Words: Felicia Pennant

Photography: Kévin Couliau

Unlike words, goals can rarely be misunderstood. PSG Féminine forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto expresses her excellence through both goals and a high standard of play, all while representing her home city and country.

For Marie-Antoinette, becoming a professional player initially seemed like a far-fetched dream. She learned the game with friends on neighborhood pitches in Colombes, modeling aspects of her game after the all-time greats. She joined Racing Club de France in 2005 and signed with PSG in 2011 at age 12.

As the team’s top scorer in two consecutive seasons, the 22-year-old scored 25 #KATOTOGOALS in 26 appearances during the 2020/2021 season. That helped propel PSG Féminine to its first-ever league title. “It’s the biggest, greatest achievement,” Marie-Antoinette confirms in French through a translator, though she also speaks Ngala and English. She and the team are determined to recapture the feeling by winning the Champions League.

The forward’s rise is all the more impressive considering the barriers she has overcome. The comeback after tearing her hamstring in 2016 proved to be harder than expected, and after missing the 2019 World Cup, she’s back in contention for Les Bleues.

A genuine fan of MJ and Jordan Brand, Marie-Antoinette has starred in multiple Jordan x PSG campaigns, so far. Below, she shares her story, talks about the Jordan x PSG partnership and brings who she is outside of football into focus.

You and the Paris Saint-Germain Féminine team recently won the Division 1 Féminine 2020–21, your first league title. How have you had to adapt this season, and what have you learned from playing professional football in a pandemic? 

I think the pandemic period has made us grow mentally. We’ve learned that health is the most important thing. We had no choice but to cut the season short, and then our preparation had to be very short, as well. We had to get into it very quickly.

How long did you have to get ready for it?

We had three weeks, so we had to get going quickly. We felt lucky compared to other people whose lives had just stopped; we were lucky to be able to carry on playing. I thought about that every day, about the amateur players who had to stop playing, or people who were struggling with work, home and lockdowns. If I had one takeaway from the whole season, it would be gratitude for having the privilege of being able to continue playing my sport.

Where does this moment, and this new trophy, sit among the highlights of your career? 

It’s right at the top. It’s the biggest, greatest achievement. Last season was the most competitive, and I think we deserved it the most. It was a lot of effort and work. We managed some decisive matches very well and handled a lot of emotions. 

We celebrated as a team with a party afterward, all day, from the end of the match until the next day. We went to the Eiffel Tower, took loads of photos, spent time in Paris and met the fans at the Parc des Princes. We just sang and sang, it was terrific.

Do things feel different heading into this new season? We’re not in lockdown, but there are still some restrictions.

We’re just really pleased that the situation is improving. It’s going to be good for us to play in front of a crowd again. We’re all looking forward to that. There’s a huge difference between playing with and without a crowd. We noticed it last year, especially when you’re playing away. It’s harder. It’s very strange. At home, we haven’t really been back in front of a crowd, but it really helps. We’re really attached to our fans. They’re the best.

Looking back, what is your earliest football memory? 

My first football memory was playing a match outside with friends, where I lived in Colombes. There was a pitch in my neighborhood, and I wanted to learn how to play right away. I started playing with the boys and a few girls. It was a passion for me right away. I grew up with football.

When you went down to play and saw more boys than girls, did you feel welcome? How did it feel?

I was lucky. They were very open-minded and good with me. I’ve spoken to other players who had it harder, but I was always made to feel welcome. They were always kind to me, and I’m still in touch with some of them. A few of them went pro, as well. There was a high level of talent.

“I play; I don't overthink it.”

How would you describe the nuances of playing for both club and country?

Playing for my country is still a massive source of pride. It’s the same for my club, as well, because that’s where I discovered pro football, learned to play, grew up and played my first pro matches. My club also enabled me to get into the French national team.

You’re one of the veterans on the team, and you’ve been pro with PSG Féminine since 2015. How do you feel this PSG team has progressed since you first arrived at the club?

There’s been a real change. When I first arrived, the facilities, objectives, players and the way we were perceived on the world stage were completely different. There have been huge developments. I’m so proud, and I hope we’ll continue in this direction.

