Jess Fishlock: Wales star to 'settle' in Seattle after football

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Jess Fishlock: Settling in Seattle

On the side of a building tucked away in a central Seattle alleyway, the white paint spells out in huge, imposing letters: 'Seattle doesn't settle.'

It is a phrase which permeates through the city, liberal in spirit and a bustling sprawl of skyscrapers, forests and lakes.

It is also a phrase which seems fitting for Jess Fishlock, a footballer whose nomadic nature has helped her forge a vastly successful career all over the world.

Yet even for this restless Wales midfielder who has won trophies in Australia, Germany, Netherlands and the United States, Seattle - her base, intermittently, since 2013 - has a pull like nowhere else.

"This does feel like home. Whenever I'm travelling, it's the place I want to come back to," Fishlock says as she surveys the lush scenery from her back garden.

"I don't enjoy the travel when I'm actually in it, but I still enjoy the purpose of it. I still enjoy going back to play for Wales and I still enjoy coming back here.

"I think things will start to change over the next couple of years. I'll do less of that."

Jess Fishlock
Fishlock recently played her 100th game for Seattle Reign after joining in 2013

It is no wonder Fishlock feels like slowing down - if only a little - because her schedule is bursting at the seams.

The 31-year-old's season with Seattle Reign typically runs from March to September and, rather than recuperate during the off-season, she has been playing for teams such as Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City during those periods for the past six years.

On top of that congested club schedule, Fishlock is constantly flying from the American west coast or Australia back to Wales or other parts of the world for international matches.

They are taxing journeys - "physically and mentally", Fishlock says - which she has made so frequently that she is Wales' only player - female or male - to have won 100 caps.

The Cardiff-born player will take her tally to 111 if she plays in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia, both significant matches with Wales second in their group after making their best start to a qualifying campaign.

Despite the prospect of helping Wales reach a first major tournament, Fishlock reveals during our conversation that she could retire from international football at the end of the campaign.

It is a decision she is giving profound consideration and, as the player widely regarded as the greatest in Welsh women's history, there will be plenty pleading with her to continue.

Jessica Fishlock, Rebekah Stott and Lauren Barnes of Melbourne City celebrate victory during the W-League Grand Final match between Sydney FC and Melbourne City FC at Allianz Stadium on February 18, 2018
Fishlock said February's historic Grand Final victory for Melbourne City is a career highlight

Wales manager Jayne Ludlow believes Fishlock is not properly appreciated in her homeland and, although Fishlock is modest as she contemplates the matter, there is no avoiding her profile is far greater in the United States.

"Yeah, I think maybe, just because women's football in Wales is not as big, not as visible as it is here," she says.

"They don't mean to be like that, they just don't know.

"But I think that's changing with our result against England [an impressive away draw in April] and the whole situation with our World Cup campaign.

"That's really good to see and to be a part of it, and I'm excited for the future."

If Fishlock may occasionally pass under the radar in Wales, there is no danger of her going unnoticed in Seattle.

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After our interview at her house in leafy suburbia, we move on to one of Fishlock's favourite coffee shops and, within minutes of arriving, fans politely approach our table to pose for photographs with their hero.

Fishlock happily obliges and returns to her coffee, savouring one of what might be up to eight cups she drinks during an average day.

Coffee is a big deal in Seattle, the city where Starbucks started.

And although one can barely walk half the length of a street without encountering a cafe belonging to that particularly global behemoth, Fishlock prefers her coffee a little different.

We each order a cortado - a Spanish-inspired espresso with a small amount of steamed milk - and this drink's growing popularity in these parts delights Fishlock.

"There are loads of coffee places around here and they're starting to get the whole European, Australian coffee now - it's not just the American drip coffee, it's macchiatos, espressos, cortados," she says.

"It's really turning into a vibey, coffee, brunch type place, which is perfect for me. It reminds me a lot of Melbourne."

Jess Fishlock celebrating
Fishlock celebrates the 0-0 draw against England at St Mary's, Southampton in April

For all the allure of Seattle's boutique coffee culture, there are still a few home comforts - Tetley's tea, Cadbury's chocolate - which Fishlock finds herself pining for on occasion.

She clearly misses her family too and, with her parents and most of her five siblings still living in Wales, Fishlock cherishes her limited time back home.

However, her very idea of home is changing.

Having made a new life for herself in Seattle, even this intrepid traveller sees herself staying here, the self-styled city which does not settle.

"I do. This is where I'll settle down and call home for myself," Fishlock says.

"You can live here and just be you.

"I just love it. It doesn't matter who you are in Seattle. You can be who you are and it's okay.

"You can be anybody in this city and you can be happy and be accepted.

"You won't get that everywhere in the world, I can promise you that."