JAnine Beckie has a Bible verse tattooed on the inside of her left wrist. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,” says Isaiah 40:31. “They will fly on wings like eagles; they will run and never tire, they will walk and they will not faint.
The Manchester City and Canada forward is a committed Christian whose faith has helped shape a career that took her from her childhood to Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey and, more recently, North west of England.
“It’s a really, really important part of my life,” said the 27-year-old, who helped Canada win Olympic gold in Japan this summer. “I was raised as a Christian and it’s about how I function, how I treat others, and even how I feel about myself. It’s something incredibly important to me and it influences everything I do, the way I react to things. I learn it all the time.
Beckie’s faith helped her deal with the disappointment of Canada’s squad being excluded from the 2015 World Cup before settling on a team that beat Sweden on penalties in August for win the coveted gold.
The victory was a huge triumph for Bev Priestman, Canada’s English coach. “Bev believed we could win a gold medal,” says Beckie. “She understands our group and what we’re capable of. I think Bev’s greatest strength is her ability to use the whole team and she did it really well. She gives us so much faith.
“Tactically, she has a great footballing brain and knows what brings out the best in us. We already had a very strong defensive base, but Bev really pushed us forward on the offensive end while keeping us tidy at the back.
As a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Beckie played for her country of birth up to the Under-20 level. Although she grew up 20 minutes south of downtown Denver in the shadow of the Rockies, her parents and three older brothers were born in Canada and retain family ties with their former home on the prairie of the Saskatchewan.
“I have a special way of feeling both American and Canadian,” says Beckie, who excelled not only in football, but also athletics and basketball at Highlands Ranch. “I was born in Colorado, but I definitely feel more Canadian. Growing up, I was taught many Canadian principles and ethics. My roots are Canadian.
Not that some element of American social conditioning hurt her. “America is such a ruthless culture,” she explains. “It’s about winning, which certainly has its advantages, but Canadians are more cowardly; they want to grow up with a solid and balanced foundation. Sport is important, but that’s not all.
“So maybe I’m making a difference to my teams because I grew up in this kind of ruthless, win or die culture that really shaped me as an athlete. It gave me my competitiveness.
If America can be neck and neck, Beckie thinks England, and Manchester in particular, is a little less diplomatic. “I found the British to be a bit more blunt, more blunt,” she says. “I needed a little thicker skin to live here.
“There are a lot of great things about the British, but I found the transition to Manchester difficult. It took me a while to get used to this culture – and the weather! – but I really like living here now. What is really great is that you can drive 15-20 minutes outside of the city center and you are in beautiful and amazing countryside.
“I also like being immersed in the football atmosphere of Manchester; people are so passionate about gambling in this city.
Intense passions often breed high expectations. City finished second in the WSL last season, two points behind Chelsea, but their seven points in six games this season have dismayed fans ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Champions.
While a string of serious injuries to key players including Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Ellie Roebuck have done little to help Gareth Taylor’s cause, the presence of 12 senior professionals at the Olympics has ruined the manager’s preseason.
Beckie, who studied journalism at the University of Texas while playing for Houston Dash, is not surprised that despite the convincing 4-1 victory last Sunday at Leicester, Taylor remains “under fire”. Yet without giving up her honesty and open-mindedness, she sends journalists back to the larger context.
“Gareth, like all managers, needs results so he’s a bit in the spotlight right now, but as players we all think he’s a good guy and a great manager,” she says. “I don’t think he’s lost anyone – we’re all behind him.
“I don’t like excuses and we can’t use injuries as one; we have more than enough good players to win games, but Gareth was put in a difficult position because we literally didn’t have a preseason. I think anyone in this situation will be a little late. “
It seems that Taylor could do worse than reflect on the message in Isaiah 40:31. “The victories will come, there’s no doubt about it,” says Beckie. “We’ve done a really good job of staying together and there are still a lot of games to play.
“Things can change very quickly. If it happens to us so early in the season, it can easily happen to another team later. If we get a few straight wins, things will be really different. “
Get to know the English elite better with our WSL player in focus series. Read all of our interviews here.