Source: Amandine Henry 2020
‘Football is a team sport – you can’t really play on your own,’ says Amandine Henry, the captain of the French national squad and lynchpin of the all-conquering Olympique Lyon side. ‘So, when the lockdown began, we were really stuck!’
Amandine is describing the unsettling moment earlier this year when she heard that the coronavirus crisis had forced football – and many other things – to stop. She and all her teammates were confined to their homes and unable to play the game they love. ’It was very unsettling,’. We really didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know how long it would last.’
Shortly after the lockdown began, the French football authorities decided to abandon the league season and declare Lyon champions. Under the circumstances, Amandine did not feel like celebrating another title.
She realised, however, that she still had to stay fit. A defensive midfielder she knew she had to be ready when conditions changed. ‘The lockdown stopped us playing football, but we could still train – even if that meant training at home. So we got into regular fitness programmes,’ she says.
Amandine did fitness exercises, running, cycling and practised ball tricks. And she posted clips and images on social media to show fans that – like other people - she had to be creative in finding ways to #BeActive at home.
By June, most of the lockdown measures were lifted and Amandine was able to play again with Lyon, albeit in empty stadiums. ‘It was bizarre to restart,’ she says. ‘It’s not the same atmosphere when there are no fans cheering you in the stadium. And the Champions League continued in a special tournament – and I got injured, so I don’t have the best memory of that moment.’
Nonetheless, Amandine ended the season with a rare treble as a winner of the French League and Cup, and the Champions League. Indeed, she’s one of the most decorated women in football history, having won the Champions League a record seven times, the French League a record 14 times and the French cup a record nine times.
Amandine is well aware that this year’s EWOS has special significance, given the disruption to sport over the past few months. As a European Week of Sport (EWOS) Ambassador, Amandine provides support for football hopefuls, spending time helping them train – or by offering messages and encouragement on social media. She is also involved with Sport pour Tous, the French federation that organises a broad range of sporting activities. ‘I’ve tried to keep fit despite the circumstances, getting up and doing exercise,” she says. ‘And I’ve tried to stay positive. I’m proud to be a footballer, but I also feel responsible. We are now role models for young people, not just on the pitch but off it too. And we have to set an example on how to stay fit and healthy.’