Catching up with Leah Fortune
May 4, 2010
Earlier this year, soccer freshman Leah Fortune spent two and a half months in South America training with the U20 Brazilian women's soccer team. The team was preparing for the South America World Cup which served as the U-20 World Cup qualifier.
Fortune and the squad played in a handful of games en route to defeating Columbia for the title and automatic bid to the World Cup, which will be held in Germany, July 13 to August 1.
Although Fortune grew up in Illinois, she was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and has dual citizenship in both countries, enabling her to play for the national team. She's no stranger to the club though, as she played on the 2008 U-20 group that also qualified for the World Cup.
Along with training in Brazil, Fortune also balanced her academics as she was enrolled in online courses at UT. The forward recently chatted with TexasSports.com about her time in Brazil and qualifying for the U20 World Cup.
On her trip to Brazil: This is my second opportunity to represent Brazil in the U20 World Cup. In order to qualify, we had to place either first or second in the South American World Cup. We trained for two months and then traveled to Bucaramanga, Colombia. We took first place and qualified for the World Cup this summer in Germany.
On her favorite aspect of playing for Brazil: I like the passion that they have for the game. At that level when you are representing your country and playing in front of 40,000 people, it is just so passionate and intense. I just love the adrenaline. It's just a really unique opportunity to have.
On adjusting to the language barrier: The first time I went, I literally knew 10 words. That was my first opportunity in 2008. Now I can have conversations and I actually was able to lead a bible study with some of the girls on the team, which was really neat. I need a lot of help, but that's one of the cool things about living with a group of girls is that they all have the same objective- that we can come together, laugh, have a good time and they can actually speak me. They don't speak any English. Only one other person besides me speaks English, so I have to learn.
On the living arrangements: We were all housed together at the National Training Center. It's where we always go and it's where I went for the last World Cup as well. It's where the guys train and they are actually there training there right now for their own World Cup. It's an extremely nice location. It's up in the mountains, so that way when we work out, we can get in good shape with the altitude change. It's kind of has the whole feel of living in a dorm, but it's a lot nicer than a dorm.
On being a big name in Brazil: Soccer is just such an international sport, that it's really nice that I've been blessed with this opportunity and been given the chance to be surrounded by other cultures. Then being a part of it and being connected with soccer is just awesome. The next time I go down, I'm actually going to be speaking to an orphanage and to a church. It's such a great way to get to meet people and see them in their different walks of life. It's been neat. I've been extremely blessed.
On competing on the World Cup stage: When I was 17 and playing with the U20s, I had no idea what I was doing. I was in high school, and I was more or less going for the experience. It was something I couldn't pass up. This time, being one of the older ones and seeing the bigger picture, it gets me a lot more excited and motivated. The last qualifier was just in March and playing in front of so many people allowed me to see that bigger picture. I'm really excited to have a second shot at it and be with those girls again over the summer. I want to develop those relationships more and then come back to Austin and help take the Longhorns to great places. I think everyone wants a really good season from our team and everyone is really committed this year.
On what the training was like in Brazil: Well we have two-a-days. One practice is fitness and one is technical/tactical or just tactical or just technical depending on what the coach wants. It depends a lot on the players. It's almost like college where you are bringing a lot of people together, but you are collecting an elite team that you have to get ready to compete with in a short amount of time. We really have to work on the structure. We'll wake up and have breakfast together, and then we'll go out and have our first training, which is usually two hours long. We'll stretch then we'll do some kind of prevention, balancing, abs/core, or plyometrics. Then we'll have about two hours to take a nap and rest. After that, they'll split us up and half the team will do weights before the afternoon practice and half the team will do weights after practice. Then we'll have practice and we'll go back and have dinner. After dinner, we'll have an hour and we might have a team meeting or a speaker will come in. If there is another team playing somewhere in Brazil, we will always watch it. It's very structured and you have a clear objective that you have to stay focused on. We do get some afternoons off depending on what the coaches or administration feels is best. It's nice to just get out and see other people's faces.
On what she did during free afternoons: We would go to the city or town. We have about three hours and we usually just walk around or buy stuff if we need to.
On the best memory from her time there: There are so many that I don't know just one. I think it would be the last game because it was Colombia's first time qualifying for a world cup. When we played them, there were 40,000 people watching and it was really neat afterwards singing worship with the girls on the field and seeing how they have changed throughout the time. My parents were there and always support me in every country, which is just awesome that they can do that and I can have that support. There were just so many great memories. It was a great experience.