PSG women: “Meeting OL requires mental strength”

Twice a season, the title of champion of France is played between PSG and OL. This Friday, the Parisiennes, second in the standings, will host the Lyonnaises at the Parc des Princes, who have a two-point lead.

An opposition presented to us by Ashley Lawrence, lateral or middle of PSG. Aged 25, the Canadian international (91 caps) hopes that her teammates will find the loophole to finally defeat the rivals of OL. With a degree in psychology, she also mentions the mental aspect which is essential at the high level.

How much confidence does winning 14-0 (against Issy) the week before the reception of Lyon?

ASHLEY LAWRENCE. It is true that it brings a lot, a lot of confidence. All of our forwards scored and that’s a very positive point. We had already won 11-0 against OM last year, it was almost such a large score. But we know that meeting OL requires work, a lot of mental strength. So we stay focused for this game.

After this card, PSG is the best attack in the championship but also the best defense. What does this mean to you?

I think it’s deserved, already. Our attackers and defenders do a lot of collective work. We were rewarded offensively in our last game while remaining solid defensively. It’s part of the club’s goals.

What do you change in the preparation between a classic match and a clash against Lyon?

The preparation remains more or less the same for all matches. But there is something more, it’s true. We see it in the staff, in the players, everyone is very concerned. Individually, collectively, we are more focused. This is also the case outside of training. We think about recovering well, sleeping well, eating well. There is this little extra thing.

How do you explain that the PSG-OL are always very tight, with very few goals?

It all starts with the quality of the players. Both teams are strong, only have internationals, with a lot of experience. It also proves the level of women’s football in France. We know that in this match, if we take a risk, that we lose the ball, we will be punished. We are aware of that.

Is it precisely the risk-taking that will allow PSG to win?

If we want to be the best in Europe, we know the risks. But this risk must be calculated. We understand the way to go. We’re ready. We also need this grain of madness, that our attackers are more free to take risks, that we are solid collectively. We must prepare for this match to provoke this madness and imagine a strike in the top corner. We have the players for that.

Do you feel that, this year, the PSG collective can overcome that of OL?

This is my fourth season here, I know all the girls well. It is true that we have a young team but it is more experienced. The girls all play in selection, have taken part in major competitions. It can make the difference. We know the importance of these two matches against Lyon. If we manage to win, we also know that we will have to stay focused against all the teams in the championship. The draw conceded to Bordeaux is proof of this.

Playing at the Parc des Princes, even behind closed doors, does it give an additional boost?

It’s necessary. You have to give yourself all the means to win. Playing at the Park, I find that very good, it also shows the support of the whole club. I have the experience of having played here during the 2019 World Cup or in previous seasons. It is our house.

Do you keep the same motivation, even without an audience?

It changes, obviously. But we’ve been playing without the fans for a while now. This is the new standard unfortunately. So we try to keep this collective spirit even without them. We can feel their support and that of the club despite everything.

You arrived in Paris in 2017. Are you here for a long time?

It’s true that it’s been a while now. There have been ups and downs, as in all careers. But I have grown a lot. This is my first professional club (Editor’s note: she was an academic in the United States). I was able to learn alongside experienced players, like Laure Boulleau, who played at the same position. Today, I feel more like a leader, I am more sure of myself, I have more confidence. I also have the club one and I feel good.

Is it really on the mental level that you feel the progression?

Yes. Technically, too, my game has improved a lot. I get out of the pressure more easily, I am more comfortable in the game.

You recently obtained a Masters in Psychology. Is it also to prepare for the rest of your career?

It was important to finish my studies. I was lucky enough to be able to play football and study at the same time in the United States, in psychology. Sport, football, it’s 80% mental. I know the importance of this aspect, especially with the daily challenges, the injuries, the fact of no longer being a holder… Working my mind was essential and it helped me a lot. And I know my career won’t end at 50. I thought a lot. I want to stay in football. We will see how, but this psychological aspect will help me.

Ashley Lawrence has been at PSG since 2017./LP/Icon Sport / Anthony Dibon

Do you talk about it with the teammates?

It’s useful to share our experiences, yes. Sometimes I have a low morale, I know I can talk to a few girls about it and they can pick it up. You have to communicate, stay open. It is essential in life as in sport. It’s really important to talk.

Can you tell us about your association “Yes she Canada”?

I created it three years ago. Association helps inspire young girls through sport, with sport. Every year, I organize an event in Canada for which I invite young girls, professional players. They can thus discuss, train together, learn from each other. When I was younger, that didn’t exist and I think that in order to advance women’s football, you have to create these connections, show that it is possible.

Where does football stand in Canada? We see more and more players in Europe, young players, like Jordyn Huitema, your teammate at PSG.

That feels good. We must pay tribute to the former players, who do the job to allow the youngest to grow up. I see how Canada is moving forward day after day in this area. We know that to become the best in the world, you have to give yourself the means. We don’t have a professional championship, unlike in Europe or the United States. We are late, so it’s very positive to see the young people arriving in Europe. This is how we will become more competitive.

Do you feel that things are also moving forward thanks to an association like yours?

Once again, that the youngest exchange with examples from professional football, it is not nothing. This is how you can consider other possibilities for the new generation. It is not easy and it takes courage. But I see the changes.

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