Since the age of six Lianne Sanderson has been tearing up the pitch around the globe. The former England national team player has played for Arsenal and Chelsea in England, Espanyol in Spain and with the Philadelphia Independence (WPS) and DC United (W-League) here in the United States. With the announcement of the NWSL back in November, Lianne has been patiently waiting to lace up her boots and hit the pitch again, but before the inaugural season begins she is taking her talents to another part of the world, India.
We caught up with Lianne while she was preparing her trip to India with the JoLi Academy, an academy she formed with Joanna Lohman.
Can you give us a little background on the JoLi Academy?
Joanna Lohman and I started JoLi Academy just 18 months ago. In that time we have been to India and Jamaica. Our aim and goal is to help young children around the world in areas that desperately need us. Our main target is raising the social status of young women because we feel there are not as many opportunities out there for young girls, especially in India and similar countries.
The area we went to last year in India was called Jharkhand. Their lives are planned out for them. This is not all but most in the village are born, live, get married by 12 or 13 and then go and live with their husband’s family and do chores and really have no way out. Our aim is for them to see there is a way out and that we are there, along with an amazing NGO we partner with, Yuwa. Yuwa was founded by Harvard graduate Franz Gastler who lives everyday in the village helping these families and young girls not only play soccer but teaching them English and about life. We don’t want to go to rich areas and teach or coach. I have done that in the past and they do not appreciate it, not all but some. These kids appreciate everything because things like going to school is normally a two hour walk there and a two hour walk back and they lack food and water. It’s very interesting because I have never heard so many happy kids in my life. They are so nice to us, each other and they love life with very little. It really puts things into perspective.
What does the JoLi Academy have planned for the upcoming trip to India?
We are running our own tournament along with Yuwa where six teams are coming from all over India. It is called the JoLi tournament. We will be in Jamshedpur TATA Sports Complex which is in northeast India. The tournament will run for five days. We will train each team at least twice and they will also play in a tournament. We will be teaching coaches things regarding how we like to train and what we like to do as pro athletes. We will then be going back to Mumbai to stay in the slums of Mumbai with some of the kids that are part of Yuwa’s latest program and we will be working with them. We are very much looking forward to this experience. Most people wouldn’t want to do it, but for us we want to stay with the kids. Staying in a hotel is an option but we want to be with the kids. It’s important to us. Altogether we are in India for two weeks.
You played for the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS and the DC United Women in the W-League, would it be a stretch to say you are planning on playing for the Washington Spirit in the NWSL?
I am currently in negotiations and talks with a few teams. Hopefully it will be sorted out very soon. I am very excited for next season in the new league.
Of the 8 home cities in the NWSL are there any you haven’t visited before?
Kansas City and Seattle are the only places I have not been to.
You are an avid Twitter user and have been since early 2009, what drew you to joining Twitter and keeps you using it now, almost 4 years later?
My dad funnily enough told me about it and I was like ‘I love Facebook dad. What is the point in shortening what I have to say to less characters?’ I didn’t get it. But after a short while I loved it. I loved following my favorite soccer players and I find it very personal, sometimes too personal but good for the most part.
I love the connection I can have with people via Twitter. New people, old, young. I love getting people’s opinion on certain topics such as soccer or everyday life. Twitter isn’t for everyone I get that but I love it. I love people. The only thing that sometimes annoys me about Twitter is how you have to now say everything in such detail otherwise people may take it the wrong way. I also don’t like when people abuse people for example celebrities, musicians or soccer players. some just get so many mean people. I don’t like reading that.
What role do you see social media playing in the NWSL?
I think Twitter is the way everybody seems to be going. It’s everywhere. Even CNN uses it now along with almost all TV and radio stations. You can tweet in shows, ask questions and post videos to YouTube. I think social media is a huge marketing tool now. I think the new NWSL has to just find a way of players connecting with the fans. Not only coming to see them play but also off the field and I think social media will be good for that.
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
I love music so I always listen to Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Kanye West on my playlist before games. I also love music in the locker room. I also like to dance before games, sometimes for a laugh. If it’s a night game I like to take a nap or lie down in bed and listen to music. I also never wear black cleats and I always wear my boots and laces super tight. I normally like to get my hair done and pamper myself before games. I don’t have any superstitions or go crazy if I don’t do these things, I just like it.
With being both a player and a fan of the sport, is there a special piece of memorabilia that you’ve collected over the years that sticks out in your mind? And if so, can you give us a little background on it?
I have a worn and signed David Beckham England shirt. My old manager and friend Vic Akers, former Arsenal ladies manager, has been the Arsenal men’s kit manager for around 15 years. So he always got me cool things and they are personalized. So it’s not only a shirt worn but signed personally to me. I have a lot of friends who are soccer players in the Premier League and around the world so I have a decent collection. But the Beckham shirt is my favorite by far.
If a fan wanted to get your autograph after one of your matches, what is the best approach they could take?
Just be nice. I sign for everyone and you can hold me to that. I think it’s so important. I see some players walk past little kids or moan and I think you will be old one day and wish you had people asking for your autograph. I love it and meeting new people. I remember how disappointed I would be as a kid if my favorite players blanked me or didn’t sign my autograph. It would upset me a lot and my dad said ‘remember that feeling darling.’ I love the fans we get. I have missed playing in the league.
If someone was visiting DC for the first time, what is a “can’t miss” sight for them to visit or see?
I would say the White House. Also all the monuments are beautiful. I like the new Martin Luther King memorial. They have a huge statue of MLK which is pretty cool. I just love DC. I can never get use to driving past the White House, the Capitol and all the amazing places I would see growing up on the TV in England. I still can’t believe I now live here. One of my favorite places for the view is the W Hotel rooftop bar and restaurant which is just next to the White House as you can see all over the city and see the White House from a great angle.
How did you ring in the new year?
We went to a house party of a group of fans that have now become our friends. It was great! There are two families, the Armstrong’s and Bloomgardens, and they are wonderful families that we became close with because their kids came to our DC United game and Jo and I were their favorite players. I am so happy we met them in our season.
Did you make any resolutions for the 2013?
I want to make an impact on people’s lives but at the same time remember to make myself happy and put myself first sometimes. I get a lot of pleasure out of making other people happy but sometimes I want to learn to not commit to everything and it’s okay to say no sometimes. Take more days off and have ME time is important. But I will work even harder this year then the last.
If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Confident. Outgoing. Happy.
If you could play a pick-up soccer match anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
I would say Brazil just because I have never been there and they have some of the most skillful players in the world and have so for years. I would want to play a pick up game and beach soccer with Neymar.
I want to thank Lianne for taking time out of her busy schedule to check-in with her fans and look forward to hearing about her latest adventure in India with Joanna and the rest of the JoLi Academy.