Canadian dimension

Belanger adds new dimension to career as member of Force’s rookie class

Having had the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, no one could have foreseen that several of Emilie Belanger’s rivals on Team USA would become teammates in 2014. Taking into account that over a dozen members of the American gold-medal winning contingent (including head coach John Konecki) were from the Chicago Force, Belanger proudly wears their colors for the 2014 campaign.

As a side note, she is also joined by a pair of rookies from Finland, Elina Kero and Paula Lehtinen. The Force are not only of the signature franchises in the WFA, they are also establishing themselves as one of the world’s finest, opening their doors to elite players from other corners of the globe.

For fans of the Montreal Blitz, there are mixed emotions about the loss of Belanger to the WFA. In one regard, Belanger developed many strong friendships with her teammates on the Blitz. Having been on the roster that captured the 2012 IWFL Tier I title (the first international team to win it) and the 2013 IWFL Tier II title, Belanger was part of a key chapter in Montreal female sporting history.

On the other hand, the chance to compete with a prestigious franchise like the Force is testament to her remarkable talent. As the game of female football continues to grow the world over, it is remarkable accomplishments to see a home-grown talent like Belanger take her skills south of the border and improve on an already impressive career.

With great talent and potential for superstardom, Belanger’s abilities caught the attention of John Konecki, head coach for Team USA in 2013 and the Force. Her ability to make plays and a seemingly unlimited energy have helped her fit in with the Force, providing Konecki with another remarkable asset on his roster.

“She is a player we identified as being one of the top defensive players on the Canadian national team. We were elated when she contacted us about playing in Chicago. She has done an amazing job playing on offense, defense, and special teams.

The main thing that sets her apart from other players I have coached is (that) she has a high motor that never stops. She is consistently around the ball and looking to make a play. Finally she is one of the most coachable players I have been around and is constantly looking to improve her game.”

Statistically, Belanger has proven to be a welcome addition for the Force. Her 23.5 total tackles ranked seventh on the squad during the regular season. Fellow rookies Paula Lehtinen and Amber Kimbrough ranked sixth and second in tackles, providing the Force with a bright future on defense.

In addition, seven of Belanger’s tackles were for a loss, placing her fifth among all Force players (rookie Kimbrough would lead all players in tackles for loss). Belanger would also manage to register one sack in regular season play, one of only six Force players to do so.

Still a full-time student, Belanger recently celebrated her 21st birthday. While the move from Montreal to Chicago is a big one, the one common factor between the Blitz and the Force is that there is a strong sense of family. Playing for the love of the game, it would be a tremendous feather in Belanger’s cap if she could help the Blitz repeat as WFA champions.

Considering that the WFA national championship is being hosted at Chicago’s Lane Stadium from August 1-2, it would make such an accomplishment on home soil only sweeter. For female football fans in Montreal, there is no question that they shall support the Force in the hopes that one of their own can make them proud.

Photo credit:  Chicago Force website

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