Interview: Valérie Durussel - SAFV Press Officer

There are so many amazing people working behind the scenes, helping grow football inside and outside the borders of their countries. Valérie Durussel is one of them. Originally a journalist, coming into football by accident - and now, working for the Swiss Association as their Press Officer.

HI FOOTBALL!

I was asked, back in 2013, to go to the first season game of La Côte Centurions, in order to write an article about them, for a regional paper. The sport journalist that I was did not even know people play American Football in Switzerland… I thought it would be the first and last time I would watch or talk about this sport in my life.

I remember spending four days doing my research and trying to “understand” the rules and be prepared for a sport I knew absolutely nothing about – except the “they wear a helmet and the ball is oval” thing.

When leaving the team after the game, my mind had already changed. Not that I had understood strategies, but the team and staff was so keen to help me and showed so much passion that I felt I needed to do my part to get them as much recognition as possible.

Two years later, La Côte Centurions president Gleb Iatsenia, suggested I could, (as French speaker journalist, who speaks German), help the Swiss Federation (SAFV) and here I am, doing my bit on a national scale as the press officer.

PRESS OFFICER

My role is to make the Swiss National Teams (tackle and flag) as visible as possible, to publish SAFV official statements, but above all to create the ground for SAFV communication to work on in the future. As I am the first one assigned to this role – the previous committee had the technical director to handle this task – I have started from the scratch in 2016.

This goes from collecting relevant players, coaches data, as well as producing pictures archives for SAFV to use now and in the future. Contact with the national and local press as well as providing communication advices to the teams is also a part of my role. Of course, at the same time I have to find tricks and ways to make sure the audience feels linked to SAFV championships and national teams. I have to find ways to make our fans’ hearts melt.

One thing for sure: it’s never easy. I want this structure to be as solid as possible so the effort made will not be lost. The job is huge and obviously never over, but these players, coaches, staff members and fans are passionate about this sport and give so much to be able to play, watch… This makes my role really interesting and exciting.


PROUD MOMENTS

I’m always proud when I see people giving all they have for a national team. The atmosphere and the energy are always so special and it really gets me.

End of February (13th) we held a U19 selection camp in Biel/Bienne, in order to get ready for the Euro qualifier in Almere (Holland) in June (2-4th). These guys had never played together, it was the second time they trained together as a team and I was amazed to feel their team spirit growing as much as their motivation. This made me proud, because the sleepless nights working and the stress is worth, if these young men give their best to be the best ambassadors possible.

I am also really proud to see the effort some clubs make to make this game visible. I heard about some projects and ideas that are just brilliant. Creativity and motivation are not lacking.

Obviously, I am really happy to see that 36 girls, who are now officially members of the Calanda Broncos, are committed to play tackle in Switzerland. They are the only team at the moment, but SAFV hopes to soon have a first women Swiss champion. This would be a huge moment of pride for a lot of us and for me.

WOMAN IN FOOTBALL

I don’t think men are happy when they see women accessing a position in sport. Not that they would all be machos, but because we (the society) did not let them get use to women getting interested in sport, and I have often felt concern when men see me for the first time as a journalist or PR.

But I think it is slowly changing. As a response to that, I see myself thinking way ahead to try to prevent the “she can’t understand, she is a girl” attitude. This means surely background work to prove I am here to work and not be the pretty thing.

I developed a good social and psychological analysis that, most of the times, helps me being treated as a PR or journalistic job and not a woman. I also quickly found out that the phrase: “I understand this, I saw this, but not that, please help me” is gold. Because it contrasts from the arrogance, one – journalist, player, fan etc - can have when speaking about sport. But, that cannot prevent everything.

The best way to overcome it is to talk about it and feel sorry for the person and not let it affect your job. In the end, I tend to think I’m not working to make friends, but to bring something. Ironically, this is what gets you friends ;)

ADDITIONAL TASKS?

Oh! I must say, I have so much to do that I haven’t thought about that. My focus is completely set on my communication and linked projects I’m putting into place.

ADVICE FOR WOMEN IN FOOTBALL

You can do amazing things. Keep on pushing, because the boundaries you come across are due to be lifted. There is no reason why you can’t join in and do your part, as a player, staff member, coach etc.

You will always find people who are not happy with you being there, but remember, it goes the same for young men too, when they try to not just be a player or a fan. Just be positive and try to turn every opportunity and experience into a lesson. And above all, don’t forget to have fun!
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