Kate Palthey - Football mum

Kate Palthey, an MBA from Boston... and footballeuse, talks to Patrick Middleton 

Like so many of us Kate Palthey came to France with no intention of staying and now 11 years later doesn’t expect to leave. “To give you my background briefly, I’m Boston Irish—I was born a McCarthy. After getting an MBA I had an opportunity to work in France—in Lyon, actually. I acquired a French husband—not part of the original plan!—and I’ve now got four children, three boys and a girl, all under eight (pictured). We’ve just moved to a new home in Plascassier. A family like mine doesn’t leave you much spare time but I’ve been able to pursue my passion for soccer, playing and training other women to play…”

“A more open atmosphere”

footballThis, I remark, is doubly surprising. To start with, soccer, we’re always told, just hasn’t taken off in the U.S. and, what’s more, it’s not usually considered a woman’s game. “You’re right about soccer not being big time across the Atlantic. There football means the American game, NFL and all that. It’s hard to say why soccer hasn’t been more popular. I’ve heard all sorts of explanations. That it was spreading all over the world from Britain in the late nineteenth century—to South America, for example—at a time when in the U.S. Britain was widely disliked for its Confederate sympathies. Maybe. Then there’s the nature of the game itself. Americans like sports such as baseball and their own football which throw up a lot of statistics which soccer doesn’t. And then the idea of a draw just doesn’t appeal to spectators in the U.S. However you look at it, soccer just hasn’t put down roots as a popular sport with us, even when we hosted the World Cup in 1994.”

Except, it seems, among women. “That’s right. Women’s soccer has really been a success story in the U.S. One reason is that since 1978, where sports are concerned, the law has mandated equivalent funds and facilities for both sexes in schools and colleges. American football and baseball have got rather macho images and haven’t encouraged women very much. Soccer offers them a chance to play a team game with a more open atmosphere. In my case, I started playing when I was 5 years old, went on to join a high school team and later represented Boston College. Today there are between 7 and 8 million women regularly playing soccer in America. In fact, it’s sometimes seen as a bit of a woman’s game and this might put off a lot of guys.”

“Satisfying and a lot of fun”

And in France? “There’ve been footballeuses here since the nineteen-twenties but in very small number. Today there are something over 30,000 licenced players and it’s growing.” How did Kate get into soccer here? “I became involved with the Mouans-Sartoux sports club and ended up training the women’s soccer team. This year, because of family responsibilities, I’ve cut back rather and I’m training the children’s team only but that’s very satisfying since I’m recruiting members for future adult teams.” How does women’s soccer differ from the men’s game? “Let’s be clear on one point. I heard the other day about teams in England that play wearing make-up and girly kit. That’s not at all what’s it about. Women’s soccer is more technical, less physical. We are normally smaller and lighter than men and that shows up in the style of play. It’s a seven-a-side game on a pitch half the standard size. There’s a lot of quick thinking needed as well as fast movement. It’s very satisfying and a lot of fun…”

From Reporter Issue 94

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