Christina Julien interview: Canada striker escapes to bliss Down Under
Australian women’s football is about to get the moment it has waited over nine months for as the new W-League season gets underway, and one of the stellar overseas names in the mix, Perth Glory’s Canadian international striker Christina Julien, could not be more enraptured.
In 2011, the Ontario native had the honour of appearing for her nation in a World Cup as she lined up to start Canada’s group game with France in Bochum. At 25, the one-time Laval Comets star has 52 international caps and has taken her club career to Sweden and Russia in pursuit of her goals, both on and off the pitch. Each experience has meant something and when the opportunity to be part of an exciting new W-League campaign in Australia came about she was not about to pass it up.
The league’s sixth season begins play this Saturday and Christina is set to be one of the prized attacking options in Jamie Harnwell’s Perth Glory side as they travel to Newcastle Jets in the opener. She arrived in the country last month and while conditioning herself to be ready for the season she has been blown away by the setting for her latest adventure.
“I absolutely love Australia! All of it and everything about it, it’s paradise, especially in Perth.
“I love the coastline, the beaches, the city – it’s all beautiful. I’m especially mesmerised by all the Australian accents.
“No matter what someone says, I could never get mad at them with an accent like that. I’ve finally seen some kangaroos – I may have screamed like a five-year-old kid when I did!
“It’s by far my favourite place to live so far. It feels a lot like North America but with its own uniqueness of course.”
Prior to this move, Christina had played in the Damallsvenskan with Jitex BK before getting her first taste of the Champions League with WFC Rossiyanka of Russia. Working with accomplished players and sampling different footballing philosophies was hugely valuable but during her stay with Jitex, Christina took another lesson that is applicable far beyond the beautiful game.
“I really like Sweden for the amount of positivity that Swedes have instilled in them. It made experiencing their culture extremely fun and has taught me that I can control my outlook on life.”
Every player’s story tends to have its share of triumphs as well as tribulations and certain songs can provide a very illustrative soundtrack. Christina, who has already been amongst the goals in pre-season for Perth Glory, has a real zest for new challenges and new places. In this regard, the song she loves the most paints that picture perfectly.
“At heart, I love a good country song. ‘Born To Fly’ by Sara Evans is my all-time favourite song and it has been since I first heard it.”
Besides yearning to spread her wings in her life and career there is always a place in Christina’s heart for reminders of back home in Cornwall, Eastern Ontario. Country music has added meaning for her thanks in no small part to where her affection for the genre came from.
“My grandpa was a country-loving fisherman and my biggest fan. I blame him for getting me hooked as a kid – he would never let me change the radio station.
“I’m a huge Josh Turner fan, there is nothing sexier than his deep voice. ‘Why Don’t We Just Dance’ is one of my favourite songs by him.
“I also love Drake’s album ‘Take Care’. I probably know every word to every song on that album.
“I’m very contradictory in my music tastes. I guess I just appreciate a good song no matter the genre.”
There are always the songs and artists people can recall hearing when they were young and most music lovers can quite easily remember the very first album or single they bought for themselves. With Christina, there are two that come into her head – one from another popular country singer and also the first she mentions, a 1998 album with the widely known ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’ on.
“The first record I ever bought was ‘Americana’ by The Offspring! I think I bought Trisha Yearwood’s album at the same time – I was roughly 11 years old.”
Christina made her debut for Canada as a 20-year-old in early 2009 and she is joined at Perth Glory by one of the members of the 2003 World Cup squad who made history by reaching the semi-finals – defender Sasha Andrews. The class of 2003 were pivotal in helping to open doors for Canadian players and Charmaine Hooper’s quarter-final winner against China in Portland goes down as a huge moment in the national team’s story.
Two other players who were at that tournament with Canada and who have been on this site are goalkeeper Erin McLeod and forward Kara Lang. They both talked about how big a part of the national team’s identity the music of Celine Dion is and ‘The Power of Love’ is traditionally sung by the team in a post-game huddle if there is a result to celebrate.
