Janice Cayman

'The Sky Is The Limit' - Experienced Cayman Braced For New Challenge

Two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner Janice Cayman arrived in Leicestershire this summer after conquering French football during a six-year stint.

LCFC Women have completed a summer re-build ahead of their third consecutive Barclays Women’s Super League campaign. Among those incomings, was Belgian international Cayman. With 137 caps for her country, and 11 trophies accumulated across her career, the new No.11 on Filbert Way becomes the most decorated player to play for the Foxes. In a feature length interview, Janice admitted that she never expected her interest to become a profession, especially since she almost chose a different path into sport at a young age.

“Football always started as a hobby,” she explained. “I had three brothers who also played, so when we were little it started in the garden, and then I became the first girl in my brothers’ team, and it gradually went on from there until I moved into a girls’ team around 13 or 14. It got bigger and bigger in my life, and I went from step to step, which included playing football at high school, and it’s amazing that I get to be here now because at the time, women’s football in Belgium wasn’t very well-known. I didn’t even know they had a national team when I was young.

“I played basketball for five years when I was younger, so I got to a point where I had to choose between the two sports, but it was never pushed on me, and my family were always supportive.

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Janice Cayman

Signing a permanent deal this summer with the Foxes.

“It’s very cool to have this support, and when I first started playing football, my brother was my coach, so it was funny how involved they are and have been in my career.”

As Cayman grew older, she took the opportunity to go to college in America, where she was allowed to follow her passion for football while studying, where she first learned what it was like to be professional. Coming back to Europe, the Brasschaat-born midfielder was offered a chance at French club FCF Juvisy, but explained how she had to remain committed, with the Paris outfit not paying a full-time wage at her time in the capital.

“I went to college in the USA,” Cayman continued. “It was quite professional despite being a student athlete then I went to France with Juvisy, where it still wasn’t professional. We trained in the evenings, and it suddenly became ‘grown-up’ football. I had to adjust to the language, which was difficult, but as soon as I had that, I grew in confidence and really enjoyed my time in France because I could go out more and get involved in conversations. After six months at Juvisy, I finished my studies in my second year, and I was working part time while playing, and that’s when I thought I wanted to go back to how it was in the USA – going to school but being a professional athlete.

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Willie Kirk & Janice Cayman

Joining Willie Kirk's Leicester ahead of a third consecutive season in the top flight.

“That’s why I took the decision to leave Juvisy, because I wanted to make the next step forward in my career, where I signed for Western New York Flash. It was only for one summer, but we won the league, so it was very cool.”

Heading back to the states to play in New York saw the Belgian collect her first title of her career, winning the National Women’s Soccer League in 2016. While only there for the season, her time in the Big Apple allowed Cayman to inherit some valuable experience and return to France, this time with a winning mentality that she hoped would boost her chances of featuring at the 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO’s, which hosts Netherlands would go on to win.

She added: “Every experience has helped me grow as a person and an athlete, so I went back to Montpellier in France, also wanting to boost my chances in playing for the national team as the EURO was coming up, and I knew it was better to be in Europe. It was professional, with great facilities and it was a very nice club, in a very nice part of the world too. I really enjoyed my time playing for them in that climate.

“In the beginning, I was seen as a right-winger, but one time, when we got an injury in defence, a coach told me to play right-back, and it was very different for me, but also very fun and it brought new challenges.

I knew I wanted to leave Montpellier, and maybe France to go and play in another league, but when Lyon are interested, you think twice.

Janice Cayman

“This then became a thing during my time in France but also for the national team, where I was deployed wherever the coach thought I would be most useful. But I don’t mind that, as I said, because it always brought a new challenge which I wanted to help develop my skillset.”

In 2019, Cayman’s stint at Montpellier came to an end, and while she believed her future would lie elsewhere, interest from one of the biggest clubs in women’s football enticed the footballer enough to extend her stay in France. Sharing the pitch with British stars such as Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood and Nikita Parris was too good an opportunity to turn down, and ended out to be a great decision by the Belgian winger, who was part of a Lyon squad that dominated French football in recent years.

Cayman has two Champions League winners medals, and is thankful for the first conversation that led to the chance to play, and win, in one of Europe’s most desired tournaments.

