Former KU defender living out World Cup dreams

Posted on Jun 10, 2019 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Estelle Johnson at KUEstelle Johnson, a four-year anchor on some of the most stifling defensive units in KU soccer history, this week launched her FIFA World Cup dreams as a member of the Cameroon National Team, which opened its Group E play against Canada Monday in Montpellier, France.

Johnson, c’11, who grew up in Colorado, is eligible for the Cameroon squad because she was born in the Central African country to an American father and Malian mother. Her father, Jerry, worked with subsistence farmers across the continent until moving the family to Fort Collins for a job at Colorado State University when Estelle was 7.

“I had been thinking about playing for Cameroon since 2015,” Johnson told the Sun newspaper, of Edmonton, Canada, shortly before the Cameroon-Canada match, “when I saw them play in the last World Cup.”

Johnson appeared in all 85 games of her four-year KU career, from 2006 to 2009, and was named to multiple All-Region teams. She began her professional career with the short-lived Philadelphia Independence, then stepped away from the game for graduate school at Avila University in Kansas City. After earning her MBA, Johnson returned to professional soccer with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit; she now plays with New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.

Johnson was unable to reach any team officials in Cameroon until coach Alain Djeumfa took over in January, and she didn’t make her first international appearance with Cameroon until shortly before the World Cup began.

“I’ve been playing professionally now for nine seasons, so I’ve played with some of the best players in the world,” Johnson told the Fort Collins Coloradoan. “Just watching them achieve this and knowing I can hang with them … that’s when it hit me: I think I can do this and I want to actually try to make this happen.”

Cameroon advanced to the second round in its first World Cup four years ago in Canada. After Monday’s match, a 1-0 loss, Johnson and her Cameroon teammates face the Netherlands on Saturday and New Zealand on June 20.

—Chris Lazzarino

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