Tess Laplacette – « Forever first »
In Marseille, the OM is in our blood, it’s a history of family, transmission, of sharing. It’s a matter of pride. In the entire south east, we display the sky and white colors, the Olympic is ranked as a religion.
I was born in Hyères next to Toulon, a few kilometers outside Marseille, and given what I’ve said already, I’m a bit of an outsider on the map of the Olympic’s fans. This will certainly make you laugh, but I’m from the only family in the region where we don’t care much about soccer.
Despite that, I’m going to become an OM fan. Very early in the school’s courtyard, it became obvious. I was 6 or 7 and it perhaps wasn’t the great OM that we know today but it was the team that made me dream. I imagined myself on the Velodrome pitch, like any young OM fan.
I was destined to do things following my heart and often with a lot of conviction. I loved the OM more than anything but it didn’t prevent me from thinking that Pauleta or Juninho had something. Being the odd one out has never disturbed me.
I built myself up like that, a bit excessive sometimes but solid and passionate. The cliché of the volcanic girl from the south? Yes well, let’s not lie, that sounds like me, on but also off the pitch.
I’m 7 years old when I start with the ASPTT Hyères (and not with the Hyères FC, I fell early into derbies), 5 minutes away from the house in Ayguades. It was great time for the ASPTT, before its merger with LA CRAU to volume up the feminine section. At that time, I can’t really relate to any female players. There isn’t even a female OM team.
At 10 years old, my idol has a name: Louisa Necib. She symbolizes the success of a soccer player from Marseille (even if she plays for Lyon), symbolizing that it’s possible to come from Marseille and make it as a soccer player. An inspiration.
Louisa Necib, number 10 for the French soccer team. I dream about being Louisa Necib and playing for the French soccer team. And also for the OM, but that’s another story for later. Soccer is a big part of my life, to my great pleasure. I’m gifted, even very gifted compared to my friends.
At 14 years old, things speed up, I’m enlisted in Clairefontaine and I pass a test. Well, I say “a” test, I should say “THE” test. No need to tease, you get it, I pass a test for the OM. I remember the day before very well: excited but not stressed. They day before you love when you’re a kid, the one before a special date where you know it’s going to be a great day. For me, it’s a day that going to change my life.
At 14, I meet for the first time the coach Christophe Parra and the captain Caroline Pizzala. Friday, June 6th 2014, is the first day of the rest of my life. The day that made me a soccer player in the league of the “greats”. I join the OM for the 2014/2015 season. I’m 14 years old and I’m going to play in second division. I’m 14 years old and I’m going to play in second division wearing the OM shirt. It’s been settled already that I would join the Pôle France and than I would travel back down on weekends to play the matches. The sky had never been this blue.
It had to turn a bit grey. When I arrive in Clairefontaine, Gérard Prêcheur who had recruited me, announces that he won’t be the coach after all. He was the one who had made me pass all the tests and convinced me to leave my native south to join the Pôle. For the tough young girl with a soft heart that I am, my moral is impacted. I had seen myself working with Gérard with whom I had gotten along and I go on feeling. I’ll have to deal with it.
In our generation, few went all the way, except for Mathilde Bourdieu who plays today at Paris FC. However, we’re close to the 2nd and 3rd years. That year, the Pôle is moved to the INSEP and I get to meet Elisa de Almeida, Pauline Dechilly, Elise Bonnet, Salome Elisor, Perle Moroni or the Cascarino sisters. A lot of great players who are now in first division and in the French team.
It must be said, I lived my best life at Clairefontaine. I was a bit naughty, not the last one when it came to mischief. Nothing too bad, just kid’s stupidities which we recall with nostalgia and that allowed me to grasp something essential in soccer: team cohesion.
Sometimes it was a lot of nonsense, but it’s all in the past so I can tell you about it. One night at the Pôle, we were in my room with Elisa de Almeida, Fleurestine Jaffrelot and Mathilde Bourdieu and we decided to do belly sliding. Just as it sounds: when you slide around on your belly. We put water and soap everywhere, we laughed our heads off and we didn’t get caught. I always dodge bullets, you’ll see.
Strangely, I don’t mind the distance, I like that independence, I feel “grown up” to be able to live out my passion like that. I see my parents every weekend and I don’t really miss them. I really enjoyed that independence. I wanted to fly solo and live as if I was 25. I wanted to grow up fast.
At 15 I’m playing for the OM, my team. A dream awake. I was paying with girls up to 32 years old, most of them are much older than I am. Even if I think I’m 25 sometimes, I remain the baby of the group, the little sister one protects. And I have great guardian angels: Camille Perrin, Caroline Pizzala or Léa Rubiot, the team captain.
First friendly match against Nice. Can you imagine: I was dreaming to play for the OM and that moment arrived and I’m only 15. I won’t just be facing my mirror in my room imagining scoring with that OM shirt like most of the kids my age. I’m in a hurry to wear the OM shirt and get on the pitch. I get chills just thinking about it again.
First season, I play every match, at 15! I love it! We end up 2nd, one victory away from Nîmes. We all believed in the rise. It’s a huge disappointment, I was already seeing myself, at 16, playing in first division with the team of my heart.
