Lyon is not just a club that can boast huge success on the pitch; it’s also a club that can boast one of the most eclectic mixes of personalities from all over the globe, all pulling together for one common aim. And chief amongst these characters is Canadian Kadeisha Buchanan.

Kadeisha Buchanan’s story thus far is not one you hear to often. Fresh out of college, she was plucked up by none other than European powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais. The French and European champions added this raw talent to the ranks, planting her vibrant personality not only in the heart of their defence, but also in amongst the likes of the inimitable Shanice van de Sanden and Balon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg. The result was the development of not only a powerhouse player on the pitch, but also of yet another special character in the squad; an individual who is unreservedly confident about who she is.

The youngest of seven girls, Buchanan has worked hard to find success, and it has come to her at a relatively young age. Talking with Buchanan, her confident qualities become instantly clear as we delve into her background, her love of music and her own bespoke tastes in fashion, as well as what she gets out of inspiring the next generation.

So to begin with, can you tell us about Kadeisha Buchanan – how would you describe yourself?

These questions are always fun. I think I’m shy at first. I kind of vibe with personalities. I’d say I’m quite an observant person so if I’m outgoing at the beginning, it means we vibe really well. If I’m being shy and quiet, it’ll take me a bit more time to get to know the person. So I’d say I’m a nice mix of both shy but also outgoing. 

Do you think football forces you to be outgoing at times?

I think you are who you are. When you look at social media, for me, that’s a pretty good reflection of who I am. I’m not the type of person to change what I’m like from one person to the other. I am who I am and I’m confident of my qualities. In the locker room, I think I used to be dancing a lot, really outgoing but just over the last couple of years, as you grow your routine changes and for me it’s about finding focus before a game so I’m probably more insular before kick off now than what I used to be. I feel that on the field I’m a different person though. I’m very loud, I’m very demanding. You wouldn’t see me being like that off the field. The pitch and the game just brings out my competitive personality. 

The move to Lyon. How did that come about and how did you make it your home?

It was a no brainer when the opportunity came around. I had just come out of college and I was fortunate to find Lyon who wanted me. I visited PSG as another option but I just felt at the time that Lyon had the high standards I was looking for with lots of great players. For me, I knew that each training session would push me to my limits and make me a better player.

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I’m not the type of person to change what I’m like from one person to the other. I am who I am and I’m confident of my qualities"

When you were at college, did you think you would be able to turn it into a professional career? Did it seem realistic at the time?

I went to college in America so by the time I joined Lyon I had been away from home for four years already. So I was used to looking after myself, adjusting to a different place wasn’t too difficult for me. I’m not a great French speaker but I did take it in school so I knew a little so that wasn’t a huge barrier for me either.

How about the cultural adjustment was that difficult to adapt to at all?

I’d say that I like those challenges. I like it if I’m not truly feeling comfortable from day one because it takes me out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to ever be too comfortable. I always want that fight, that fight to play, the fight to keep pushing myself forward. I’m most comfortable being uncomfortable in that sense. I think that is a healthy environment and mindset to have. I think it helps to have a goal in mind and to keep resetting those goals, too. Even when times get hard, if you take a step back and look at those targets you have set out, it can set your mind straight. It helps me get over the speed bumps if I think like that.

How would you say you have developed over the time you have been here in Lyon?

I think that from being here in Lyon that has meant I’ve become focused. It’s different here. In the dressing room in the States or Canada, you’ll have a speaker pumping out music constantly but here, sometimes we’re not even listening to music before a game. It’s a weird thing to come into but it works. I got used to just listening to my own music 24/7 and that has helped me concentrate. I do that to a certain extent when I go back to play with Canada now but when I hear a fire track my headphones come straight off and I’m back to dancing with the rest of the team.

Music is a massive part of who you are. How would you describe its importance?

Yessss. I listen to music constantly. Whether I’m happy, excited, cooking or cleaning. All the time. I listen to a lot of Dance Hall and Reggae but artists like Vybz Kartel are on all the time. Mix that in with the likes of Bob Marley and classic old school Reggae and my tastes are pretty mixed. I’ve been listening to the likes of Roddy Rich, Lil Baby, Lil TJ and all that kind of stuff recently as well.

