Having followed up 2016’s Olympic Bronze medal with Gold in 2020, Janine Beckie would be forgiven for feeling like she’s reached the top in the game. But like all great players at that level, she’s motivated by a competitive spirit that is not going to see her stop any time soon.

Janine Beckie popped up on most people’s radar back on 3 August 2016, when she forever marked herself in the history books for scoring the fastest goal ever at the Olympics, slotting home a pass from Christine Sinclair before most spectators had even taken their seats. Whilst that record was subsequently broken by Neymar two weeks later, it still stands as the fastest goal in the women’s Olympics.

Since 2018, Beckie has found herself playing for Manchester City. It’s a time in her life that has taught her many things – not least because of the challenges of Covid – and she reflected on her journey in the game so far with us, as well as considering the future and what else she hopes to achieve.

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Can you remember when you first fell in love with football?

Growing up I played every sport you could imagine; I have three older siblings and we were a very active family, think that’s the only way my parents survived us because it got us out of the house, burnt our energy playing sports. 

In high school I was a three-sport athlete: I played football, ran track and played basketball. And it probably wasn’t until halfway through high school. So in the states I was playing high school soccer and also playing on a club team and I was recruited to play for university and so at some point that conversation had to come up like what do you want to do. 

I was so in love with basketball and interested in continuing my track career so yeah, around that time was kind of when I started to get heavily recruited. If I wanted a future in sport it was going to be football. There was one uni that was going to offer me a scholarship to play football and run track and I thought about that. That was the uni of Maryland, but it was very far from home. 

Luckily, I was able to finish my high school career running track and playing football, especially nowadays you don’t really get the opportunity to do that. But I don’t know to answer your question specifically there was a singular moment, but if you ask my mom it was the one thing I was best at.

What was it like for you to grow up in Colorado and what was the football scene like?

Yeah, its weird, I think the states has become more of a soccer country than it was when I was growing up but even growing up in Colorado when I was growing up I would say its more of the prominent states in good youth soccer. 

So, I played for real Colorado which is a fantastic club. The director of the club is actually still there so we have a good link when I go home. Me and all my three siblings played for that club so we all grew up going through there and there is Colorado Rush, which is a great club and a few others who have come up and really made a name for themselves in youth soccer. 

Before I decided to switch alliances and play for Canada I was a youth player for the U.S. system so I was in there from u17 just up until the u20 cycle. So I grew up falling in love with sport as an American athlete so it’s weird to sit here and think that was my mindset. When I was young my dream was to be in the Olympics as an American athlete.

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What were those dreams? What were the real dreams as a kid did you fantasise about being a professional footballers? What was your headspace like?

I think as a kid I just wanted to be a pro athlete and I was very much up in the air what sport that was going to be in. But whenever I could get my hands on a ball or bat or anything like that, I would. I was just a really active kid.

When I dreamt of being an Olympian it wasn’t anything specific, but then you know I have an older bro who still plays pro and I remember watching the old World Cup with him and watching the old Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and those were my footballing idols growing up, so I think that pulled my heart in that direction in that sense because the World Cup is such a big deal and my brother is super into it. But yeah, as a kid I wanted to be a pro athlete.

When you went through a school and college, was football something you could genuinely see as a career?

Yeah, it was one of the few things at that time, going into university thinking there is a pathway after uni to play. Same with basketball but not at the same level, and at the level I was at I don’t think I would’ve made it. But yeah, I saw the pathway there for women’s soccer and for the national team. I was already playing with the youth team so so I had hopes that I would someday be at the senior level. So I definitely saw a clear pathway for women’s soccer and now its just growing, which is great. If I were to go back I think it would be an even more exciting time to be part of.

I guess you must have noticed so much change in the last two years…

Yeah, two years and the last decade, for sure it’s a completely new world. Still a long way to go.

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Going from high school to college… What was it like? Did your college experience help in the way that you can find out about yourself?

Yeah, I think I had a very different college experience to most – you know friends I had who weren’t athletes – I was always say I experience what most people experienced. I was just super paranoid about getting in trouble or doing something wrong because I was on scholarship so I didn’t want to put that at risk, so I feel like I was quite boring at uni and my friends were really fun.

