Jess Fishlock column: All set for my American adventure

 

In her first column for the BBC Sport website, Wales captain Jess Fishlock looks forward to life in the United States with new club Seattle Reign. The 26-year-old will be become the first Welsh player to play professionally in North America.

Ever since I found out I was signing for Seattle Reign, my life's been a bit of a rollercoaster.

I can't wait to get to out there and get ready for the start of the new eight-team National Women's Soccer League.  I leave for Seattle on Monday, following Wales' friendly international in Scotland on Sunday. I'll hopefully make my Seattle debut the following weekend against Chicago.

Everyone in women's football knows how big the game is in America. They completely back it, they have a massive fanbase and it's highly regarded over there. It's definitely one of the places, from a professional point of view, where you want to play.

My love of football goes back a long way. Coming from a sporty family, I joined in with my two older brothers and then went to a football camp when I was seven-years-old.

It was there I met Michele Adams, who ran the camp and who was also the coach of Cardiff City Ladies. I trained with them on a weekly basis until I was finally allowed to play for the senior side aged 15.

Jess Fishlock and Jarmo Matikainen

"When Jarmo [Matikainen] handed the [Wales] captaincy to me it meant a lot because he is someone I have so much respect for"

I stayed with Cardiff for years but felt I needed to leave to further my career. I joined Bristol Academy for a year before making the big move to the Netherlands to join AZ Alkmaar. That was my career-changing move.

I was given a football education by the Dutch. It was a phenomenal experience and was crucial in my development as a player. The Dutch way is 'Total Football', as they say, and they give you time to develop.

After three years out there, I thought I'd come back home, especially with the FA Women's Super League starting in England. I returned to Bristol Academy for two good years, had a lot of fun and achieved a lot - for a personal point of view and as part of the team.

I spent a few months playing in Australia during the off season with Melbourne Victory, and then I got my big move to Seattle.

I was introduced to the players and coaches on a pre-season training trip to Japan. This will be the club's first year, which it makes it a bit more special. The club is so professional and everything they're doing is spot on.

National Women's Soccer League teams

Boston Breakers

Chicago Red Stars

FC Kansas City

Portland Thorns FC

Seattle Reign FC

Sky Blue FC

Washington Spirit

Western New York Flash

The head coach is former Arsenal Ladies manager Laura Harvey. She's got a tough job because it's a brand new team. But she's a brilliant coach and I've no doubts she is the right person for Seattle. She can achieve the club's aim of becoming one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Closer to home, there's no doubt that women's football in Wales has gone through the roof.

We've now got a Welsh Women's Premier League and the national teams are doing really well. And obviously we have the Uefa Under-19 Championship  coming up at the end of this summer, which is absolutely huge.

It's no coincidence that all this has happened since the arrival of Jarmo Matikainen as manager of Wales' national teams. What Jarmo has done for Welsh football is absolutely phenomenal and I've had the pleasure of working with him for nearly two-and-a-half years.

Playing for my country had always been my ambition. And when Jarmo handed the captaincy to me it meant so much because of the respect I have for him. Every time I put on the captain's armband it's an unbelievable feeling.

Women's football has made unbelievable strides in recent years, both in terms of the quality of play and the recognition it receives. When I look back at the decision I made as a teenager to make football a priority in my life, it was certainly a risky call. It was a completely different world back then.

But I'm glad I did, and the next few months will certainly be a time to savour.

Jess Fishlock was speaking to BBC Wales Sport's Aled Williams