Delphine Cascarino: The Heroine of France
Gold confetti skips through the air. A stampede of celebrations fill the eardrums of an entire stadium. The world looks on. Green with envy. It’s Russia 2018. The trophy we’ve all dreamt of bringing home. Now in the hands of the French Men’s team – the freshly crowned World Cup winners. But for French midfielder, Delphine Cascarino, and her teammates, this was not the victorious end they’d been dreaming of. It was the start of a much bigger dream, one which could transform them into the heroes they’d never had.
The Women’s World Cup. The event that is set to change history. The ambition of every player? To kick-start a generation of girls football and a new wave of the women’s game. A mission that Olympique Lyon’s Delphine is well behind. “When I was small, I did not have a female idol because women’s football was not publicised. When girls played, we were judged and seen as less than boys. It’s necessary that the level of women’s football increases and progresses.”
With no female players to look up to, Delphine instead turned towards the men. Where she became mesmerised by one of the most graceful French football players of all time. “I liked Zinedine Zidane, he had an incredible technique and he was beautiful to watch.” Unbeknown to the young girl in her dark blue, kipsta football boots, soon she would be following in Zidane’s iconic footsteps. A midfielder representing their country on the world stage.
Growing-up, Delphine was not the only girl in the playground up for a kick-about. Estelle Cascarino, twin sister and talented defender for Paris FC, has been by her side all the way. At first, they didn’t even know women’s football even existed. It wasn’t until they began training next to Parc Olympique Lyon, aged 13. That was the turning point where two sisters began their journey towards one goal; to become professional football players, together. And that’s what they did.
Starting their football careers at OL as teammates until Estelle made the big move over to Paris FC. Siblings playing for opposing teams you might expect some conflict. But Delphine insists, there’s no competition between the Cascarino sisters. “There is no rivalry between us. We do not play in the same position, we are totally different. I am attacking and right-handed she is a defender and left-handed. We support each other and we are very close.”
As women’s football has slowly been gaining the support it has always deserved. The young 22-year-old has taken great steps to define what her future looks like. No stranger to the arena, this year Delphine took her fourth Champions League win for the world-renowned team Olympique Lyon. A rising player with dazzling talent. It’s no surprise that she’s dubbed as one to watch this summer. The first time playing for France at U-17 level in 2012 was no easy conquest.
In a nail-biting final against North Korea, she scored one of the seven winning penalties; which led to France becoming U-17’s World Cup Champions. Reflective of her success she tells us “In 2012 I was 15 years old, I was very young. I am no longer there. I grew up and I progressed. It was an unforgettable experience and I hope there will be the same scenario as in 2012 for this year.” The beginnings of an exciting career which she hopes will lead her to a season abroad. “Yes, I am in Lyon for the moment. But in my career, I would like to have a season abroad. In the USA or in England; why not.”
Success is not a dish served without sacrifice. And Delphine knows that all too well. In becoming professional, she has risked family relationships and ended the pursuit of traditional education. But there has only ever been one ambition in mind. “My dream is for women’s football to be equal to men’s football, and I know it will be difficult to get there.”
This summer is looking to be the year the OL player gets the chance to reap the sweet taste of endless commitment. Football fever is spreading all over France. Soaring TV records, football shirts flying off the shelves and even little boys repping the women’s jerseys.
It’s safe to say the French Women’s squad have a nation behind them. And playing for a country who have the title of World Football Champions within their grasp, equality feels closer than ever before. Proving that belief will always get you to your destination. Delphine urges every young girl to remember “You have to believe in those dreams. And be determined in everything you do.”
This year France are the favourites to win, but it’s safe to say, whichever captain lifts that trophy on the 7th July 2019 they will not only be raising it for their team and their country. It will be elevated for every woman of the World Cup. The ones who grew up without female football players to idolise; and yet still made it to the world stage.
For the players who continued on despite the looks, the name calling and the lack of support. It will be a beacon of hope for every kid with a dream. That trophy is not another year, another win. It’s a symbol. An idol. A hero. A message to the world: The future of football has begun.
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