Christina, who has 10 goals from her 52 international caps so far, has much experience of being amongst it all so does she personally share that love for the Quebec-born singer?
“Absolutely! After any big win, a Celine Dion song is the first that is blaring in the locker room or on the bus ride home and it always turns into a massive sing-a-long.
“It’s something that is really close to my heart and has a huge significance, especially so when I hear any of her songs outside of the national team environment. Music is huge with our team – we use it as a tool to relax before a big game, to celebrate after a huge win or just to chill out on your own terms.
“It’s also a tool for team bonding. For starters, everyone gets the chance to submit songs into a pre-game playlist, which by itself brings our team together as we share our music before every game.
“It has also bonded us on a deeper level, just solely with what the Celine Dion songs signify to our team. For example, belting out every single lyric to a Celine Dion song is kind of like your coming-of-age phase as a national team player.”
The progress of the women’s game in Canada went up a few notches further when John Herdman led the team to Bronze in the London Olympics last year. One of the players who really made her mark during the tournament was a combative and assured midfielder who spent the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League season with FC Kansas City. Christina thought of her first when coming up with the biggest individual music devotees in the national team.
“The first thing that pops into my mind is Desiree Scott and her badass hits, which include a lot of reggae, even though her palate does include a bit of country. There’s quite a bit of pop music that circulates around the team but I think my favourite person to turn to for music is Robyn Gayle.
“She’s got those soulful songs that you just don’t have on your playlist that you wish you did. Robyn and Kaylyn Kyle are the ones that sort out our team playlist the majority of the time so I’ll peg them as the real lovers of music.”
Ex-Ottawa Fury forward Christina was an alternate at the London Olympics and John Herdman said it was the hardest decision to leave her out of the squad. The English coach also stated his belief that she would come back stronger for the national side and he recommended signing up to the W-League for this season.
Besides feeling the indescribable pride of lining up for the national anthem there is another perk of representing her country for Christina. It comes in the form of unorthodox sound choices from a certain vastly experienced defender in the squad.
“Rhian Wilkinson might have a very unusual taste in music which from time to time finds itself on our pre-game playlists. I love it because it keeps things interesting.
“’Suicide is Painless’ might be her favourite song…jokes!”
A real high point of Christina’s international career up to now was winning Gold in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She netted in the victories over Costa Rica and Argentina before Brazil were beaten in the final and had also played twice in the World Cup in Germany earlier that year.
Although she was not one of the Canadian players allocated to an NWSL team last season, Christina’s finishing prowess and ability on the ball could light up the W-League over the coming weeks. The hope is that she can impress while in Perth and maybe return in the future. Earning her spot on the national team again is also a target but she has an alternative career route mapped out for herself and one of her talented teammates when their boots are hung up!
“Desiree Scott and Erin McLeod are our designated singers. I know that Desi is super shy to sing in front of people but she has an amazing voice.
“When we retire I’m gonna try and push her to become a huge pop star, as her manager of course. Erin is also amazing!
“Any time they sing, I get major goosebumps. I, on the other hand, absolutely can’t sing unless I’m alone in the shower, then I’m probably better than Celine Dion herself.”
As touched upon previously, Christina went all the way to Sweden and Russia with her club football when representing Jitex BK and WFC Rossiyanka. While in Russia, she got the chance to train every day and there was much to get to grips with in terms of lifestyle too. Christina weighs up the two experiences in terms of the playing standard and attitude to the women’s game, as well as the overall memories she took away.
“Sweden and Russia might be polar opposites in reference to culture but both leagues are quality soccer. Soccer is much more of a culture in Sweden than it is in Russia.
“In Russia, I felt like nobody knew that women’s soccer really existed but then again in Russia I didn’t understand anything! It’s a country where there isn’t an ounce of English in anything they say or have.
“It was a struggle at times but one that has made me a more efficient and better person. Both main cities that I lived near, Moscow and Gothenburg, might be some of my favourite cities in the world. “Both are mesmerising with their architectural beauty. I really like Russia for the spontaneity of the experience.
