Impetus’ French editor Jean-Pierre Thiesset spoke to FC Flury ’91’s Finnish goalkeeper Katriina Talaslahti, a player with a rising reputation in a team challenging for their first-ever UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification (20/12/21).
Katriina Talaslahti who celebrated her 21st birthday on September 21, is one of the youngest goalkeepers in D1 Arkema, the top flight of the French Women’s Football Championships. In a competition where the average age of goalkeeper is around 25 years old, only Chiamaka Nnadozie, Paris FC’s goalkeeper, is younger than Talaslahti and only by two and a half months. As a matter of fact, the two youngest goalkeepers in D1 Arkema are in the two teams who fight for third place in the table which gives a qualification spot for UEFA Women’s Champions League.
After two years with Olympique Lyonnais as their third goalkeeper, Katriina signed with FC Fleury 91 in early August 2021 willing to be number one in her new team. She started the third game of the season against Bordeaux away from home and Fleury won 2-1. Since, she kept the number one spot with three clean sheets (Soyaux 1-0 and Reims 1-0 at home, Saint-Etienne 4-0 away from home).
Jean-Pierre Thiesset: Do you speak French now?
Katriina Talaslahti: I can communicate with my friends. I have been in France for two and a half years and it is still quite hard, but it is getting better, and it is good to communicate in French.
JPT: So, we can do the interview in French?
KT: No, let’s do it in English (laughs).
JPT: How was your arrival at Fleury?
KT: The welcome was very nice. The area where I lived is different than when I was in Lyon because I was in the centre of a big city and now, I am in a smaller town, but I like it and it is not so far from Paris. I am getting used to France and I like it.
The players were really welcoming to me, and they wanted to speak to me straight away. It took a little bit of time to get into the team, and it is normal, but now I have good friends here and it feels more like a home; it is nice to go out with the girls when we have one evening free.
From the staff, when I arrived, they had to see me and test me, and I think I gave them the trust that they needed. Everything is very well scheduled here. The training sessions are somewhere similar to what it was in Lyon, and it feels like a normal daily rhythm.
The facilities are different because Lyon is a bigger club, but it is fine, and we have everything we need to train professionally. The coaches bring good training sessions and for my part as a goalkeeper, my coach is very good, and I like his training sessions. They are enjoyable and I like to go there because I know something different is coming each day and because I am getting better by doing it. So, it is not a lot of changes for me, it is the same amount of training, and it is just a new staff and new players.
JPT: What makes Fleury a good club to play for?
KT: Most of the players are a little bit older and they are experienced, so they bring this atmosphere of confidence to the game. Fleury is a smaller club than the others I have been in, but it gives them even more motivation to get bigger and higher. You can see from the players, from the staff, and from the organization that they want to grow and learn; It does not need to always be the biggest but the mentality in the club is to progress and I like that.
Our President, Mr. Pascal Bovis, is very polite to everybody, he is caring about the women’s team, and he comes to watch the games.
JPT: How do you feel being the number one goalkeeper for FC Fleury 91, and one of the two youngest goalkeepers in D1 Arkema as well?
KT: Obviously, it takes a lot of work to be number one. When I came to Fleury, I did not play the first two games, so it was sad for me because I came quite late in the season; but I was happy when I arrived at Fleury and now, I get to play so it feels exciting. Obviously, I still need to do a lot of work because it is not a final status, as you all know no player has a permanent place in the team, and every day it is like a fight to keep the spot by doing hard work, and I like it. I am very happy, yes, I am very happy. I have a nice feeling about it, and it keeps the motivation on. I am very happy that FC Fleury 91 trust me and they want to put me in the goal, it is very nice from them. I heard that I am one of the youngest goalkeepers in D1 Arkema and it is a nice feeling.
There are a lot of goalkeepers that are much older, and they are really experienced, but it also shows from the club that they want to put in the goal the girl that they think is the best one and I think it gave me the chance to show them that I can do the job, and it motivates me to be on the field. I want to show that even if I am young, I am capable to play in D1 Arkema because I think I have a good background from Lyon and Bayern.
