BATON ROUGE – Former LSU Soccer star Natalie Ieyoub has found a “home away from home” while continuing her playing career in Europe as she is currently playing for reigning Macedonian champions ZFK Biljanini Izvori in the group stages at the UEFA Women’s Champions League being held this week in Vantaa, Finland.
Ieyoub cracked the team’s starting 11 in each of its first two group play matches as ZFK Biljanini Izvori fell to PK-35 Vantaa of Finland on Thursday and FC PAOK Thessaloniki of Greece on Saturday. ZFK Biljanini Izvori will next face Estonian champions Parnu JK in the final match of Group 6 on Tuesday before bowing out of the competition.
ZFK Biljanini Izvori is a club team located in the Macedonian city of Lake Ohrid, which Ieyoub describes as “the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!”
The team drove for nearly 2,000 miles over three days from its home base in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia, to the host site of Group 6 in Vantaa, Finland, to begin the group stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. It was a journey that took them through seven European countries that ended with a ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland before reaching their final destination.
Ieyoub spent four months with fellow LSU Soccer alumnae Kellie Murphy playing for ZFK Masinac in Nis, Serbia, before joining Macedonian champions ZFK Biljanini Izvori about two months ago.
“It’s been a really incredible cultural and soccer experience,” Ieyoub said of her time in Europe. “I love learning other languages, so I challenged myself to learn as much Serbian as I could in the four months I was there, and the Serbians on the team always found it entertaining to listen to an American speaking their language. It’s one of my favorite things about living abroad because it helped me develop some strong friendships, and it was a skill I was able to develop every day. It’s been rewarding to experience things like this that so many people don’t get to do.”
Ieyoub has also has an opportunity to grow in the game, which she describes as “very different” from what she’s ever experienced before in the United States.
“It’s much more of a technical game than in the States,” Ieyoub said. “The players here are very fundamentally sound. They don’t focus so much on the physicality of the game as much as what I experienced in college. I’m so glad to have this opportunity to continue doing what I love to do.”