You only have to scroll through instagram to see your style come through. From vintage Jordan jackets to an impressive sneaker collection - how would you describe your taste?

I wouldn’t say I’m a vintage style person in the main but that jacket in particular matches my style. The black and purple on that jacket is so cool. I would say my parents were quite stylish back in the day. They still are but I got a lot of my tastes and influence from them. They’re both Jamaican and I remember my dad always having a lot of gold chains and jewellery and my mum was almost a bit more hippy. She would have red hair one day, blue the next so I got a lot of that love for vibrancy from them.

What do you make of football and fashion crossing over when you see that? What’s it like in the Lyon changing room?

I’d say it’s all very different. My dress-sense has more Toronto influence. The French style is completely different to the English. Then there’s players like Shanice who just set the bar. I think it’s cool to see these different characters and flavours. You see so many different approaches to fashion and how people carry themselves. I think without being biased, Shanice’s style is off the charts. The way she switches it up is great. Being around her, you see how it changes in Fall/Winter with a boyish look and then in the summer you’ll see a girly side to her. I don’t think everyone can interchange like that. Usually people are one or the other – she has the ability to mix it up and carry off so many looks.

Would you ever be one to design your own brand and put your own line out there?

I’d say I’m more into sneakers. I’d love to design my own pair of Jordan’s over a clothing line I’d say. I could see myself getting more into that one day. I would love to make my own signature shoe. I’d love to create a sneaker with my touch and my background, it would be sick.

What is that sneaker collection like?

Some people would call it massive but I don’t think it’s that crazy. I wear a lot of Jordan’s, I like a lot of Off White, classic Air Force, Feat Of God, they’re my go-tos. When we’re talking Jordan’s I’ve no idea how many I’ve got but it’s a lot. I like the 1’s and the 11’s as my favourite.

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How about travel and seeing the world? Coming over here, playing for Canada, have you enjoyed being able to explore?

Yeah, I definitely like travelling and exploring different countries. I think it opens your mind to new things, new cultures and it makes you appreciate different people. It makes you less close minded. Sometimes it makes you more appreciative of what you have and what you take for granted. If you go to different parts of the world and see how other people live, it makes you grateful for all the things you have. It makes you look at things differently. There’s a quality of life in France that’s special – even the way they enjoy their bread and take time over their meals, it’s a different pace.

Have you been able to explore France at all while you’re here?

I haven’t done so much yet but I’d like to get to Marseille and Montpellier. I’ve been to Paris and enjoyed that city. I need to do more when the time is right.

On the pitch, how demanding is life at the top of the women’s game. Can you talk us through a day in the life?

It’s very demanding when you add in all the media appearances and interviews [laughs], it’s fun. Normally, I’ll get up and make breakfast or go to get breakfast at the club. Then we have a hard two hour training session. Then we have lunch at the club, then you’re free for the rest of the day to do any extra work, get any treatment and massages. That works well for me and my body. Then you can settle into the evening and chill.

How have you found the different characters and personalities at Lyon? Has it been easy to integrate yourself into that?

I love it. I love all the different personalities, the different cultures, the different nationalities. You learn and experience so much. Take the French players, some are French but are from the Caribbean. With me having a Jamaican background, there’s all these different cultures flying around and mixing. Players from Cameroon give us an African vibe. I’d say everyone has a deep background from all over the world.

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I don’t want to ever be too comfortable. I always want that fight, that fight to play, the fight to keep pushing myself forward. I’m most comfortable being uncomfortable in that sense"

Lyon are out there as a club with so much talent and a club that have invested in women’s football well. Have you noticed a growing spotlight over the last few years?

I still think even though we win a lot of things and the club is very big, I think those changes are more noticeable on the international level. Even in the US, the league that they have there, they will get more attention when they go into camp and it all becomes about Team USA. I think it’s the same for France and America. The World Cup and the Olympics are obviously huge and the whole world tunes in. While the Champions League is big, we still need more eyes on the club level. You could mention players with massive profiles but not know which team they’re playing for. You’d know they’re an international player but wouldn’t know their club team.

