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Playing Soccer Overseas
Playing Soccer Overseas | GIS, Global Image Sports, Mike Kelleher, Yael Averbuch,

Yael Averbuch - New Soccer Ambassador for GIS

Youth Soccer News: Playing Soccer Overseas – Yael Averbuch’s Experiences

Soccer has always been an important part of life for U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Yale Averbuch and now she has embarked on a new role off-field; joining sports management company Global Image Sports (GIS) as a GIS Ambassador. In this role as soccer ambassador, Averbuch will share her international experiences with youth soccer players around the country, helping inspire and enrich their lives.

Growing up in Upper Montclair, N.J., she excelled with her club soccer teams, spending three years playing on boys’ teams with the BU12 and BU13 Montclair Mavericks and the BU14 Ramapo Wildcats. Averbuch also has the distinction of being one of the youngest players ever in the U-League, patrolling the midfield for the NJ Stallions at age 14. For all this and more, she was named an All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and U.S. Youth Soccer Association as a sophomore, junior and senior and by Parade Magazine as a junior and senior – despite the fact that she did not play for her high school team.

A prolific writer in her off-field time, with a blog for the New York Times to her credit, Averbuch is also an accomplished public speaker. Her most recent accomplishments include signing with the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Averbuch attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) where she started an NCAA-record 105 consecutive matches, tallied 32 goals and 29 assists, and was named captain for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Perhaps her most famous goal came in a 2006 match against Yale University, when she took the kickoff and lofted a 55-yard shot that floated over the opposing goalkeeper. The video of the record four-second goal has had over four million views on YouTube.

Moving on to a professional career, Averbuch was selected fourth overall in the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) draft by home side Sky Blue FC. She went on to play 41 games for Sky Blue over the next two seasons, then signed with the Western New York Flash for the 2011 season. In the playoffs her penalty shootout goal turned out to be the winner against Philadelphia Independence. That year, 2011, also saw the beginning of her professional international career when she joined Russian side WFC Rossiyanka. In 2012 she joined Swedish First Division club Göteborg FC, a team she helped take to the league championships.

Averbuch had been part of the U.S. National Teams system since 2002, with the U16 squad, earning her first youth caps with the U19 side before joining the full U.S. WNT in 2008. While not currently on the roster for the upcoming Algarve Cup, she has earned 26 senior caps in her career. Her best season so far has been 2010 when she started five of her ten matches and scored on a direct free kick against Costa Rica in a CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying match.

Recently Averbuch sat down with Mike Kelleher, Chief Operating Officer for GIS, to talk about her career.

Mike Kelleher: Since graduating from UNC, where have you had the opportunity to play professionally overseas?

Yael Averbuch: Since my college soccer career finished, I’ve played for club teams based in both Russia and Sweden, but I also had the opportunity to travel and play throughout much of Europe while on those teams.

Mike Kelleher: Where was your favorite place to play overseas and why?

Yael Averbuch: My favorite place to play overseas was Göteborg, Sweden. The community was extremely welcoming and supportive of women’s soccer and I had many wonderful teammates. I loved our home stadium and locker room, which had a very European feel. I really enjoyed the city of Göteborg in general, but also loved the style of play on that team and the approach to training.

Mike Kelleher: Where was your least favorite place to play overseas and why?

Yael Averbuch: I had a very difficult time when I played for FC Rossiyanka in Russia. I joined the team during a difficult time within the club and that turmoil really had a negative affect on my overall experience. It was interesting to travel to Russia and see a part of the world I am very unfamiliar with, but I didn’t feel very welcomed by the team and I wasn’t prepared for some of the challenges in terms of the language barrier and other obstacles that come with playing in another country.

Mike Kelleher: How did you gain access and the opportunity to communicate with teams overseas?

Yael Averbuch: The opportunity to play in Russia came through my agent. They had reached out about signing a few American players to help them compete in the quarterfinals of Champions League. Once I got back from Russia, I spent months searching for a good playing opportunity. I contacted everyone I knew who may have known of a high-level European team that needed a midfielder. Both my agent and I looked into all possible avenues. A former coach of mine, Charlie Naimo (currently based in LA), was the one who had a contact at Göteborg and put me in touch with the team owner. It was not easy and was a long process to find a situation that fit!

Mike Kelleher: What kind of process did it take for you to get onto an overseas professional team?

Yael Averbuch: It was a long process of finding the right fit in terms of an elite team that could afford to bring a player outside the European Union (in some leagues there are logistical or financial rules limiting this) and needed a central midfielder. I also had decided that I wanted to ideally play in Sweden, but was also open to Germany and France. So, first I narrowed down where I wanted to be and what type of team was ideal (a team in Champions League was a big plus for me). Then my agent and I had to figure out what the options were, and there were not many. I feel very fortunate that Göteborg needed a midfielder at the time when I was looking.

Mike Kelleher: What is your most memorable overseas experience?

Yael Averbuch: I definitely had a bunch of very memorable experiences, but perhaps at the top of my list is winning the Swedish Cup final at our home stadium in Göteborg. We played against Tyresö, who on paper should have destroyed us. They have Marta, Caroline Seger, Verónica Boquete, and many other full international stars on their team (also currently American stars Christen Press, Whitney Engen, and Meghan Klingenberg). We beat them, in what was a massive upset, and were able to lift the trophy in front of our home crowd. Plus, my sister had traveled from the US to visit and she was at the game. A very special moment!

Mike Kelleher: What are the pros of playing overseas?

Yael Averbuch: Playing overseas allows you to experience a different culture and language and live in a new city. Those experiences are wonderful life experiences and it’s amazing that soccer can help create them. Soccer-wise playing overseas is very eye-opening in terms of adapting to a new playing style and expectations. I faced many new challenges in training that forced me to adapt and learn. I also really appreciated hearing a completely different outlook on the game and many new tactical and philosophical ideas.

Mike Kelleher: What are the cons of playing overseas?

Yael Averbuch: It can be very lonely to move to a new city across the world and try to make a life. Often, the language barrier can be challenging. It is very difficult to build a life off the field and can put a lot of stress on what goes on on the field for that reason.

Mike Kelleher: What are the differences between playing overseas and in America?

Yael Averbuch: Overseas, the game has such a rich cultural tradition. Soccer is everyone’s main focus and people everywhere are more aware of the nuances of the game. In the US, the expectations for women’s soccer are that there will be nice facilities and larger crowds than what is expected many times overseas. Player for player, I would say that there is usually a higher level of individual talent and athleticism in the US. Overseas, there is more of an emphasis on the technical and tactical areas generally and working together as a cohesive unit.

Mike Kelleher: In what ways do you think the women’s game, globally, should improve and what should they focus on more?

Yael Averbuch: The global women’s game has made huge strides in the last 5-10 years from what I have seen. Systems for player development and full professional leagues are cropping up in countries all around the world. I think that as funding and interest continues to increase, the level will naturally get much higher and more competitive.

Related Article: Overseas Opportunities For Young Soccer Players

Global Image Sports (GIS) is a sports management company that provides opportunities and experiences in partnership with such clubs as West Ham United, UC Sampdoria and Chievo Verona. In addition to camps such as those for Wolves FC Academy, GIS also organizes tours for youth teams and assists clubs with direct access to coaching education and player opportunities with partner clubs. For more information on what GIS can provide to youth soccer clubs, email Mike Kelleher at  mike@globalimagesports.com.

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