Hey everyone! For those of you that don’t know who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Emma Coolen, I’m 24 years old, come from the Netherlands, and as of the upcoming season, I will play for KSK Heist in the Belgian Super League, that country’s highest tier.
The short version of how I ended up here goes something like this. After having played at the lowest Dutch amateur level for all of my life, I saw my first ever professional women’s soccer match in Sweden in 2013, and at that exact moment, I decided that I wanted to become a professional soccer player. I had just turned 20, smoked a pack a day, and had never shown any signs of being even slightly talented at the sport. 4.5 years later, my dream came true, when I signed for KSK Heist last month. However, the real story of why I was at the Women’s Champions League game where I had my ‘epiphany’ in the first place, is a little bit more embarrassing.
See, back in those days, I was a fangirl. And not just any fangirl, no, I was a die-hard US Women’s National Team Tumblr fangirl.
Sure, partly because they were great athletes that played soccer at a level I knew I would never reach, but mainly because I thought some of them were extremely attractive (I will fully accept all ridicule and teasing that comes my way after admitting this on the internet for the first time).
So, when I was sitting in the stands during that Champions League match between Swedish Tyresö FF and Danish Fortuna Hjørring, I wasn’t sitting there to enjoy some high quality soccer. I was sitting there because after the game, I wanted to take a selfie with Christen Press, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger.
And that’s not all: I had even gone out of my way to write the names of my three favorite Americans on a Swedish flag that I had lying around, just to get their attention…
Well, the plan worked, I got my selfies, but I also left with something I had never expected to pick up: a dream. A dream of becoming like them, a dream of playing at the highest level.
When I got back home I quit smoking, changed clubs, and started training every single day in order to make that dream become a reality. And while the road ahead of me is still long, and the adventure far from over, I never could have thought that I’d make it this far in the first place. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about that fateful day in Stockholm, when I went from being just another fangirl to a girl with a dream.
My life is completely different these days compared to back then, but one thing has always stayed with me: being a fangirl. For years, I was hoping to grow out of it, to become an adult and realize the players I idolize are, at the end of the day, just people.
When I signed for Heist, I hoped that the knowledge that technically, I will now be playing at the same level as my heroes would make me snap out of it, finally.
It never happened. I still scream out loud when a USWNT player likes my Tweet, I still screenshot their Instagram stories and I still have their posters in my room. Is that a bad thing? Maybe a little. In the least, it’s a bit awkward. But as long as it’s keeping me motivated to train hard every day in the hopes of maybe at one point play with or against those players, I’m not complaining! Let’s just hope none of them ever find my Tumblr…