As a countdown to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Apartment613 is embarking on a six-part series that will take a look at women’s soccer in and around the city. Our inaugural piece focuses on one local athlete who’s no stranger to making waves at the national level. We got in touch with Pilar Khoury, star striker for the University of Ottawa’s varsity squad and one of this year’s All-Canadian athletes.
For those of you not familiar with the talented veteran Gee-Gee, Pilar has been playing at the university level for uOttawa since 2011. This year alone, the striker was awarded her division’s most valuable player award, led the team in scoring with 14 goals, earned a Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) All-Canadian First-Team spot and took home a bronze medal at the national championships. (She’s even travelled to Russia to represent Canada at the FISU Games during the Summer Universiade in 2013.)
“I don’t particularly enjoy individual sports,” she says about her initial decision to pursue soccer. “I chose soccer because I loved the idea of having a ball at your feet. I tried other sports, but nothing really compared to the feeling when you step on the soccer pitch.”
Soccer has always been a part of Pilar’s life. Her grandfather played semi-pro in Lebanon and instilled a deep sense of respect for the game in his young granddaughter. As she grew up, she dribbled her way through opponents and developed her own style of creative play.
You see, Pilar doesn’t just score: she scores with flare. It’s not uncommon to watch a game at uOttawa’s Marc Anthony field and see the men’s competitive team cheering her on from the stands and exchanging awestruck expressions when she pulls off a daring move on an opponent. She’s fast and furious with the ball, and well-known for her incredible lightness of touch.
“Practice, motivation and passion,” she says of what it takes to keep her touch on the ball sharp. “It’s the hours spent outside of practice doing the same movements over and over again, watching YouTube videos for technique and seeing how the pros do it on TV. For me, it’s not just about beating a defender, but more how you can beat a defender while entertaining the people watching you.”
Pilar watches her favourite player, Christian Ronaldo, as a source of inspiration. Her signature move is known in the soccer world as the “nutmeg” and occurs when a player manages to put the ball successfully through an opposing player’s legs.
“It’s funny because people think that putting the ball between someone’s legs is luck, but it’s really about reading someone’s body shape,” says the striker. “It takes a lot of practice!”
But perhaps nothing compares to the feeling of scoring a goal. Considering Pilar holds uOttawa’s record for most goals in a season, she’s had her fair share of success.
“It’s exciting to score, especially goals that tie or win the game—and also goals that get your team motivated and brings back momentum,” she says. “It’s really something special to see everyone celebrate a ball going into the net. Everyone feels that same level of excitement and joy that you are, and it makes it that much better when you get to share that feeling with others.”
Pilar is very humbled by her experiences at uOttawa and gives full credit to her teammates and coaches for creating such a positive environment and team dynamic.
“I think it was a big part of our success this year,” she says. “Playing at the university level is something I hope every soccer player can experience at some point. The level of play is great, you build a second home, teammates become family and you really create memories that last a lifetime.”
In the summer, Pilar plays for the Gloucester women’s premier team. There, she’s helped them to secure two back-to-back league titles. She’s looking forward to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and seeing Canadians come together as a community to watch an event that has gained increasing support over the last few decades.
“I think you’re seeing more and more girls not just getting excited about soccer in general, but also wanting to play at a higher level. More and more girls come out to watch us play during our season and it’s just great to see that.”
So what has the Beautiful Game taught Pilar?
“In a lot of ways, it’s taught me things that are essential to life outside of sport—like being confident and never giving up,” she says with a smile. “It’s taught me how to be a better person. No matter what is going on in my life outside of sports, soccer is always an outlet that never fails.”
Stay tuned for part two in the series to come in February.