“Every day something would happen to me that I would never have seen or experienced anywhere else in the world. Like a man carrying a pet fox around in a mall or having 100-plus roses waiting for me in my dressing room before practice.
“Russia may have been the craziest experience of my life.”
One of the recent stories to emerge from women’s football in Australia concerned a past interviewee on here – goalkeeper and former captain of the Matildas, Melissa Barbieri. The Adelaide United stopper had been selling her memorabilia in order to raise funds so she could afford to play in the W-League this season.
‘Bubs’ made it clear that she wanted to see more people giving the league a chance by coming along to games and bringing their friends with them too. A lot of commitment has gone into making the W-League the product it is heading into season six and luring names such as German goalkeeping legend and UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe, Nadine Angerer, is proof of the attraction.
Christina was signed by the Glory as a guest player so is eligible to play in seven of the games. Last year was an extremely exciting season for the team and supporters as their attacking capabilities brought a flurry of goals. After finishing 2nd in the regular season table they were beaten in the semi-final by Melbourne Victory on penalties.
Coach Jamie Harnwell is the record appearance holder (256) for the men’s Glory side and the former defender is a local who knows all about the community surrounding Perth’s A-League and W-League teams. There are 13 Western Australians in the women’s squad for 2013/14 with the overseas talent consisting of Denmark international left-back Cecilie Sandvej, American keeper Chantel Jones and the two Canadians of course – defender Sasha Andrews and Christina.
Captaining the team is left-foot specialist and midfielder for the Matildas, Collette McCallum, and the attacking options are impressive. Any side would miss Lisa De Vanna (now with Melbourne Victory) but Christina will be linking up with the likes of Rosie Sutton, Elisa D’Ovidio and the league’s top scorer with 11 goals last year, Kate Gill.
Christina cannot wait to play her part in what promises to be a tantalising league campaign and she explains some more of the selling points that drew her in.
“There is definitely an amazing women’s soccer program and community in Australia. The W-League teams receive a lot of support from the league, the fans and the community – it’s a great atmosphere to be a part of.
“Even having some of the games televised each week brings great exposure to women’s football in Australia and the professionalism of the league instills a sense of pride in the players. It’s a great standard for the youth to look up to as well.”
There are numerous levels to Christina’s personality and one of them relates to a pastime that is more a way of life where she comes from.
“I have a huge passion for ice hockey – I played until I was 18 and then I had to choose between soccer and hockey. If I had the chance I would try and play professionally overseas.
“I love reading autobiographies about all sorts of people. My favourite ones have obviously been autobiographies about sport personalities.
“I also love eating out at new restaurants, trying new food and checking out hotspots in various cities.”
There is hopefully much more of her career to unravel but at 25, Christina already has her plan for when she retires from playing. She also has an approach to living that she has certainly stuck to by making her move to Australia.
“I do know that after soccer I want to become an athletic therapist. I love being around athletes and I love taking care of people so it’s the perfect job for me.
“I believe in living life to the fullest and trying new things. I want to experience everything that life has to offer while keeping focused on my career goals.
“Eat healthy, train hard.”
Before the waiting draws to a close this weekend for W-League players and observers there is one final question for Christina – the toughest of them all! Here is her choice of a 5-a-side line-up (including herself) of her best career teammates up to this point. There is a Canadian backline, South American verve up front, and it won’t do any harm for Christina to put her new captain in the midfield!
“Goalkeeper – Erin McLeod, because she’s always solid and comes up big every time. It’s a tough one because there’s also Karina LeBlanc and Steph Labbe who could easily be put in that category – Canada definitely has the best goalkeepers in the world.
“Defender – Kadeisha Buchanan because she is a force to be reckoned with. I can guarantee that we won’t get beaten in behind with her pace.
“Midfielder – Collette McCallum from Perth Glory because she’s so solid technically and really good at drawing defenders out, just so she can slip me the ball with time and space. She fits well with my style of play.
“Forward – Fabiana from Brazil. That girl is lightning fast and technically sound.
“I loved playing alongside her at Rossiyanka.”