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  • Q & A with CWNT star Emily Zurrer



    By: Alyssa Ally

    With a well decorated college career behind her, Emily Zurrer has spent the last couple years using her positive outlook on life and hard nose play on the pitch helping the Canadian Women's National team get to the World Cup in Germany. With only six days left before the opening game against the host nation, Zurrer spoke about playing under Carolina Morace, pre-game superstitions and preparing for the hostile atmosphere.


    You started your national career playing under Even Pellerud. Now that Carolina has stepped in, how as her system changed your game?

    Even was more focused on the long ball and the raw athleticism and the fighting Canadian spirit of our team. He brought a lot of good things to our team and I am grateful for the time I got to play under him. With Carolina, it is more about quality and not quantity. She has completely changed the style and training mentality of our team, and we train our bodies in soccer specific ways both in the gym and on the field. We are much more possession oriented and have become faster, smarter and more efficient on the ball since she took over in 2009.

    What has been great is that we still have the passionate Canadian mentality and fighting spirit, that, we will never lose, but we are now able to balance that with the intelligence and skill of the European style that we have worked hard at since Carolina became head coach.

    You’ve always been so dominate in the air. Is that something you’ve had to work on, or is it just natural ability?

    Winning balls in the air came pretty naturally to me at a young age, and once I realized that it was something that I could excel at and use both offensively and defensively, I worked and focused (and still do) on honing the skill. I did a lot of jumping events in track and field growing up - long jump, high jump, triple jump, hurdles - and I think that also helped my aerial ability on the field. Having a taller frame definitely works to my advantage as well.

    Why did you decide to go to the University of Illinois?

    My coach, Janet Rayfield, was a huge factor in why I chose to attend U of I. She was a mentor to me not only on the field, but off as well. I credit a lot of my soccer success to her, as she was instrumental to my development as a player and as a person throughout my college experience. Her, along with my other U of I coaches, as well as my teammates who will be lifelong friends, made my college experience amazing and unforgettable. Aside from that, the academics were great, the athletics and school spirit were excellent, and the campus was beautiful. When I went on my visit, everything just felt "right."

    Many people criticize the women’s team saying “they’re vacationing in Rome instead of training.” What’s your reaction to these kinds of comments?

    It makes me sad to hear that people would think that about us. I consider myself lucky to get to travel the world and play soccer for my country, but in no way are we on vacation. I can promise anyone that thinks otherwise, we are working our butts off to make our country proud, and those days that we do get off to rest and recover bodies and minds, yes of course we take advantage of the beautiful country that we are currently living and training in. We work very hard but we also need some balance in our life; our coaches understand this, our families understand it, most of our fans understand it. I think it’s unfortunate that a few people choose to say negative things but at the end of the day, all that matters is that we know who we are and what we are doing, and that we have done everything possible to be the best we can be come June 26th.

    Can you give us any comments on the agreement the players and the CSA have made over the compensation issue?

    We would like to thank our lawyer, James Bunting and his associate, Maureen Armstrong, who have worked tirelessly and unselfishly on our behalf in order to reach an agreement with the CSA regarding compensation until 2012. We are extremely grateful to them and happy that the issue has been resolved before the World Cup.

    Do you have any pre-game superstitions/rituals?

    The more interviews I read from other players, the more I realize that this is actually really common for many soccer players. So, I know you’ve heard it before, but I always have to put my shin pads and cleats on left before right. Other than that I usually take a hot and cold shower and say a prayer before heading to the field. In college I had a lot more superstitions such as handshakes, pre-game chugging with my roommate, Kara (don’t ask), the exact same warm-up and juggling group… everything had to be done the same way. Nowadays there is less of a ritual, but those two things will always be the same.


    Knowing the crowd will be pro-Germany on June 26th – how will you channel that and turn it into something you can feed off of?

    For me personally, I feed off the energy the crowd provides, regardless if they are cheering for or against us. Earlier this December, when we were in Brazil, we walked out of the locker room before the final game to thousands of Brazilian fans screaming at us and chanting “Brazil.” It was awesome! I think if anything, it inspired me and pumped us up more for the game. Another time, at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 when we played China, the entire crowd of almost 60,000 (minus the few Canadian fans we had) was chanting “Chiiii-na, Chiii-na,” but at the time it sounded like they were saying “Canada,” so we just pretended that the sea of red was representing our flag and that they were cheering for us. I think that there are many ways to use the energy to our advantage, and for me it is pure motivation. Seeing a few Canadian flags in the crowd will help too.

