Tuesday 21 November 2017, 08:32

Much-travelled Falkon intent on helping Israel fly high

  • Israel have made steady recent improvement in women’s football

  • Lee Falkon a key member of the national team pushing for France 2019

  • The attacking midfielder is one of the few female Israelis playing abroad

Israel are used to doing it tough in European women’s football where there is often a significant gap between the top nations and those down the pecking order. Shock results are rare, but one of the greatest upsets in recent years was truly seismic.

At the tail-end of qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Israel managed to secure a win over four-time Women’s World Cup participants and recent UEFA Women’s EURO runners-up, Denmark. The scorer of that lone goal – arguably the most famous in Israel’s history – came from attacking midfielder Lee Falkon.

“Winning that game was, I think, our biggest achievement,” Falkon told FIFA.com. “For us, it was such a huge result. It is a really nice memory, but in the past now, so we need to create more moments like that.”

Falkon is optimistic that Israel can indeed achieve more milestone results, hopefully commencing with this week’s 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifiers away to Austria and Finland. The Israelis were undefeated in preliminary-stage qualifying for France 2019 earlier this year, and are in a highly competitive group that also includes Serbia and Spain.

Footballing wanderlust At present domiciled on the other side of the world with W-League club Western Sydney Wanderers, Falkon – the only national team player currently based overseas – will miss this week’s international matches, but will be available for the next round early in 2018.

A summer Down Under continues a travel theme for Falkon, who has also enjoyed two stints in Germany, bookmarked either side of a spell at Danish high-flyers Brondby. The latter came about after her goalscoring heroics against Danish.

“For me, it was a turning point of my career,” Falkon said. “It gave me the opportunity to go abroad and develop myself.

“I’m very privileged to travel through football. I get to do what I love and see the world. There are challenges being away from home, and you need to adjust to every culture. So there are new challenges every time you come to a new team.”

Falkon’s life experiences are far from ordinary. She grew up on a traditional kibbutz, and boasts an American mother as well as Polish lineage.

Long-term view Israel are just starting to see the fruits of a female academy set up to align with the nation hosting the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship in 2015. Promising results for both the U-17 and U-19 national teams suggest brighter days ahead.

But what are the short-term goals for the senior side? “The main goal is to improve with every game,” said Falkon. “We have some very tough teams in our group. Personally, I think we need to keep looking forward to the years to come and making sure young players have experience at this level.

“We are starting to catch up, but are still not there yet. At senior level we are hoping for better results in the years to come.

“Football is a very popular sport in Israel, though not so much for girls, but I hope that will change in the next few years. I only played in boys’ teams until I was 13, so I felt a bit unique in that sense at that time.

“I then had to travel an hour for training to play with a girls’ team. Where I grew up there is now a girls’ team for the first time, so that is another sign that times are changing.”