How would you describe the way you play and how it’s changed throughout your career so far?

I’ve worked a lot on my style of play. When I was younger, I was a bit more temperamental. I realized that I needed to get more precise, and I had a lot of help to help me get there. I learned to evolve my game by adjusting certain moves and aspects of my skills. Now, I’m able to play more boldly and intentionally.

How do you express yourself creatively on the pitch?

Creativity makes football beautiful. The beauty of the game comes from a little craziness and a lot of creativity. Those are the qualities I like in the players who came before me, and that’s what I try to get across on the pitch. I play; I don’t overthink it.

What’s your role in the locker room? What is your personality like behind the scenes?

To be honest, I’m pretty quiet. I’m not the one who gets the party started. I’m calm, and I can be shy. I’m the same with the national team. I’m chill, but I still talk to everyone. I don’t force anything.

You scored 25 goals in 26 matches last year. You were also the division’s top scorer two seasons in a row, in 2018/19 and 2019/20. Do you feel like you’ve reached a new level in your game?

I think I’ve gone up a level by winning a trophy, which I didn’t have before. I still have further to go. If I can score 30 goals, or win another trophy, then I’ll reach another new level.

You previously said that, for you, scoring is instinctive, and you don’t think about it at all. Is that still the case today?

Yes, that’s true. I’m not concentrating on scoring at all costs. Maybe that’s why I score as much as I do. I don’t know for sure.

What has been your favorite #KATOTOGOAL ever? 

It was last season, against Lyon in the championship game. It was a great move, a great moment, and we were playing at our PSG home pitch, Parc de Princes. Everything about it was good.

What are some things you’ve achieved that you didn’t think were possible? 

Well, I didn’t think I’d end up here — to play all these matches as a pro, to play for my country. I didn’t know it was possible to get this far. In the beginning, it seemed impossible. Women’s football wasn’t that big. For me, it was unimaginable. I thought it would all come to an end at some point. All my friends were leaving the sport. It was getting harder for them to stay in Paris.

What are the biggest barriers you’ve had to overcome in your career? 

My injury in 2017. I tore my hamstring in 2016. I could barely play at all the following season. It was difficult to pick myself up and work even harder towards my goals. I learned a lot from the experience, though. I got to know my body better. I know when to say stop and when to push forward. I know how to avoid re-injuring myself — eat well, drink enough water, sleep well, do ice baths even though they’re freezing and go in the sauna even though it’s hot. I feel better mentally now, too. Sometimes you have to process all of that to become stronger.

Let’s talk about style in football and your incredible braids. What inspires your overall appearance going into games?

I really like my braids. It’s part of my culture that I want to keep showing. I get my hair braided a lot. It’s a nice way of spending time with my family. My mother does them for me, and she picks the styles, too.

What do you think of the Jordan Brand x PSG Women’s collections, including what you’re wearing for this shoot?

They’re great. We see a lot of girls wearing Jordan now. Jordan Brand always creates a nice collection that goes with our kits. I think it’s a good thing that they do it for both men and women, especially for women.

You’re wearing the new Jordan MA2 x PSG. What are your favorite Jordans to wear off the pitch, and what does it mean for you to have been one of the faces of the Jordan x PSG partnership?

It depends on what I’m doing. I love Air Jordan IVs. I wear them a lot. I wear a lot of Nike, too.

I’m extremely proud to rep PSG with Nike and Jordan. They are great brands that fit really well with our club, and I hope that the relationships continue as long as possible.

As a pro footballer, how much do MJ’s story and legacy resonate with you?

Everyone knows what an incredible athlete he was and how much he does to continue supporting sports beyond just basketball. I’ve learned a lot from his story regarding both my sport and my mental attitude. He and the Jordan Brand fit well with our club and our fans.

What do you hope that the rest of 2021 holds for you, and what goals have you set for the coming season?

I hope to be healthy, to win matches, to score goals and to do even better than last season — to win everything, including the Champions League. Often, I try to do better than I did the day before. I make sure that the previous day has taught me something.

The Jordan Brand x PSG collection is now available on Jordan.com and from select retailers.

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