Katriina Talaslahti: Living The Dream in Lyon

Jean-Pierre Thiesset spoke exclusively to Olympique Lyonnais’ goalkeeper Katriina Talaslahti about her career so far, what life is like at Lyon and her aims for the future.

Katriina Talaslahti was born on September 21, 2000 in Espoo, Finland and is the third of three sisters. She is Finnish and started at small club close to her home at the age of five years old following her oldest sister to the pitch.

She started as a striker and scored goals but quickly she preferred to try to stop the opposition strikers from scoring and began as a goalkeeper at six years old. After playing for FC Honka and Leppävaaran Pallo in Finland, she moved to Germany in 2014 at 13 years old near Munich to FC Nürnberg where she played with her sister Pauliina Talaslahti. She moved onto Bayern Munich one year later and stayed with them for four years until Olympique Lyonnais contacted her and signed her on a three year contract in July 2019.

Katriina has made several appearances for Finland’s National youth squad. She played once for Finland U17s squad in 2016/2017 and four times for Finland U19s squad in 2018-2019.

Above: Katriina Talaslahti during a training session with Olympique Lyonnais on 19th September 2019. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

While living in Germany, Katriina played for the Bayern State team for several years, of which Bayern’s games against the Czech team are particularly noteworthy. Also, Katriina has won the Women’s 2.Bundesliga Championship with FC Bayern München in 2019 and U17 Bundesliga Championship 2017 in FC Bayern München as well. She was selected the best goalkeeper in Southern States of Germany 2015. It’s good to mention that Finland have just qualified for the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championships in England.

Not a lot of people know it, but Katriina already played against Paris St. Germain and Liverpool. It was in August 2018 with Bayern Munich at the Toulouse Ladies Cup against PSG and in a training game against Liverpool. She was also in the Bayern Munich’s squad for a Women’s UEFA Champions League game in September 2018.

Katriina speaks several languages. She speaks Finnish, her native language, although she told me that she preferred to speak English during our interview because she was more confident to find her words in English as she left Finland almost eight years ago. She also speaks German fluently and is currently learning French. She studied in an English International IB School in Germany when she was younger and graduated there. Currently, she continues to study Business Management in University with online studies.

Interview:

Jean-Pierre Thiesset: Who/what inspired you to become a football player?

Katriina Talaslahti: My two older sisters played football and I never considered practicing another sport than football. I was born into a sporting family. My mother played volleyball when she was younger, and my dad was a really good squash player.

JPT: Who are your favorites women players (French and foreign)?

KT: I do not have like one player that I prefer, because so many women players get better and better, so it is hard just to focus on one. I really appreciate everybody because all of them have little things that are better than another.

JPT: Who is your role-model if you have one?

KT: I do not have a role model. I just have for the men side Manuel Neuer mostly because I used to play in Bayern Munich like him.

JPT: What is your greatest challenge on the pitch?

KT: On the pitch, my greatest challenge is to improve as a player and always win titles. It is not only for me but for the team; The challenge for me is to make the team better and bring my qualities to the team and try to help the team to win titles. Obviously, I think it is a great moment when we win French Cup or Women’s UEFA Champions League as a team.

JPT: What is your greatest challenge off the pitch?

KT: Off the pitch, maybe to keep the environment you are living in safe. I am very calm, and I like to support others. In Lyon we have so many foreigners that are far from their family and friends that we need to comfort each other when one is a little bit down. It is important to keep the friendship and your family close.

Above: Katriina Talaslahti training with Olympique Lyonnais on 18th October 2019. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

JPT: Who are your closest teammates?

KT: Jessica Silva, Janice Cayman and Nikita Parris. We used to get together a lot; we go out for coffee with the “foreigners” because we got to be very close to each other. For example, Jess and I arrived in Lyon at the same time, so we got really close, you know. I think I get along with everybody, but those people are the closest to me.

JPT: What do you like to get up to off the pitch?

KT: I like to get along with people. We mostly go for coffee (laughs). We like to go to the parc. Sometimes, if I am alone, I watch Netflix but that is not every day because I do not really like to be by myself at home. I love to explore and walk around to discover things. And obviously, I like to call my family and friends to know how they are doing. As a person, if I am busy, I feel happier. I would love to go to New York especially since one of my oldest sisters leaved in New Jersey, but right now it is difficult, and I will have to wait (laughs).

JPT: You do not play to video games?

KT: Video games, No (laughs).

JPT: What is your favourite animal?

KT: I do love Pandas; They are so cute. I am not really a cat or dog fan, and I do not really know why. Actually, my cousin has two cats and they are lovely and I love them but as to own one myself no. I do like all animals. I like giraffes too because they are amazing, they are so high (laughs).

JPT: What are your favourite foods?

KT: I like Salmon and mashed potatoes with vegetables like broccoli. I also like Finnish dark bread and then coffee.

JPT: What about Lyon specialties?

KT: I like French food in general but there are so many different names that I cannot cite one in particular (laughs). I like French food even if sometimes I do not know exactly what it is.

JPT: What kind of music do you like?

KT: I like pop music, you know what it is playing on the radio, and sometimes rap. I do not really like rock; it is too heavy for me.

JPT: What makes OL such a great club to play for?

KT: When Lyon contacted me in 2019, I thought “Wow!” I guess I did a really good job before to have a club like Lyon propose me a contract and I signed. It is just an incredible environment to train, and I am such a young player compare to the other players (laughs). I am young, and for me as a young player it is an amazing environment to improve as a player. 

JPT: I hope you will play more, and you are too I guess?

KT: To be honest it is a very hard situation because there are a lot of stars and it is really hard for me to play but it is a situation you need to adapt to, and I hope so that I will get to play more. I still have a long career in front of me and I know I have to be patient. That is my goal also to be first, I am not satisfied to be second or third goalkeeper, I want to play of course, and I think that time will come to me, I am one hundred percent sure.

JPT: What is your main quality?

KT: On the pitch, I would say I have good feet for my age, and I am confident. Even though I am around professional people, I can adapt very quickly to different situations. But I still need to improve, and this is why I really like training (laughs). Off the pitch, I am very friendly, but I have also my limits. When I have to do something, I have got to do it without delay; this is probably due to my stay in Germany, and my friend Nikita says that I do things the German way and that I am strict. I would say that I am not strict, but I am on time (laughs). I am also very flexible so that is probably why I can easily adapt myself.

Above: Katriina Talaslahti at Olympique Lyonnais training session on 22nd August 2019. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

JPT: What do you need to improve in your game?

KT: It is hard to say for myself and I guess it is probably easier for someone from outside, but I think I need to improve my concentration during the game. I think it will come with more years of experience and as I used to say, it does not matter which age you are, you can always improve. You need to have good mentality to believe you can actually improve and be better.

JPT: Is there a message you would like to give to your fans?

KT: Thank you very much for your support. The players miss hearing your voices so much. To be honest, when you are cheering for us, it means a lot and it gives us more strength. Especially for women’s football, we would like to increase the fan level like it is in the men football. I have a lot of men friends and sometimes they say, “We come to watch women football because they look pretty”. But I think that women’s football is going so much better and people are more interested in the way we play. Lyon fans, you come to the game and you cheer for us and it is a big help for us to be motivated and I really want to thank you for that.

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