In my head, I grow up fast and in return I’m asked to take responsibilities. It makes me proud but it puts the pressure on. Too much so perhaps.
On the pitch, no problem, I was 1000% invested, may it be at Marseille or at INSEP. At the Pôle, all is well with the other players. It’s rather off pitch that it went a bit off. With new coach Didier Christophe, it’s didn’t go as I had hoped. All details aside, I’m thanked after a year and transferred to the Pôle Espoir of Lyon.
A lot of “firsts” for me that year. But that first “transfer”, I could have done without. I feel a lot of bitterness. And I learn about it after a big disappointment. We had just come back from a Euro U17 which was fantastic on a human level. Unfortunately we got eliminated in the semi-finals against Spain during the penalty shootouts. Despite that, it was a unique sporting event during which I met Marie Katoto, Ines Boutaleb, Emelyne Laurent and Elisa De Almeida.
When I returned from Iceland, I learned that I wouldn’t stay at INSEP and that I would go to the Pôle of Lyon.
A 2nd place, an elimination with the French team and a change of Pôle was a lot of disappointment to cope with for a 15 year old. In general, I feel everything with a little too much passion, so that was tough.
I am very angry, an anger that I’ve kept for a very long time and nourished and it ruined my life at some times. I felt a lot of injustice. My assignment at Lyon didn’t feel right and I felt horribly alone and misunderstood. No one around me could understand me. My family isn’t in soccer and the people who are expect me to behave like an adult.
I was the first at the time to find out how difficult it was to behave as an adult when you’re only 15 years old. In any other job, you couldn’t imagine a 15 year old coming to work and behaving like an adult, displaying the same experience as the others. In sports it’s possible. And believe me, it’s difficult to live with.
In the beginning, I felt proud to be considered as an adult. In the end, I’ve suffered with the feeling of not being up to the task.
We spend the whole summer in Hyères, I stay firmly at home. Mid-July, we start again with the OM. I then leave for Lyon with mixed feelings. I wanted to do a STMG class but they force me to do an ES class. It felt like an injustice and I became angry. I really felt everything was decided for me and it felt inconsistent. I was expected to behave as an adult but I was treated like a child.
Hopefully, on the sports level, everything’s fine. One objective with the OM: the rise. The first rise to 1st division. I travel back down on the train every Friday. I find my routine from the Pôle of Vanves in Lyon. A match on the weekend and back to Lyon on Sunday evening.
New recruits have come to reinforce the team. A team made for 1st division. Sandrine Brétigny, Nora Coton-Pélagie, Léonie Multari, Barbara Bouchet and Cindy Caputo. They fit in so well, they bring us exactly what we were lacking. We’re like a little family. Sometimes the “oldies” act like police because the “youngsters” get out of line, but like in every family, it all settled down quietly between us. A family life with its ups and downs but sincerity and candor allow us to tell each other everything.
It was good for me to be able to count on them. It took some of the weight of my shoulders. I realized during those years how difficult it was emotionally to grow up.
I think even more as an athlete. You have to be at your best on the pitch, otherwise you don’t belong there, but also you have to be at your best in school and in life. I wonder if people realize the size of the task when you leave home at 15 to chase your dream. It’s very trying to doubt, it’s even more trying to know failure, because at 15, you’re riddled with doubt and the fear of disappointing those who believed in you. Those who think you’re capable of succeeding, even if you’re only 15.
The OM has always been my team. That year, it also became my family.
A family in which you’re allowed to fail. Once we got caught in the middle of a foam battle with Cindy Caputo, Maëlle Lakrar and Johanna Orlando by coach Christophe Parra and we got told off like the kids that we were. Nothing more, nothing less. The coach set that up in the team: everyone had their own place with their own personality.
That year, I felt good at Marseille. At home. Sometimes we’re up to no good and we get told off but most of the time we share life moments. We fight together, we win together. And we win a lot.
During the whole season, we’re neck and neck with Dijon for the rise.
April 23rd 2016 is the day before THE match. That day is special because the 24th is also my Dad’s birthday. I’m so excited to be tomorrow, just like before my first test. I’m going to play THE match which is going to get us into 1st division, the one that will mark the OM’s history. The first rise of the team, of MY OM. Whatever happens, it will be written forever that together, we will have offered the OM its place in the elite.
Barbara Bouchet scores the first goal and Amandine Blanc seals our destiny by scoring the 2nd one at the end of the match. An explosion of joy but we waited to celebrate the rise. According to the coach’s wishes, we waited for the last match at home and the coronation as Champions of 2nd division to celebrate at Goudes in the 9th district, all together, staff and players.
I’ve waited all this time to thank them.
Today, I’m taking this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for making me grow up, thank you for allowing me to build myself as a player and as a woman. Thank you for offering me a chance to live my dream: to write a page in the OM’s history by becoming the first Olympians to reach the elite.
Thank you my pearls.
Arrière droite de l'Olympique de Marseille
Vice-championne D2 Féminine
Championne D2 Féminine