve had the chance to share my story with you, so now I want to focus on others.
While living overseas, I met a lot of people and in Barcelona there were people from every walk of life. Early on in my football journey there, I met Alison Lemon - Canadian born, Spanish living, futsal and football player. The 29 year old has lived in a number of cities around the world and found her calling in football. You could say that her football boots have led the way, as she’s moved around from country to country as opportunities have presented themselves.
Alison was born in Canada and that is where her football career kicked off. It was a personal tragedy that was the leading force behind her choice to pursue a career in football. At age 15 she lost a close friend to suicide. Showing up the next day to a football game where she and this friend were supposed to play one another, she decided there and then that her mission was to make her friend proud and become a football player - making her purpose to create a life around the sport that connected the two friends. Though she was never the best on the pitch, playing 6-8 hours a day and becoming fixated on success in the sport, Alison was able to develop her skills to ultimately follow her feet around the world and bring this mission to fruition.
Talking to any woman in the industry, I am always intrigued by just how much they feel their gender may have impacted their success. It’s an out-dated argument and we’re all tired of talking about it, but unfortunately it is still extremely prevalent and an issue which obviously sits close to my heart. Growing up in Canada, Alison sometimes felt like she had more rights than men. Women's football was promoted more and opportunities were ‘handed out’ to women in the industry, such as free provincial coaching licenses. She describes her experience as ‘privileged’, and is a proud Canadian because of that. Though Australian women’s football isn’t what it could be, we have a lot to be thankful for here too. Women’s football has come a long way.
Curiously, her experiences in other parts of the world were much the opposite. She told me that playing in Budapest was difficult, the complete antithesis to her Canadian upbringing. “[in that environment] men believed women were second to them.” This impacted her negatively, having grown up in an
environment where she felt like an equal, as she was having to prove herself everyday with little respect in return.
Now she is living in Barcelona and that disparity is clear again. Alison tells me that she feels women are second class and have to act with attitude to get what they want. “If you give your best, work hard and keep your head down, you are earning respect. When you don't get that back, you feel differently about the place. Hungary and Spain are the two places that have challenged me the most.” While this is one woman’s experience, it certainly emphasises the need for change around the world.
Before I continue, here are some highlights of Alison’s playing history:
- FC Neunkirch, First Division
- Selection for Futsal World Cup, Colombia 2013
- North Mississauga, League 1 - Prostars FC, League 1
- Mozzecane FC, Second division
- Hellas Verona, First division
- FC Theines, First division futsal
- FC Gÿor, First division
- Barça B, Second division
- Tona, Third division Catalunya
- Cornella FC, Second division Catalunya
- Footballxbcn, International Street Football scene
In regards to the training and playing in different countries, Alison broke down the expectations vs reality.
Moving to Spain she had the fantasised that the best coaches and players were there, who wouldn’t? Alison explains that Barca has incredible training standards and coaches, cultivating incredible talent in the academy. There’s a culture in Spain that if you are not trained by a qualified coach, you aren’t a good player. She was often challenged by the training culture, as she felt a lack of competitiveness and an increase in arrogance from her Canadian training. Essentially, the coaching style cultivated players who know they are good. This is one person’s perspective, and it's certainly interesting to picture a culture like this. As an Australian, I have met plenty of arrogant football players here but it is hard to imagine what it would be like to be coached by the best at a club as big and famous as FC Barcelona.
Alison prefers a club with clear training objectives and a real enthusiasm towards improvement, so her favourite place to play was in Switzerland for FC Neunkirch. She said the level of training was best she had encountered, with clear objectives and organisation. I can’t say I would’ve expected any less from the Swiss.
Now-a-days Alison is spending more of her time exploring the street football scene in Barcelona, and working out her next step in Spanish football. Regardless, it’s pretty clear she is living the dream (to me, anyway!).
As we ended our conversation I asked Alison to provide some additional advice for any other young players who want to make the move to Europe.
“Everyone thinks playing a sport is the dream but you’re out of your comfort zone, don’t speak the language, cultural differences, dietary differences, you don’t have your hype team..” It’s hard but it is also a rewarding career choice. Alison is at the stage of her career now where she wants to use her experience to help inform and educate the younger generation. “At times life is a shit show, but you get through it. Every athlete’s story is that you get through life and surviving is winning.” That’s pretty good advice, even for us regular non-athletic folk.
If you want to follow Alison’s next steps, you can find her here at @20Kanada