Lois Heuchan, a footballer for Charlton Athletic Football Club and a University of Kansas Soccer Alumni talks about her career in football. She shares her thoughts and insights on pusing for gender equality in football, the future of her game, and transitioning from college soccer in the US to playing for Charlton FC.
Sarah Fatima: What are your passions outside of your profession?
Lois Heuchan: I play for Charlton Athletic Football Club, and I am passionate about sports in general; whether that’s football, tennis, swimming, basketball, cycling and so much more.
Sport has helped me develop essential life skills. The skills you learn from playing sports are valuable and build your character.
How did you get involved in the sport?
Sport was something I grew up loving. It was and continues to be my escape.
With bills to pay, I was forced to find a full-time job. My time in London and at Charlton thus far has been very challenging, I work a full-time job in recruitment alongside playing.
What levels do you play at?
I began my footballing career at Threave Rovers, who were my local boys’ club and playing for Queen of the South Girls FC who were my local girls’ club up in Scotland. I played with both clubs from around the age of seven. I played on the Saturday for Queen of the South and for Threave Rovers on Sunday. This was the case until the age of 15, roughly.
It sounds exhausting looking back, however, as a young girl with bundles of energy, I just wanted to play as often as possible. I signed my first professional contract at the age of 16 with Celtic Ladies FC. I spent two years at Celtic and was fortunate enough to play under some unbelievable coaches and developed a huge amount both on and off the field. It was an unbelievable experience playing for a club the size of Celtic, however, I found myself travelling over four hours on a round trip for training and often further for games.
It would be impossible to keep this up. So when opportunities to play and study in America came up, I’d have been silly to turn them down. In the end, I accepted a full scholarship for a top Division 1 university in the United States, The University of Kansas. My life was incredible and really a dream for four years; I developed as a person and as a player, in ways I cannot describe, and I built relationships which I’ll have for the rest of my life.
In 2018 I graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications and my scholarship had therefore come to an end. It was the hardest day of my life packing up my things and returning to Europe; leaving my friends, my teammates, and the life I had created.
Shortly after returning home to the UK, I found myself packing a case again and moving to France to play professionally for French club Le Hac. Again, this was an incredible experience, and I built some strong relationships, including that with my boyfriend.
With a goal to play in England, I was only in France for a year before signing for the Women’s Championship side. Moving to Charlton and starting my life in London was scary, but another exciting new start for me. Unfortunately, my first season with the club was cut short as a result of COVID, but I’m excited to have just signed a new contract again with Charlton Athletic Football Club.
I really feel like home at here, it’s a really great group, we’ve worked very hard over preseason and I’m excited to see what the up-and-coming season brings.
How has the experience been playing at Charlton Athletic?
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I joined Charlton and moved back to England to play. I was made to feel at home very quickly by everyone involved with the women’s side; the staff, players and the fans. One thing that quickly became clear was the passion of my teammates and coaches at Charlton.
Everyone has the same end goal, everyone wants promotion. My coaches, the staff and my teammates are incredible; for a part-time club, it’s a very professional setting and the standards both in training and what is expected of us day in, day out are very high.
When I first moved to London, I tried to get by for as long as I could without working and being able to dedicate the time required to play football. However, with bills to pay, I was forced to find a full-time job. My time in London and at Charlton thus far has been very challenging, I work a full-time job in recruitment alongside playing.
My day starts at 6:00 am and I’m often not returning home until 22:00. Days are long and exhausting, to say the least. My goal is to play full time again. I really hope after COVID restrictions are lifted we can see a return from our both old and new fans. And for anyone reading this, when fans are safely allowed to return to football games in women’s football, we need your help more than ever. Get along with your friends and family and support your women’s teams.
What was playing college football like in the US?
Moving to the US for a football scholarship was the best decision I ever made, I sacrificed a lot and took a huge risk to do so. A lot of my friends and family think I’m crazy in the decisions I make, but you have to take risks to get anywhere in your life.
College football was very demanding, I was pushed to better myself in the classroom and on the football pitch every day. It’s a different way of life in the US and my experiences and the relationships I made, I know, will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life.
It sounds a little cliche, however; the [World Cup] unites everyone; every religion, people from all corners of the world and people who rarely watch football in appreciation of the hard work, skill and talent of the players.
Which football tournament is your favourite and why?
The World Cup. As a footballer playing for Charlton Athletic Football Club, I know it’s a tournament we all want to take part in. It sounds a little cliche, however; the tournament unites everyone; every religion, people from all corners of the world and people who rarely watch football in appreciation of the hard work, skill and talent of the players.
Who are some players you look up to?
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Michael Owen. He is the reason I support Liverpool. Someone I look up to now is Alex Morgan. She’s changed women’s soccer in the US and she very much she views her role in the soccer world as an opportunity to inspire young girls that they too can change the face of the women’s soccer.
As a woman, and as an athlete, are there any hurdles you’ve faced that were challenging to overcome?
A major obstacle that female footballers face day in and day out is inequality. I understand we don’t generate income like male teams, but it’s a mindset thing. We need some sort of mindset to push gender equality in football.
Personally, I think gender equality in football could really push gender equality in all sports, walks of life, etc. I would love to play full time again and to have both the support and financial backing to be able to do so at Charlton.
What would you recommend to someone pursuing the sport?
In the last year, one thing that has become very apparent is you can work for the rest of your life but you can only play football for a short time. Give your all to football or whatever sport it is that you play whilst you can and worry about your career later.
Any other advice/thoughts you’d like to put out there?
A piece of advice for not only athletes but everyone, If you don’t take risks, you’ll stay in the same place your whole life.