    We ask everyone we interview: off the field this team is known for its funny antics and pranks. What’s the best prank you’ve witnessed/pulled?

    Well my roommate Britt and I have an ongoing battle with our goalkeeper coach, Max Colucci, where we try to hide and scare each other whenever the opportunity arises. I am definitely Max’s favourite target because, for some reason, whenever he sneaks up on me (and I will admit he is very stealth), I jump about three feet in the air and shriek like a little girl. Embarrassing I know! I am not a person who generally gets scared very easily, but when it comes to people jumping out and startling me…I am the worst! Probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but I would hands down take skydiving and bungee jumping (I have done both) over being startled any day.

    As for the best prank… this recent April Fool’s Day was pretty hilarious. We had a few different ones but the best was when we planned a fist fight between Rhian and Tank in the middle of practice. Our assistant coach Betty, who is the nicest person in the world, was so shocked, surprised and frazzled, she had no idea what to do and just kept yelling, “Stop! Girls! Stop! Please!” So funny.

    What are three things you can’t live without?

    Family. Friends. The outdoors

    Who is the toughest player to defend?

    Christine Sinclair. Luckily I get to train with her every day in practice.

    You are only 23 and have accomplished more than most people will in a lifetime. What’s been you’re greatest achievement thus far?

    I feel very blessed to be able to have the experiences I have had so far in my lifetime. I think my greatest achievement up until this point would be competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics because it was something I had dreamed of ever since I was 5 years old. It was a surreal experience and being able to represent my country at the World’s most prestigious athletic games was something that I still pinch myself about. Right now, the only thing consuming my thoughts is this World Cup 2011. Our first game is nearing and I’m hoping and believing with all my heart that my greatest achievement is about to change…

    What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your teammates?

    I am so lucky to have the teammates that I do on this team. There are many different personalities, backgrounds, experiences, ages…but there is a great feeling of camaraderie, chemistry and respect, and we truly are so close both on and off the field. Being in the environment such as the one we’ve been in for the past 5 months, can sometimes be very grueling. We have each other to get us through the days when either our bodies or minds are having trouble getting going for the second practice of the day, or a tough fitness session. I think that the most important thing I have learned from my teammates is to just enjoy the experience and to not take it for granted. We won’t be able to do this for the rest of our lives, so each and everyday that I get to be a professional soccer player and represent my country is truly a gift.

    Do you have any hidden talents?

    Hmm hidden talents...well I have my black belt in Karate, would that be considered a talent? I would say that and my singing voice, definitely. Just ask my teammates. I have been told many times that I have the “voice of an angel” and have recently been compared to a young Celine Dion.

    Assuming Canada medals at the World Cup, what difference do you think it will make for the sport in Canada?

    I think that it would be huge for women’s soccer in Canada if we were to medal at the World Cup. I remember watching the girls compete in the 2002 U-19 World Cup as a young player and it was inspiring and exciting to see our Canadian team do so well on an international stage. Excitement for the women’s game has dropped off a bit since the team did so well in the 2003 World Cup, and I hope that we can bring it back and take it to an even higher level at this tournament. I think that the market for women’s soccer in Canada has a lot of untapped potential, and we would like to inspire young girls and make our country proud at this upcoming World Cup. I think if we medal here, publicity for the team and sport would grow in Canada, and it would have a vastly positive impact on young soccer players and women’s soccer in general in our country.

    What do you see yourself doing after your playing career is over?

    After my playing career is over I definitely want to travel. I have been lucky enough to travel to many countries with the national team, but a lot of it is mostly soccer fields and hotel rooms so we don’t usually get a chance to really become immersed in the cultures. I have been backpacking a few times (in the rare occasion when I don’t have soccer commitments!) and I would love to do that again and see the many parts of the world that are still on my bucket list.

    Career wise, it has always been a goal of mine to own my business so I would love for that idea to become a reality one day. I definitely see myself being involved in sport in some way, whether on the side or as part of a career. Sports have always been a part of my life and I can’t see that ever changing, whether it be competing, marketing, managing, training, or even carting a vanload of kids from practice to practice sometime in the (far!) future.


    Alyssa Ally writes about the Canadian Women’s National team, the WPS and women’s soccer in general. You can find her stuff at cdnwomenssoccer.blogspot.com

    Follow her on Twitter at @cdn_chica

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