JPT: FC Fleury are fighting for third place in the table. How do you feel about that?
KT: I think that for us it is a good challenge to try to reach third place because you can qualify for the Champion’s League so that gives the whole team even more motivation to push harder and to win the games and I am very happy at the moment.
The spirit in our team is that we are really motivated to win, and this is why you can see in the training sessions that we are giving one hundred percent because as a team we want to develop and to get better. To win the games to reach third place, we still have to work hard. There are good teams we play against and even for me it is better to have work to do as a goalkeeper; imagine I would be only standing in the goal and with nothing to do and that’s not work for me.
Most of the games, it is going back and forth, so it is a lot of work and I really like it because I am the last person on the field (laughs). And when we do not win, we want to win the next one. In this year’s team, since I arrived, I have noticed that when we start to win the games, the girls get more confident, and it is nice to see it from the team. This is what I like about the team. I think we are really capable and that we are a good team, a professional team in the D1 Arkema league. Everything comes also because we have confidence in the team, and that we have older players that bring confidence into our game. The average age in our team is around 26, I guess, and there are not a lot of young players, and I am happy to be one of them (laughs).
JPT: To reach the third spot you should beat Lyon in December?
KT: Oh yeah (laughs). It will be a difficult game but as I always like to say, it is difficult, but it is possible. I am really looking forward to it.
JPT: You can also beat Paris St. Germain; Lyon will like it.
KT: Yes, for us also, we must beat all the Paris teams (laughs).
JPT: Could you tell us what is the strategy regarding your plays as a goalkeeper, when to go out for the ball, when to stay on the goal line?
KT: I think it depends on the team we play against. We also must follow what the coach tells us. More importantly, we must adapt regarding how other teams are playing. I am a very tall girl and for all the balls that come to the box it is just a matter of a lot of little details; Is it a high ball, is it a ball at the level of the head of the defence players, so you must always read it quickly to take the good decision. Obviously, for my first year as a playing goalkeeper in D1 Arkema league in France, I still have a lot to learn but I think it just depends on the situation.
Furthermore, in each situation, you have less than one second to make your decision if you go out or not.
JPT: Against Guingamp, they scored twice, how do you feel about not keeping another clean sheet?
KT: It was unfortunate, we got a penalty, and we got an own goal. It happens in a game, it is a game, it is football. But at the end it was a good result (6-2); obviously, it was sad that we conceded two goals, but we keep going.
JPT: How do you feel about playing against your ex-teammates in Lyon in December?
KT: I would say … uh … exciting (laughs). It is going to be a difficult and hard game, and I think it will be a lot of work for me and for the team. But we are positive, and I would say we cannot wait to go to Lyon because it is a big game for both of us, the biggest for us; We want to get third place and Lyon want to stay in first place.
There has been a long time I have not been there, and it is also nice to see old teammates because I have a lot of friends there. It is going to be nice to say hello to all of them and to the fans because it is good to have all these fans around. So, it is lovely to be there soon; in one and a half weeks.
JPT: Is there something you want to say to your fans from Fleury and from Lyon?
KT: It is very important to have fans that support you because that makes your carrier more interesting. Thank you for the support, it has been nice to get to know you. I want to make time for you and if you come by, I would like to say “Hi”. Even when I do not have time, I try to make time to see you. And Merry Christmas to everybody.
On December 5, 2021, Fleury played in Lyon and lost 4-0 in a tough and physical game between the two sides. Fleury showed that they were not in fourth place in the table by chance and gave Lyon a stern test. Katriina produced another good performance but could not really do a lot on the four goals as the gap between her team and Lyon is still pretty large.
Katriina told me at the end of the game that it was difficult but that they will continue to work and fight for third place in the standing. She was a little bit disappointed but at the same time very pleased to see all her fans in Lyon. Katriina spent a lot of time signing photos and taking selfies with her fans at the end of the game for the greatest pleasure of all.