Soccer fans across the country are already familiar with Jessie Fleming and Sura Yekka. They both made their respective senior debuts last year and have already played important minutes for the women’s team.
At the 2014 U-17 Women’s World Cup, Jessie and Sura were instrumental in the team’s advancement out of the group stage. Jessie wore the captain’s armband and scored on a stunning free kick against the Germans in Canada’s opening match. Sura, meanwhile, commanded the backline, while working her way up the field as a fullback to create a number of strong offensive opportunities.
The upcoming U-20 Women’s World Cup is very close to home for them both. Jessie is from London, while Sura resides in Mississauga. When they walk onto the pitch at BMO Field for the opening match on August 5th versus Ghana, they’ll be surrounded by plenty of family and friends.
It was fantastic catching up with these two youngsters recently in Vancouver. The future of Canadian soccer is very bright.
The Road to Canada 2014 series continues with midfielder Jessie Fleming and defender Sura Yekka:
You’ve now had a number of months to take in what you accomplished at the 2014 U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica. What can you take away from that experience?
Jessie: It was pretty cool. We got the opportunity to lead our country and we got out of a really difficult group. I think it’s definitely something we can be proud of, but I think at the same time, we also learned a lot as players and as a team. We know what we are capable of.
Sura: I took the tournament experience out of it and being in a big tournament. It was about learning and growing from game to game. Now, we can take that experience and bring it to future events.
You have a big tournament coming up. For you two in particular, you have a unique opportunity to possibly play in three major tournaments in the span of a year and a half. How are you preparing for what’s coming up in August?
Jessie: For us, we’re bouncing in between the age groups. We’re playing with the women a little bit and then we’re also playing with the 20s. We’ll have a lot of preparation. We’re learning on all fronts.
Sura: That’s a really good answer. Same thing for me too.
Something else unique with you is that you’ve had three different national program coaches in the span of a year. You worked with Bev Priestman during the U-17s, Andrew Olivieri is your U-20 coach and then John Herdman is at the helm for the senior squad. How do you adapt to that trio?
Jessie: The good thing with the Canadian program is that all of the teams play the same formation. They all play the same way. As you work your way up the ladder of the program, nothing really changes. You’re just developing the same skills.
Sura: The great thing is, they let us be ourselves on each team. It’s also important to mention, like Jessie said, that they don’t coach different things. The philosophies are all the same and the tactics are all the same. It’s definitely not confusing and we don’t have to remember what this team did or what that team did. It’s all the same things. The only difference would be the teammates. They keep it simple for us, which really is super helpful.
Since you’re both from Ontario, what are the excitement levels like with you and your families knowing those first two U-20 Women’s World Cup matches will be in Toronto?
Jessie: I’m definitely excited because I know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My family is super excited.
Sura: I know my mom is going to invite pretty much everyone she knows. It’s just so cool because it’s right there in Toronto, which is right outside where I live. It’s awesome literally playing at home. It’s not just playing in Canada, but it’s right there.
Speaking of being at home, what’ it like to go back to high school after you’ve been away at soccer camps.
Jessie: For me, it doesn’t really change. I just go back to school and obviously, I have to deal with a big workload because we miss a lot of class playing soccer. Sorry, I hope that’s not a bad answer.
Not a bad answer at all. What about for you, Sura?
Sura: Sometimes people come up to me and say “Oh! I saw you on TV!” and sometimes I don’t know who they are. It’s pretty interesting. Then I have friends who have never watched soccer in their entire lives, but they watch it for me. That’s really helpful and it definitely means a lot.
Final question for you guys – What are your goals over the next year when it comes to your respective soccer careers?
Jessie: I’ve got that player I want to be in the back of my head. I really just want to contribute and I want to contribute to winning one or two World Cups on home soil. I just need to continuously develop as a player.
Sura: For me, it’s to become the player I envision myself being. I want to keep on improving from game to game and from tournament to tournament. I, hopefully, want to win a World Cup, whether it is both with the U-20 and senior team, or either. It would just be amazing.