Belgian football star Anaelle Wiard has landed in beach soccer determined to leave a strong mark in her country’s first steps on the global stage
One of the main protagonists in the past Women’s Euro Winners Cup was a quick forward, with great shooting abilities and a tireless fighting spirit. Not a player previously known on the beach soccer scene, but football fans might have found the face of the New Team Beach Soccer Brussels number ten familiar.
Anaelle Wiard was a regular in the Belgian football elite spheres, and she took the Euro Winners Cup stage by storm claiming the top scorer award on her debut appearance in the competition.
After more than a decade playing in the biggest teams in Belgium, including seven years at Anderlecht, where she arrived from FCF White Stars, and Standard de Liège. She has also been capped on 17 occasions for Belgium’s national team and won the Belgian Cup in 2016.
Anaelle Wiard made the leap to sand and she did so determined to embrace beach soccer with all her will, passion and motivation.
In fact, the moment she was scoring her first international goals on the Praia de Nazaré Anaelle was supposed to be playing against giants Standard de Liege in a league game with Eendracht Alost, her current team, but she had been in no doubt: she would not miss the Euro Winners Cup, the most special event in her new passion: beach soccer.
Although she came onto on the beach just some months ago, with her first experience taking place in June, beach soccer has become one of her main priorities in life. “I heard about the New Team Beach Soccer project in Braine, and I decided to come and give it a try. I came for one training session, and a little after we had our first tournament in France. As soon as I began, I immediately loved it, and now I’d even consider giving up football to concentrate on beach soccer.”
After having played eleven-a-side football at the highest level for more than a decade, the impressions and feelings evoked in beach soccer are unique, as she explains: “You get very different sensations than in football. The surface is different, the sand makes everything change, and it makes you focus and master every single technical movement. Moreover, I am a forward, and I love scoring goals… and there are plenty of them in beach soccer!”
But it is not only what Anaelle finds in the game, but everything being a beach soccer player entails. “Also, the spirit of the team, of the sport, is something so unique. Not only on the pitch, but being able to live with all the girls, and experience beach soccer in such a way is really fantastic.”
Being used to controlling the ball on grassy football pitches in the Belgium, the physics of the modality she was getting to know would make things far from easy, despite her huge talent: “Without a doubt, what I found most difficult was the behavior of the ball, how it bounces on the sand. It is just so difficult to get used to in the beginning. I got so frustrated in my first training sessions, like if I didn’t know how to play with my feet anymore!… But at the same time it is a challenge that demands quick learning and improves your technique a lot. You need to keep focused to avoid the ball falling in the holes, otherwise it is impossible to shoot or pass accurately. It is completely a different mastery, and this is what I am training a lot with New Team…”
But that was just the beginning… because after the first contact with beach soccer’s international level, she set herself some very ambitious goals, proving the champion breed she is made of… “The objective I have is very clear, becoming the best player in the world. Starting with Belgium, of course, and after plating with my club in different international events. Also, being one of the players that make part of the first women’s Belgian national team, and scoring a lot of goals for them.” Nothing less…
Actually, this mindset she is equipped with is just the origin of everything she has achieved in the world of sports, something she is eager to transmit to all those young girls that are just starting out playing football and beach soccer: “I would like to tell them not to listen to people that say that football or beach soccer is not for the girls and always have a ball at your feet. Train, train and train, because if you train hard, non-stop, you can achieve anything that you want. I started playing football at 16, I trained a lot, believed in myself, and made it to the Belgian national team just two years later.” This is how she leads by example…
Now her determination is focused on beach soccer, which she sees as her future, and what she wants to be doing in the coming years. Annaelle Wiard is not afraid to make the necessary steps for that to happen, as she has already demonstrated by telling her coach at Eendracht Alost that she would not be available for two weeks… and had no other option but to understand and accept it. “I told my coach that I give beach soccer the same importance as football. And if I was forced to make a decision between football and beach soccer, I would chose beach soccer. It is my main priority, so he has to understand… If he doesn’t…well, it is his problem.” She explains, with a chuckle…. “Beach soccer has given me new goals, new dreams… I never imagined I could feel like this, discover new movements, new stimulus, new objectives after so many years of playing football.”
This kind of athlete is precisely what dignifies a sport, what makes it grow. And beach soccer has found in Annaelle Wiard a very powerful and determined representatives amid a powerful and determined team, New Team Beach Soccer Brussels, who have been working passionately in recent months to bring on a group of athletes, under the guidance of Jérémy Chojnowsky, solidly building their way inside our sport.
You will be hearing quite a lot about them in the near future…