Q&A: Getting to know Lucy Goffe, Villarreal Academy Content Manager and Coach
We sat down to speak to Lucy Goffe about her involvement in the growth of the International Department at Villarreal CF, as well as what the club is aiming to do in the future to reach more players and fans around the world.
What got you into football?
I started playing football when I was about five years old. I’ve got a twin sister and we both fell in love with the game around that time. One of the local football clubs in my native city of Birmingham, England came to our school to hold an after-school football club and we both loved it straight away and actually found we were quite good at it, so it just went from there really.
I love so many things about football; the competitive aspect of course, the fact that it keeps you fit, the friendships and social benefits. I think sports in general really teach you lessons that help you for the rest of your life.
You’ve played in England, the United States and Spain, what were the differences in the playing styles?
That’s one of the things I enjoyed most in my career, getting to play with and against players from different cultures and experiencing the different styles of play that came with that.
Obviously, I grew up playing in England as that’s where I’m from and I did love a good, scrappy Saturday morning game. You know, playing in the mud when there was no grass in sight. I realise now that the English game is technical, but you do have to be quite physical too, especially as a centre midfielder I had to get stuck in. We generally played quite a direct game in England, always looking to attack and play the ball forward. As a midfielder I do like to play the ball around so I’ve always preferred the Spanish style in that sense.
I went to the US and that was very different too. The technical side of the game wasn’t emphasised half as much as the physical and tactical sides. We did a lot of tactical sessions before games and we’d spend entire sessions on positioning, where you’ve got to be when the ball’s here or there and how we were all connected on the field. With that said though, it’s mainly a very physical game in the States. They really stress being the complete athlete over there. We did a lot of weight training and worked on being as strong, fast and powerful as we could be. Again it’s also quite a direct game in the US, the defenders will bypass the midfielders at times. That style didn’t suit me as much, but it helped me improve physically as an athlete and I was fortunate to play on a team with a great mix of American and international players along with British coaches who preferred a more possession-based style, so it wasn’t the typical US soccer experience.
When I moved to Spain I was happy because I found a style of play I actually really liked. The girls are very technical here, and they prioritise that over everything else. They just want to be good on the ball. Many of the players I played with on the Villarreal CF women’s first team were some of the most technically-gifted players I’ve ever played with. We always tried to play a lot of possession football, they really value that here. I’ve really enjoyed playing in Spain, I get on the ball a lot more as a midfielder and can create more. It’s funny how you can be born in one country, but be more suited to the style of play from another.
Are you currently an active player?
I think quarantine put a stop to that! Haha not at the moment, no. I played last season for a team in Valencia, albeit on and off. I was travelling with work for a lot of the season, so my job has taken over more in recent years. I still enjoy playing but it’s difficult to combine my work and playing at a high level because both are big commitments. I hope to always be involved in football as the game has and continues to give me so much, but in terms of playing at the top level I think at 28 I’m hanging up my boots on that one.
What motivated you to move into a role off the pitch?
The opportunity found me. I wasn’t looking for it at the time because I was still focusing on playing, but my coach at Villarreal CF back then also had another role at the club and she put me in touch with the club’s International Business Director (my current boss) who explained that they were looking for help in the Press Department with translating content to English.
It was something new to me, but I found that obviously being a native English speaker that translating from Spanish to English came naturally to me. I started on a trial period with the club, then was asked to start working part-time, then full-time and I just grew into my role. I was really well supported by the press team at Villarreal and it was, and still is, a lovely environment to work in. There is a real family feel to the club and I was embraced by it from day one.
Explain what your role involves at the club?
Well it’s changed quite a bit since I first started. As I mentioned I started working in the club’s Press Department where I was translating all the content on the website and social media accounts to English, but then in 2017 I moved to the club’s newly-formed International Department. It was a natural move for me as I still continued with translations but also helped the club in its venture to partner with academies all over the world.
Nowadays, I also coach and have been lucky enough to visit a few of our international academies for tryouts and camps which has been an amazing experience. My role is quite varied, between creating and managing content for our international social media accounts and coaching I’m happy to be helping Villarreal CF to grow internationally in every way I can.
How has the Villarreal CF International Department grown since it started?
It has grown considerably. As you know, the town of Vila-real is very small with only 50,000 inhabitants. Here and in surrounding areas we do have a good fan base, but it is quite a small, limited area to capture fans at home as there are other big LaLiga clubs nearby up and down the coast. So as a club, our international market is really important for us to gain more fans and exposure for Villarreal CF and positively impact more communities.
Through the Villarreal Academy project we’ve partnered with many academies worldwide and had a real impact in the communities where our partner academies and affiliate schools are based. From the United States to Australia, Puerto Rico to Japan, Canada to South Korea, the Villarreal family just keeps on growing and it’s exciting to be a part of.
What are the plans for the club’s International Department in the future?
Going forward we want to keep partnering with academies all over the globe so the Villarreal family is spread far and wide. We want to continue to offer more and more opportunities for our international academy players to experience what it’s like to play here in Spain too. The more academies we have the more inter-academy tournaments we can organise as well, and our Villarreal family can feel even more connected. On the business side there are lots of opportunities too with sponsorship, for example. International marketing goes hand in hand with the Villarreal Academy project which is another big plus for the club.
All in all, the work we’re doing internationally is great for Villarreal. We’re growing as a club here at home in Spain and internationally, widely recognised as one of the biggest clubs in Spain and Europe, and it’s pretty amazing when you think we’re from such a small town.
How important is it that the club grows on an international level?
It’s so important. Everyone loves having a team to support from a different country. We want our fans from all over the world to feel a special connection to Villarreal. Maybe the story of Villarreal represents them in some way. A small club becoming one of the greats. A real underdog story. You don’t have to be from Vila-real or even Spain to support a Spanish football club. LaLiga is one of the best leagues in the world and a lot of countries don’t have football of such a high level to watch at home. So it would be great if we could have more Yellows fans onboard the Yellow Submarine from all over the world.
Also, the coaches, players and their families that make up our international academies are a huge part of helping the club to keep growing which has been really special to see.
The club does have several partner academies in North America now. How important is it to reach these communities and develop these networks in areas where players may not have the same opportunities?
At Villarreal, we believe there’s talent everywhere. From small towns in Nebraska to North Carolina, all over, and with our presence in these communities we can give opportunities to young talented players who may not have had access to such opportunities otherwise. There are many talented players with big dreams in these corners of the US and we want to help the players at our international academies to reach their potential as soccer players and as people.
Now for some quick-fire questions!
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
I think I’d like to be able to teleport (or “apparate” as us Harry Potter fans say haha).
What’s your favourite food?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
This is a tough one. My favourite singer is Eva Cassidy, but my favourite all-round artist is Alicia Keys.
If you could be any animal what would you be?
If you could pick one country in the world to visit, where would it be?
Egypt. I’ve always been fascinated by its history!
Tell us something that people may not know about you.
I’ve got a twin sister who’s one minute older than me, but I think I mentioned that earlier. Another thing would be that I like to sing, especially with my brother and sister.