“I still remember getting the phone call from Olympic Lyon,” the 34-year-old reminisced. “At the time I was thinking: ‘Is this real?’ I knew I wanted to leave Montpellier, and maybe France to go and play in another league, but when Lyon are interested, you think twice. They are one of the best teams in the world, I wanted the challenge, and I went for it. I was debating about coming to England then, so I’m pleased I’m here now.

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Janice Cayman

Lifting the Champions League trophy.

“It’s a winning team, with a winning culture. They have incredible players who are also very good people. This makes a good mix both on and off the field which led to us winning league and Champions League titles. As a favourite, you have to keep battling as people want to knock you down. That’s not easy to deal with but that’s the challenge you need to accept when you’re one of the best teams.

“The final against Barcelona, I got about 20 minutes, and I was told to just defend, because we were winning 3-1 at the time. Fighting for every challenge, working hard for each other – it was a great performance. It was such a relief when the whistle blew but Barcelona was seen as the favourites so we had something to prove, and it was great that we could. It was a great environment to be in, and I loved my time there, but I was once again ready for the next stage."

With over 130 appearances for the Belgian Red Flames, she holds the record as the most-capped Belgium player and is one of only three women to collect over 100 caps for her homeland.

You don’t need an armband to be a leader. It’s about the responsibility that comes with the experience.

Janice Cayman

She is also part of the captaincy group that shares the armband during international matches, but she struggled to believe this would ever be a possibility as a youngster growing up near Antwerp.

“I didn’t expect to become the most capped player for Belgium when I was a little girl,” Cayman stated. “Especially since it has evolved so much over time, I’m not sure how many games we played a year, maybe six or seven.

“It’s a huge difference to today, but I’m happy to have played so many times. The best moment has got to be the EURO – the first one that we played in. We got eliminated after the first round but the one in England last year – we got to the semi-finals, which was great for us, and that win against Italy was one of my proudest memories. It was a special moment to hit 100 caps, especially as my family and friends were there. I was the second player to reach over 100 appearances, but we now have quite a few to reach the accomplishment which is great to see.

“There’s three of us that have the armband, usually it goes to Tessa Wullaert if she’s fit, otherwise it comes to me, but we are three people that represent the captaincy.

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Janice Cayman

Cayman captaining her country.

“It’s always a nice recognition, but you don’t need an armband to be a leader. It’s about the responsibility that comes with the experience, and I enjoy helping the younger players find their spot and push them to become better – and teach them that’s no levels to what they can achieve.”

Now 34, and with valuable experience of an ever-growing women’s game, Cayman has finally achieved her move to England to play for Willie Kirk’s Leicester in the WSL and has clear aims of what she hopes to bring to the team.

A versatile player, she hopes that she can add more off the pitch as well and help to develop and become a role model to the youngsters within City’s squad. But despite her accomplishments in the game, she still has ambitions to achieve big things in the East Midlands, and is excited for the next chapter in her career.

“It was a perfect timing to join Leicester,” Cayman told us. “I wanted to try a new league and Leicester was a very interesting option. They have great projects, and after my first visit, I knew it was the right choice for me. I’m here to bring experience and hopefully a winning mentality that I really learned in the America and with Lyon. Now I’ve been with the team for few weeks, there’s a good spirit here and I believe the team are ready for it.

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Janice Cayman

Preparing for her first WSL season.

“With the games we’ve played in pre-season, I’d say the biggest difference between football in England and France is the physicality. The games are very tough. In France, they play the ball more but here it’s more solid and about winning your duels. But this is something I can learn from and put in my game – I’m always happy to learn. It’s a nice type of football here, and this league can be more direct, so it will be interesting learning to cope with this.

“There’s a huge difference in women’s football now to when I started. People are starting to recognise it now and I first saw this when I went to USA. People love to watch women’s football and people always wanted to know more about you. But the mindset has changed worldwide, and they have more respect for it. They don’t compare it to the men’s game as it’s a different style of football, but you can see it with the audiences at the recent World Cup that it’s growing.

“My message to younger players would be to stay humble, even though we get a lot more added bits such as sponsorships, which I didn’t have when I was younger, you need to keep working hard. I would like to win a prize in England, and it would be great to achieve something with Leicester – the sky is the limit.”

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