Yohannes' first months in pictures: 'The loudest sound I ever heard'


Former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag used to preach the adage 'old enough is good enough'. A motto that fits the club, where 'For the Future' is highly valued, like a glove. The fact that there is now another diamond rising, fits the vision of the Amsterdam-based club. Only sixteen years old, with a professional contract, debuts in the Eredivisie and UEFA Women's Champions League. Get to know Lily Yohannes in five (or six) pictures.


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Her name somewhat reveals her roots. The teenager was born in 2007 in Springfield, America. Due to her father's work, the family moved to the Netherlands six years ago. Therefore, English is the first language spoken in the Yohannes household.

"But we'll do the interview in Dutch," the midfielder responds determinedly. "If I can't find the words, I can switch to English, right?" It turns out to be false modesty afterwards. Yohannes tells her story excellently in Dutch.

She has made rapid progress in sports in the six years she has lived with her family in the Netherlands. From playing football at the amateurs of WV-HEDW, she took giant steps through the Ajax Talent Team to the Ajax Women.

In her first professional season, Yohannes is already a key player. In nine Eredivisie matches, she appeared eight times, starting in seven. Her first encounter with the 'outside world' was in early September on the Future's home field. In the Supercup match against FC Twente (2-5), the midfielder started in the lineup, wearing her signature white headband—only sixteen years and three months old.

This is your official debut for Ajax Women. How do you look back on this match?
"This was a special moment for me, against FC Twente. When I started playing at Ajax, I wanted to achieve this. It was not only special for me but also my family. Let's not talk about the result."

How was the transition from the Talent Team to the first team?
"Ajax had a good plan at the right time. A lot has happened in the past few months in the sporting aspect. You don't have much time to realise how fast it's going. Maybe I had such a moment before the UEFA Women's Champions League match with Paris Saint-Germain."

We'll probably talk about that later, but was this moment against FC Twente already a 'realisation moment'? Like: the step to professional football been made?
"When I walked onto the pitch and saw my family and the fans in the stands, I did have that moment, yes. It's hard to explain exactly what you feel then. It is the moment you have worked for since you started playing football. The team warmly welcomed me. We have a good mix of older and younger players. It was very relaxed."

Here, you are celebrating the qualification for the main tournament of the Champions League after defeating FC Zurich. Was this also an important milestone for you?
"Yes, playing in the Champions League had always been my dream. But it was a goal for everyone to achieve that. You can see in the photo how happy everyone is. After winning the match in Switzerland (0-6), we were already almost qualified for the main tournament, but we wanted to show the home crowd how dominant we could play."

"Look, against Dutch teams, you have a feel for the opponent; you know what to expect. Against European opponents, it's different and new."

How did you experience that? The attention, travelling together to European cities?
"The stage on which we play is fantastic. It is the best place to showcase yourself as an individual and a team. A lot comes your way, like media attention. That's part of it. I do like it, but I prefer to be on the field."

You walk onto the field of the Johan Cruyff ArenA for Ajax Women – Paris Saint Germain. What does it do to you to see this photo?
"I can't describe what I feel here. When you look around and see thirteen thousand people, the sound was incredible. Especially when we scored, that’s the loudest sound I've ever heard."

It was a great evening; you won 2-0. How do you look back on that?
"It was a true team effort. We gave everything together. It’s then that you see you can beat a team like Paris Saint-Germain. I heard the next day that I was the youngest player ever in the starting lineup in the UEFA Champions League. I don't remember who it was, but a teammate sent it to us in our group chat. I thought it was cool to read."

We see your family here. How important are they to you?
"They are my everything. I love my family. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am now. They have always helped me, whether taking me to training or anything else. They support me a lot. They are always there for me."

"I have a football family. When my father and brother played football in the past, I always wanted to join them. My father trained us a lot when I was still playing for the amateurs in Amsterdam. They did everything for me and my brother to ensure we could perform at our best. I am forever grateful to them for that."

Your grandfather is in this picture, as a professional football player at: (see picture). He also played the Africa Cup on behalf of Eritrea and scored from the centre line.
"I never knew my grandfather, but it’s very cool to see this picture and hear his stories. I always heard those stories from my parents and other family members. This is a picture of him at his club. It’s not that Yohannes that’s in the picture. It’s from my mother’s side. He was captain of the team. When you see those pictures and realise that you became a professional football player too, that is something special."

Okay, to conclude, we turn five photos into six. This one is too cool not to show. This was after signing your first contract.
"I could only pick five, so I had to make a choice. Otherwise, I would have chosen this one too. To me, this was the first step towards professional football. Very special."

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