I still had an incredible time though, and I was definitely still able to get the university experience whilst still playing, which was great. I do think it’s something that’s so weird because I don’t share that.

There is one teammate that went through the American university system, so she gets it, but I feel sad for them that they didn’t have that experience because it is really really cool and I think to myself I went to uni at 17 and I was nowhere near to being a pro at that age. Now I’m teammates with 17 and 18 year olds on my team and I’m like “how are you at this level already?” It’s great for the game but yeah its bizarre how different it is over there. But yeah, those four years they were absolutely vital for my development as a player.

I guess like the intensity of a 17/18 year old being put into that professional environment now, do you wish that players over here or around the world got a taste of those opportunities?

I think its difficult, there’s different levels, so my teammates who are 17 or 18 are thrown into the best women’s environment in the world and one of the best women’s teams in the world, whereas I think some do have more of a development experience of maybe a different club.

I have a couple young teammates that are still going to college whilst playing professionally, which is a good environment for them to have and helps you grow in maturity but its such a vital time in your life to make mistakes and learn about yourself. You know a lot of these players, even in the mens game… you kind of skip that part of your life, but for me that was so pivotal in my development, and it aided me becoming who I am.

I wish there was a bit more of transition for them but from a footballing perspective its fantastic that you’re being thrown into the one of the best environments in the world. You know what they are going to be like in the next 10 years!

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From Houston to Manchester, how would you describe the highs and lows of such a mad change?

Yeah I’ve had an interesting career, I got drafted after college to play two years in Houston. That was the first pro experience I had and it was an interesting time because my rookie year was the year of the 2016 Olympics so I missed quite a big chunk of the season to be at the Olympics, but went away and won a bronze medal, which was pretty cool.

So I started my pro career on a high and I was in an environment where we had good players but I was able to kind of float a bit and still be a consistent face in the starting XI and play a lot of minutes so for me I wasn’t challenged a lot in my environment.

Then in my second year I got traded to New Jersey. I actually found out on twitter that I got traded. They put it out to the media before I was told, not the first time or the last time that that happened.

I was away with the national team when that happened so had to go back and pack all my stuff in Houston and go to New Jersey, which was all the way across the country, never really had any interest in living on the east coast and so I was in New Jersey for about six months. Didn’t win a single game, didn’t play as much because I came from an environment where I wasn’t being pushed and so I wasn’t playing well and was very much in and out of the line-up. Very unhappy from a footballing perspective but had a great time there, I lived about three blocks away from the beach so I was chilling there every day.

About a month before the season ended, my agent was quite aware that I wanted to get out and I wasn’t ready to go overseas but he had known that was on the cards for me over the next couple years and I was actually driving home from training one day and he picked up the phone and said Man City is looking for a forward, they need an answer by tomorrow. This was a Wednesday and the transfer window closed the following Wednesday, so I was like ‘let me call my mom’.

In 15 minutes we had decided that I needed to go. I needed to get out of here, have a 180 life change. So, I called my agent back and said lets do it and the next day I was on the phone with the coach and they were really excited about having me, and they wanted to get me over asap.

Then it was an absolute nightmare trying to get out of the club, get the transfer sorted over the weekend. Ended up signing the contract late Tuesday night before the window closed so I didn’t get much sleep. Two weeks later I’m here! Would’ve never thought I would have stayed as long as I have when I originally moved here, only signed a one year contract and yeah its been a massive rollercoaster of almost four seasons, but my life is here now.

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What has been the hardest moment in football you have had?

I would say it was when I was cut from the roster for the 2015 World Cup. That was the first negative experience in my life, cut from a team because I was not ready or not good enough and it was a really big wake up call.

You’re not in an environment where people have been the best in their team all their life and that’s similar here: we all have a shared experience of this being the most elite that women’s football can get.

I have a very good relationship with the coach that cut me so that made things a little bit easier. But I will say that his words, “we don’t think you’re ready”, are difficult to hear in every realm of life. You know you want to make this big step in your career or your personal life.

