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29 November 2019 | in University World Cup Football , FISU Athletes

Writing exams and winning matches: All in a day’s work for the Gee-Gees

JINJIANG, People’s Republic of China – As the women’s team from University of Ottawa made their way up Mount Qingyuan early on Friday morning, they had much to pray for in front of the thousand-year-old stone carving of Lao-Tze, founding father and deity of Taoism.  

A day ahead of playing the University World Cup grand finale against Paulista University of Brazil, the Canadians took a short trip to this historic and religious spot just on the outskirts of Jinjiang. The ancient site has many Taoist and Buddhist stone sculptures, hundreds of religious stone inscriptions and the largest stone statue of Lao-Tze in China, which dates back to the Song Dynasty.


The firebrands from Ottawa, known as the ‘Gee-Gees’ have seared their way through the draw here at the inaugural University World Cup; undefeated in group play and coming through 5-3 on penalties in the semi-final against Beijing Normal University. Hugely popular with local crowds and other teams alike, the Canadians have impressed all with their power-packed play and big personalities.


Margot Shore (R) with teammatesBut perhaps their most impressive aspect has remained undiscovered throughout these two weeks here in Jinjiang. Even as they’ve managed their frenetic schedules with matches every alternate day and trainings in between, the women have been studying as furiously as they’ve been playing football.


“We have been trying to balance school and soccer while we’ve been here,” explains goalkeeper Margot Annie Shore, the undisputed star of the semi-final against Beijing. It was her block of Beijing's second penalty kick that won them the match and the place in the final.


“We get back home on 3 December and most of us start our exams on 5 December,” says the fifth year Civil Engineering student. “So, we are all trying to keep up with our schoolwork, along with focusing on our matches. We don’t want to have too much work to do when we get back! One of us has even taken a mid-term exam while we’ve been here.”


She is referring to midfielder Adriane Ray Devlin who has also been instrumental in their wins. Devlin, a first-year Biomedical Sciences student, wrote an exam from her hotel room a couple of days ago.


Trinity Esprit (L) and Adriane Devlin“It was my Chemistry mid-term and I just felt like I needed to get it done,” laughs Devlin. “It wasn’t easy though. I had to get permission to have Danika Smith (Head of Delegation) to be a proctor for my exam.”


“Many professors don't feel comfortable about students taking exams outside the classroom but mine agreed. So, they sent the exam here, we printed it out and then I had to sit in the hotel room and write it!”


“But everyone else was studying too because we all have exams as soon as we’re back,” adds Devlin quickly making it quite clear she’s not alone.


“When we go back, I have five exams to take in five days,” exclaims defender Trinity Jazya Esprit, who studies Sociology. “So, I have a lot to do when I get back. That’s why I’m trying to study as much as I can right now.”


It is much the same for most of them.


Thea Abdul Nour speaking to FISU“It’s school season and exam season and we have to of course focus on our soccer, so it’s been hard. Hard to get out, to take time off and explore as much of China as we’d like to,” quips Thea Abdul Nour, a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student.  


They all agree that they would have loved more opportunities to explore Jinjiang and its surroundings, but balancing football and academics has made that difficult.


“It’s really nice to come out here today, to see this statue that is a thousand years old,” continues Nour “Also the setting, because it’s always nice to see nature. We’re mostly in the city, so I like it that we came out and saw a bit of green.”


Esprit agrees. “This is really very nice. We finally got to go out and do something different for a change. I’ve never been to China before so it’s something completely different and new for me.”


The entire experience of the University World Cup has been an eye opener they say, despite the limited outings and tours. There was much to learn and absorb just on field and at the team hotel, through interaction with others.  


The Gee-Gees at the Maritime Museum in Quanzhou“I really enjoy interacting with the other teams and learning about the other cultures,” says Nour. “I talk to them and find out how life is in their country."


"The differences and the language barrier make the exchanges even funnier. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m so happy to have also made the final with this team, which is like one big family.”


Looking ahead to the final, Margot Shore says, “We know the Brazilians are really good opponents and it’s going to be a good challenge for us."


"The semi-final against Beijing was a good test and now, against Paulista who are undefeated and have barely conceded any goals, it’s going to be exciting and challenging.”


So, are the books being kept away for a day at least?


“Not really! We are trying to fit in the studying anywhere we can!” laughs Adriane Devlin. “Yes, it is a little stressful, but finding the balance between soccer and academics is always very important to us.”


Considering the fact that Taoist philosophy emphasises living in harmony and balance, the Gee-Gees were probably at the right spot on Friday morning, to seek just the blessings they need.

The ancient statue of Lao-Tze on Mount Qingyuan 

Photos: Xiaohan Huo