Friday 21 October 2016, 07:23

Bags of potential, mementoes and priceless memories


As any regular travellers among you will know, suitcases tend to weigh more at the end of a trip than at the beginning. The staff at Queen Alia International Airport, near Amman, are sure to have witnessed this scenario on countless occasions, and we would wager that they have seen some of those who have already departed the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Jordan 2016 go away with heavier bags than they arrived with.

Many of the youngsters who are still around will be leaving with a medal hanging from their necks, while the tournament's top performers will also be carrying a Golden Ball, Golden Boot or Golden Glove in their luggage.

These accolades and other souvenirs collected during their time in Jordan will be the last items to go into the players' suitcases, but what were the first? set about finding out.

Just like you do not head off for a seaside holiday without a swimming costume, there are certain tools of the trade that are obviously essential when you are setting off for a World Cup. "The first things I packed were my boots and shinpads," said the Mexican Dayana Cazares. "My pads are personalised because a team-mate's brother gave all of us a pair featuring our names and the Mexican flag, although I get tackled so much in matches that you can barely see the flag any more," she went on with a chuckle.

It was a similar story for Cameroon's Alexandra Takounda, although her spiritual well-being was also high on her list of priorities. "Of course, what I stuck in my suitcase first were my boots, because they're my weapon to do what I love doing and what's expected of me: scoring goals," said the Lioness Cubs starlet, who caught the eye with her fantastic flicked finish against Venezuela. "But alongside them went my bible because everything we accomplish is not just down to willpower – it's thanks to God's help."

Hard work and the wheel of fortuneThese teenagers are constantly learning, both on and off the pitch. Just ask Spain's Laia Aleixandri, who has impressed with her mature, intelligent displays on Jordanian soil: "I also brought along my school stuff, my computer and books, because we study during our spare time. We give each other a hand with our homework and exercises. We're all very responsible," she elaborated, before adding with a smile: "Well, most of the time… not always!"

Having the right equipment and a strong work ethic is vital for success, but fortune is another undeniable factor. For that reason, footballers are notoriously superstitious and often swear by talismans that they believe boost their chances: "First and foremost, I packed my lucky charms," said Germany's Giulia Gwinn, the scorer of three goals in the tournament. "I've got a few from my friends and my parents gave me a four-leaf clover. Those things are very important to me."

Of similar symbolic significance is Ghana goalkeeper Kayza Massey's teddy bear. "My best friend gave it to me and we're very close. I just had to bring it with me for luck." Massey must have felt that her lucky star was shining when her team equalised late on in their quarter-final clash with Korea DPR, only for her and the Black Maidens to concede a dramatic stoppage-time winner.

Massey and her team-mates have therefore already packed their bags and returned home. As will doubtless be the case for all the Jordan 2016 participants, what they took away included something more valuable than any object in a suitcase: wonderful memories and priceless experience that will stand them in good stead throughout the rest of their careers.