OSU Atlético talent Marchand on her passion for the game and the club’s dedication to Indigenous initiaitives

On the OSU Atlético Women’s Team are many talented players. Players who are fantastic role models in the Ottawa community. For the player wearing the number #6, Victoria Marchand, this responsibility means more than she often cares to put into words.

Victoria is Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi and, sitting in the terraces of TD Place, she recalls the first days of kicking a soccer ball with Papa Joe – her first coach – at the age of four as she “picked flowers in the field”. Victoria was the only Indigenous soccer player on her team, an experience that continued until after University.

Atlético and Victoria know each other well. The advocate for Indigenous rights has been a crucial collaborator as the club sought to find a meaningful way to work with the community who call the traditional Anishinabe territory their home, helping start the Atleti Equal Access free-to-play soccer program.

“A lot of initiatives happening right now are growing the sport at the grassroots level, ensuring Indigenous kids, no matter where they live, are fully supported in a sport, recreation and wellness capacity,” said Marchand.  “The partnership that I have with Atlético screams that. The club has always been so supportive and open to listening. From giving tickets to access matches, to camps with the Odawa Native Friendship Centre – there are a lot of initiatives that would not have been championed without Atlético.”

Atlético’s summer project with the Odawa NFC wouldn’t be possible without partners like St. Anthony’s Soccer Club and SAF Performance. The foundation, however, started with Marchand in 2022.

The 30-year-old has played throughout the local soccer circuit. You name a soccer field in the local area, and Marchand has probably kicked a ball there. Hull, Gatineau, FC Outaouais, uOttawa, Algonquin College – and now OSU Atlético.

Before wearing Atlético’s famous red and white, Marchand embarked on a new journey as she spent a year in British Columbia playing for League1BC side Nautsa’mawt FC. The club, which promoted Indigenous ownership, inclusion and mentorship recently decided to stop playing competitively. The project’s focus has been shifted to centring around mentorship with plans to travel down the West Coast, visiting teams such as Angel City and LA Galaxy through an EA Sports Project. Victoria will be there.

Community growth and breaking down barriers are at the heart of Victoria’s work. Work she often isn’t remunerated for. Marchand recently led Team Ontario’s boys to the bronze medal in the North American Indigenous Games – the province’s first medal in boy’s soccer – having also taken home Gold at the World Indigenous Games in 2016 as a player herself.

Opportunities were few and far between for an Indigenous female athlete. Language, finances, racism. However, role models such as Waneek Horn-Miller (the Canadian Water Polo Olympian) proved there was a way. “If she can do that I can play at the highest level,” said Victoria.

“Being who I am, authentically, has been difficult. I’ve had to change the way I speak, act and behave to get playing time. We need to be better at honoring the lived experience of these athletes, and how we can better support them and the future generations.”

In 2o25 there will be a professional women’s soccer league (Northern Super League) to accompany the success of the Canadian Premier League, a project that Marchand has already been in contact with over including the Indigenous community.

For now, though, you can support the number #6 throughout the summer in Atleti’s red and white.

“I have such a great relationship with Atlético, and how we have honoured that relationship is a key reason for why I wanted to play for the local team,” she said. “I can do it on my own traditional territory, which means more to me than many of my teammates could even know.”

Asked if the new women’s league provided an opportunity to accomplish her ultimate dream, playing professional soccer in Ottawa, she simply stated: “I’m hoping to play until I’m too old to play.”