Witch Craft: A Footballer Makes Waves in Paris’ Most Creative Club
Florine Kouessan is working to build a team — Witch FC — that reflects the world she lives in.
“Snap Shots” is a series that checks in with neighborhood athletes around the world.
Every football team needs inventive players. Witch FC is full of them. The Parisian club is made up entirely of female artists and creatives — a mixture of experienced players and others who are newer to the game.
We meet writer and creative Florine Kouessan, one of Witch FC’s star players, at the Saint-Paul playground, across the street from the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis church in Paris, a 17th-century Jesuit construction in the heart of the Marais. Florine discusses her love of the game and how she found her community among an unlikely team of creatives turned footballers.
How did you become interested in football?
My parents are originally from Togo, but I am a born Parisienne. I have two younger brothers, all of us close in age, which makes us a pretty tight-knit family. When we were growing up, all my entertainment and activities were with them and the other kids from our building. When you’re a kid, all you need is a ball, and everything goes smoothly. I didn’t have any girls with whom I could hang out, so you could bet that I would be found playing football or basketball at the bottom of the tower with my brothers and the other young boys that lived in our building.
How is women’s football growing in France?
When I was younger, football was definitely considered to be an activity reserved for the boys. My brothers would even joke sometimes that they only wanted to play with other boys when they wanted me to feel excluded. But as the years pass, I have noticed women insisting on taking their rightful spot. From the professional levels, which are garnering more attention, to the Women’s World Cup that took place in France last summer, to women being put under more spotlights in the media. Women’s football went from being underappreciated to not even being debated at all. Now, it makes sense to see it on TV and in magazines.
In the past two to three years, I have seen things that I would have never imagined before. I see commercials for women’s football, and they seem natural. I’m delighted to have seen this evolution, because it has motivated me to go out and seek a women’s team to play with on a regular basis. Even though I loved playing, I didn’t picture myself joining a squad, like I ended up doing.
Tell us about Witch FC.
Witch FC is a bunch of women who like sports, who are passionate and who are willing to bring their own sensibilities into the team. We gather around football, but the team is definitely a way to empower each of us. Together, we wanted the name of the club to be badass, as witches are the ultimate feminist icons. There are nice witches as well. But, as in roller derby teams, we wanted to have a collective name and not mention any [specific] location.
What do you bring to the team?
I can play up top in the midfield or in defense. I like to break a sweat and get my cardio up. I love being able to go box to box and change the fate of the match at both ends. The midfield gives me that freedom to run around, participate within the game, and even have an impact if my energy is high enough. My teammates say I have a good [energy] level and great commitment. That’s all I want from the game. I want them to understand that I’m fully participating and having fun.
“I love being able to go box to box and change the fate of the match at both ends.”
What’s it like playing alongside like-minded people?
As the team bond deepened, you see every single one of us rooting for one another [in our work lives, as well as on the field]. For example, someone wrote the screenplay they have always wanted to write, one of us paints more, I am starting theater classes with a teammate, and that’s a small sample of how solidarity amongst women can help us all build our dreams into realities. There is a tremendous amount of confidence that comes with being supported unconditionally by your friends.
Words: Massaër Ndiaye
Photography: Manuel Obadia-Wills
Reported: October 2020