The first thing that probably comes to mind when thinking about Wendie Renard is her height. Being 1.87 meters, and the tallest player in the World Cup, Renard is without any doubt a force to consider. Her stats throughout her career back it up. With more than 100 goals for Lyon and more than 20 for France, Renard, originally from Martinique, is not only considered as the best female central defender in the world and defensive rock, but also an aerial presence that terrifies opponents’ defenses, mainly in set pieces.
However, Renard prefers to be remembered not because of her exceptional physical attributes, but mainly as someone who never gives up. In an interview back in 2014, after her sister entered the studio and the moderator wondered out loud how is it possible that they are so different in size, Renard stated that she doesn’t like it when people think she scores just because she’s much bigger than the rest.
In fact, she is right. If there is something Renard should be reckoned for it would be her perseverance. It all started when she was 7 and watched a game of the French national football team. She was heavily inspired by Marinette Pichon, which is considered by many as the greatest French female football player ever. Renard told her mother that one day she would see her on T.V. wearing that same jersey. Her mother laughed, and her whole family thought she is crazy, but it didn’t prevent Renard to fight for her dream. Years later, she said that “When you live 8,000 km away from France, you know that you need to work harder to merit the jersey of the national team and its symbol.”
From the moment she started to play until the moment she left Martinique, Renard fought for her dreams. In all these years she played alongside boys, which helped her to grow as a player, according to her. When remembering those days, Renard acknowledges that she didn’t suffer from sexism at all and the fact that she was one of the best players helped her to gain respect from the other boys. With this clear path, it starts to be easier to understand her very pragmatic approach. Renard, some might say, just wanted to be “like the boys.” Even nowadays she refers to herself as a defender in the masculine form of the word in French and not the feminine.
Her desire to play football and never give up was put to the test when she failed her entry to Clairefontaine at the age of 15. Renard was on the verge to go back to Martinique, but her uncle and the youth program director in Martinique managed to send her to trials in Lyon, where she became one of the pillars of the best team in the world. Moreover, in Lyon, she found a company with Eric Abidal and Florent Malouda who both descend from Caribbean families. Sidney Govou, who was Lyon star in the time that Renard arrived, referred to her as his younger sister.
Nowadays, Renard is very aware of her status and mainly the luck she has to play professional football for France. Coming from a poor place, she bears with her a collection of colorful hats to remind her of the sunny weather of the islands. She even opened a restaurant in Martinique, in order to give back to her country. In her game, like in her performance outside the pitch, Renard is very conscious and proportionate about the way she made from a small child dreaming of playing football to one of the biggest stars of the game.
After defeating Brazil, in a somewhat mediocre game of Renard, France will face Alex Morgan and her friends in quarterfinals. For Renard, it is probably just another day in the office on her way to reach her desires.