Luckily there was the Pan-American games and it was a very young team so I was one of the older players and that was such an incredible experience. I played all the minutes and after made the 2016 Olympic roster in itself, but also a year earlier having had that experience with the complete devastation and thinking you know that was after spending seven/eight weeks living in residency doing two a day for seven weeks straight, getting ready for the World Cup and then put all that work in and don’t reap the benefits of being in the team. And it was a home World Cup in Canada so that was a really difficult moment for me.

I got to play in the 2016 World Cup, I had a really big role in that team, I played more than I expected to, scored three goals and yeah, it was what helped rocket my pro/international career.

What have you got in your headspace that when you were cut, you got yourself in a better position a year later?

I’m a very competitive person but that’s the way I was raised. I had just made my debut with the team the November prior, so I finally got my chance and then it feels like it’s been squashed. So, I do think that sometimes being motivated from a place of frustration or of anger can be dangerous because it forces you to operate off that which is not what I want to do but I know that I’m good enough to be here.

I want to prove myself right and the feeling that I have that I belong here is valid and I don’t need anyone else to tell me that I’m not good enough so I made a promise to myself that wasn’t going to be my reality anymore, being cut from a major roster. So I definitely had those thoughts.

Watching that summer tournament was really difficult as well. The mental aspect of the game is the most difficult thing because it changes all the time, mega lows, times that I haven’t been able to get myself out of there myself but I think its also really exciting time to be part of the game in that space because there is so much more acceptance because its actually totally fine to have those issues and not just like sport mental health in general but in sport as well we are not robots, we are human beings and compete in an elite sport which is one of the most difficult professions to handle in terms of pressures and expectations.

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There are so many things you should be immensely proud of. What have been those moments of pure ecstasy for you? Take away the most recent one in winning the Olympics, but what have been the most intricate moments?

There’s two things for me: the in game elation moments and then there is the moments I will remember for the rest of my life in terms of what goes on behind the scenes. Especially with the national team like we just have an amazing culture, I’ve never been in an environment like it and won’t be in a better one than the one we already have.

It’s just all the small things that even in the Olympics with things to pass the time with Covid: playing games, staying two hours after meals, chatting with teammates. When I think about on pitch things, one of my favourite goals I’ve ever scored was the first goal scored in the Rio 2016 Olympics, it was 19 seconds into our first game against Australia and I just remember getting back to the halfway line and honestly needed to sit down after celebrating but then there was just so much adrenaline and there are just moments that no other thing in the whole world will give you that feeling.

Going back to one of the first things you said there, just to be able to say about the Olympics, that’s got to feel absolutely incredible, about the goal you scored...

Its actually quite funny because it was an Olympic record, but then four days later Neymar broke it, ha!

Its just a ridiculous achievement on any level… You mention things away from the pitch, what would you say your passions are?

I just really love to be around people. Covid has given me more appreciation of being alone but people give me energy and I really love to be a presence around people that make people joyful and happy and I have a passion for helping people.

We also have an obligation as athletes with the platform that we have to help people whichever way that is. For me I have much more of a passion for hands on things, like spending time with people but in terms of more fun things I really love to cook and bake. I am obsessed with coffee; I have like three or four a day, which is not good for my heart but good for the soul. I am very passionate about fitness and having a healthy lifestyle.

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One thing you said there with the obligation to help, helping people, how do you feel as a female player, its almost assumed that female players should be talking about issues in football with lots that need to change and totally respect anyone that does want to put themselves out there to change things, but its almost like it comes with the job whereas a male player doesn’t get asked…

That’s an interesting point. I think that what I would boil it down to is if there is an issue in men’s football, everyone else is talking about it, so its talked about in the media, by the staff, talked about by the players and so they don’t have to talk about it because people are already aware, whereas in women’s football people don’t talk about it so if we don’t…no one will.

In terms of the attention on women’s football it goes without saying it’s just not the same. The pay discrepancy issue, Sky Sports aren’t talking about this but if Lucy Bronze puts out a tweet then people pay attention because its Lucy Bronze and its like if the players are going to talk about then it must be a big deal.