What is the experience like playing on the international stage?

It’s an incredible experience. It’s so cool. There’s so many eyes on the game and you have your whole country rooting for you and you have little girls messaging you, looking up to you. I think it’s cool when you see young girls from other countries message you even though you’re not  playing for their country. It shows the reach you have. They admire you as a person which is a very special feeling. The pressure that comes with that is different too. For me, having all the eyes on you, I embrace that pressure, I thrive on it. I welcome it with open arms. It’s not something everyone has.

You’re very chilled and humble about your experiences. The world’s most successful club, major tournaments like World Cups and Olympics, you have done so much…

Yeah I mean, going from college to Lyon and playing for the national team perhaps on paper doesn’t show how it played out behind the scenes. It’s not ordinary for a college player to move to a club like this and to play for Canada. These steps have really helped me improve. Playing for Canada really pushed me in an upward direction. The speed of play, the professional standard – it showed me the level I had to aim towards and showed me I could do it.

The Olympics were pushed back but how hungry are you to get to Japan and play in that tournament?

That experience and being close to gaining that experience, what I’ve learnt since the last Olympics, my mind now shifts to not just being there but “can you win gold?”, “I want to get a medal”. That’s my main aim. I want to fine tune myself to put my team at the highest level and giving us the greatest opportunity of obtaining a medal.

Some people may just be happy going to an Olympics, I love that your aspirations are to better than settling for that…

I think it comes from experiencing it before. When I was there before, just being there was a dream but once you have that under your belt, you’re then looking at the next thing. You’re asking yourself what you can do to be better. If we do better than last time, we’re looking at silver or gold. So the final is where I want to get to and what my sights are on.

What are your dreams now given all that you have experienced so far?

I think about going to charity camps. I’d like to do one of those one year. Go places and help kids and just help make a better life for them. For me, I’m not trying to change the game or the world but if I can go somewhere like that and change one or two girls’ futures for the better, I will have done a great thing. I can’t change everyone but if I can touch one or two lives, it will spread. Helping one or two girls, it can mean that maybe they go on to do the same for another couple of girls and so on. We can all help each other and change peoples lives that way. 

As your profile grows and the influence you have on others becomes greater, what messages have you received out of the blue from people?

I’ve had messages from kids' mothers telling me how much I’ve inspired their daughter, telling me their child is trying so hard to make a team and to get where I am. Those messages show that you can help people to achieve their dreams. I often get messages asking for advice and it’s nice to be able to support in that way. I’ve not had it easy and I’ve been cut from teams in the past and that could have ended my career, it’s never a smooth road. For people to know that and to share your journey, it gives others who are striving for what you have, hope. I always say to people they just need to push and to get that work ethic right. If you work for it, you can honestly make anything happen, you’ve just gotta make it happen yourself.

Wrapping up with the turbulence of being a professional player, how would you describe the highs and lows of your career?

I think some of the highs would be the pride I can give my family. I have a big family and not everyone is where I’m at right now. Everyone has their own struggle but I feel that when they look at me, knowing we’re all from the same area and have come from the same place, that we can achieve big things. I’m on a successful path and I think that gives hope. We may all go down different routes and it’s never going to be easy but my work ethic has been huge for me to keep progressing to where I am today. I think the number one high is to touch your family in that way. The achievements along the way like winning bronze at the Olympics, that was a very special moment in my life. To finally achieve something on the biggest stage was huge and to do it with a lot of great people in my teammates meant a huge amount. That was awesome.

Low moments. I touched on it a little but that team I was cut from. It would have helped me step up to the national team sooner. That was a huge blow to take. I was real down and hard on myself. The reason I wasn’t picked for that team was because I couldn’t pay for the training. The cheque would bounce. My parents had six other sisters to feed and look after so their commitments are huge. The coach at the time got fed up and cut me out because of the funding. It wasn’t down to playing, it was all down to playing. I’m grateful for that experience now. I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for that struggle.

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Photography by Scander Aidoudi / Pete Martin
Styling by Bruno D'agostino
Hair and Make Up by Suky