PARIS, France - The first thing you notice about Laure Boulleau is not her skill with a ball at her feet but her perfume. “It is Hypnotic Poison by Dior. Do you like it?” she asks. Just like her football, it gets our attention.
Boulleau is an important part of the increasingly bright future at Paris Saint German, the club that recently signed David Beckham and is currently plotting European domination in both genders of the game.
Women’s football has always been popular in France, but only recently has it started to have an impact on the public imagination.
“Since the World Cup in Germany in 2011, it’s been enjoying something of a boom,” says Boulleau, being filmed as part of Ford’s Fascinating World of Football
. The French national team qualified without conceding a goal and went on to reach the semi-finals. They are now ranked six in the world having also reached the London 2012 Olympic semi-final.
Laure, a diminutive five foot three inches in height (160 cm), is a defender and at 26 years old, she’s at her peak. But she’s modest with it. “I only have one good foot, my left foot,” she says. “The other one is just for getting on the bus.”
Her playing style is similar to that of Barcelona and Spain midfielder Jordi Alba - dynamic with lots of short, quick passes and lay-offs - but her love for the game has its roots in England's Premier League.
As a teenager she liked to watch Beckham in the Manchester United midfield – making it extra special that the star has now joined her at her home club. So does she see a day when men and women might compete against each other?
“No. There is too much difference physically, and men have been professional for years. That’s only just happening in women’s football. But I think the women’s game has evolved in recent years as far as the quality of the play is concerned. Technically too, I think the women’s game is more fluid than the men’s game, with less fouls.”
Laure has yet to endure, or enjoy, the kind of adulation experienced by Beckham, but as PSG’s poster girl and an ambassador for Nike, she is getting a taste of it, appearing on advertising boards across Paris.
As a top player she can earn between 50,000 and 100,000 Euros a year with bonuses and sponsorships on top. It’s small fry compared to men’s football, but it’s good money in any other walk of life.
But whatever the glamorous distractions of life in Paris, football remains the focus, with Boulleau’s shooting prowess particularly to the fore. Her shot has been clocked at 90km per hour, about 30km faster than most women players.
And keepy-uppies? How many of these can she do? “About 100,000," she says, smiling, "but not in these shoes." She points to the pair of gold, high cut boots she is wearing, not ideal footwear for football, but appropriate enough perhaps for France’s golden girl.
This is part of Ford’s Fascinating World of Football, a 3-month series of weekly stories highlighting some of the more unusual stories of European football. To follow the tour and find out more about the support vehicle, the all-new Ford Tourneo Custom, visit facebook.com/FordTourneo