Look at the attention that Marcus Rashford got when he started talking about children being hungry, and it absolutely blew up. That happens in women’s football on a much smaller scale, much more often. So I do think unfortunately it does come with the territory and in some ways that’s unfortunately because its not being talked about but in other ways it gives us a really cool opportunity and almost validates the voice that we have because we have to do it or things are not going to change.

I think there is a positive and negative to that responsibility and opportunity so you can see it in kind of both ways, it depends what perspective you want to have. The other thing is you have to be very clear of what you’re saying and why you’re saying it and what intention you want it to have because people twist words and if you don’t have that very clear purpose that it very easily gets misconstrued. It’s a very interesting reality.

Looking forward, does the Olympics reset your standards and objectives and what you want to achieve?

I think it just validated my passion for being the best in the world, which still blows my mind that the reality, that we are current world champions, and that’s a pretty amazing reality to have. But I want to win the World Cup, I want to personally bring accolades for myself, I want to win the Champions League, I want to win more trophies while I’m here. You know I had my bronze, I just want to keep adding so I think anything if its just motivated me for more.

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And there is probably no better place to have that platform to go on a club level than Man City?

Yeah it doesn’t get a whole lot better than the setup that we have. We are in the forefront of women’s football. I think its amazing that clubs are very quick at catching up, the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, very very good clubs that are investing massively into women’s programmes and teams all over the world are doing that.

We’ve obviously had a rough start to the season, which I think in the grand scheme of things is going to be a huge blessing in disguise for us and has shown some areas of improvement that have needed to be made, but just to think about being surrounded by the best players in the world every day and even though we don’t have a whole lot of interaction with the men’s team just having those players and those influencers on the club is incredibly important. I’m a completely different person and player and hope I can continue to use all the resources that I have here to add to this accolade.

And Manchester as a city and England as a home?

Yeah, I spent a little bit of time in London and definitely say I prefer the north in terms of business. I got lost on my own a lot which was not fun. But yeah, I think it took me a long time to acclimatise to the culture and the weather and like the footballing environment here but I would definitely say that this is home for me now and I think that what is wild as a footballer is that your life can change at any time. But I would definitely say that I’m going to be a blue for life, it’s very quickly become a place very close to my heart.

People are talking about that quite a lot, of where you go next…

Yeah, my contract is up in the summer, I don’t have any intention of leaving but at the end of the day I have to do what’s best for my career and my life so yeah it’s a wild world, like I said, anything can happen. I just want to focus on winning as many trophies as I can and enjoying the process.

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Football gives you that opportunity to travel and see even different parts of England, have you enjoyed that? Being able to see different cultures and Interacting with different people etc?

Yeah, I feel like my first season I didn’t do a lot of that because I was really really home sick. It takes a really long time to move to a different country and like actually feel comfortable there, I definitely underestimated that.

So, I feel like I was really trying to get my feet on the ground so I feel like I missed out on travelling and then of course when I started to feel comfortable Covid happened and we were all locked in our apartments but that was a really special experience for me too because I got really close to people here and I had a roommate who probably spent more time than she wanted to spend with me!

However as detrimental as Covid has been to so many people around the world it was actually a very important year for me in my growth and development as a person. I Learnt a lot about myself and now I have just started to be able to branch out and travel a bit more up and down to London, which has been fun and yeah just even explore locally – there is so many things around Manchester that I have not seen.

Finally, has Covid make you look differently in terms of every moment now you make the very most of it?

Yeah, I think as I’m sure everyone has had a similar experience, its completely changed my perspective on even being able to hang out with other people, seeing live music or have fans in the stadium. Oh my gosh what a difference it makes to have fans in the stadium! I'm so grateful that we were able to continue to do our job for the most part throughout Covid but yeah I think its just life is such a precious thing.

The one thing I learnt in Covid the most is that I don’t think as humans, we are good enough at telling people how we feel and sharing how much someone means to you, but to be cliché we have to tell people in our lives how we feel about them.

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Janine Beckie wears the Nike Mercurial Vapor 14, which you can get at prodirectsoccer.com