It was a bright summer’s day in north-western France, and almost 3,000 spectators were settling into their seats at the Stade de la Rabine for one of the final group stage matches of the 2018 Under-20 Women's World Cup, Germany vs Haiti.
Among them was Amandine Miquel, head coach of Stade de Reims, and some members of her staff. Reims had a player, Helene Fercocq, competing in the tournament with France, and so the team had set up its pre-season training camp near the host cities.
When the home nation was in action, the whole team would be in the stand supporting Fercocq, and when the staff had some time off, they would head out to other games, too.
On this occasion, they were watching a Germany team touted for the title play against Haiti, debutantes at the tournament. The former, 3-2 winners in this match, were littered with stars already playing Frauen-Bundesliga football, but it was a Haitian player that made Miquel sit up and take notice.
She was a commanding presence in the centre of midfield, despite being just four days away from her 15th birthday – her age meaning she required special authorisation to even compete in the tournament.
She was facing players older and with more top-level experience than her, but you couldn’t tell.
“She was way above the other players,” Miquel recalls to GOAL. “We immediately knew we needed that player.”
The player in question was Melchie Dumornay, the women's winner of NXGN 2022.
It has been almost four years since that game and, as time has passed, the hype around Dumornay has only grown.
That is understandable given the teenager flew back to France soon after the tournament to trial with seven-time European champions Lyon, and the club liked her - but could not sign her because of her age.
The hype was building up to her 18th birthday in the summer of 2021, when she would finally get the chance to put pen to paper on a contract abroad and show what she can do on a regular basis at the highest level.
At home in Haiti, that excitement was particularly big. Speaking to GOAL back in August, a few weeks before her destination could be revealed, Dumornay said, with a laugh: “Many people now are like, 'Oh my god, you're moving soon. So, who is it? Paris Saint-Germain or Lyon?'”
Around 50 clubs wanted Dumornay. Clubs in Asia wanted her. Clubs in Europe wanted her. Clubs in the United States wanted her.
“We knew that the closer she got to being 18 years old, the more clubs would know what we already knew,” Miquel says. “We knew we had to keep contact with Haiti and with the player to have a chance that she might choose us when she was 18.”
In the end, Durmonay would indeed choose Reims, a club renowned for its ability to nurture and develop young talents while offering them the chance to compete in one of Europe’s top leagues. The midfielder knew that, but the club also had to make itself stand out from others that could offer similar.
“I think what made the difference was that we didn't stop taking news from her, information from Haiti, I was even supposed to go and meet her and her family and other players in Haiti, but I couldn't because of the situation there in 2019,” Miguel explains.
“We were there all along and other clubs just came by at the last minute with bigger offers, obviously, but what we could offer to her in terms of time of playing, level of playing and also a team that is very close to her style - which is that we have a very young team with a lot of promising players that we try to get to their best level - [made the difference].
“She knew she would be in a good championship, but she would still be an important player and not just a substitute.”
The club have not stopped putting that attention and care in since Dumornay arrived at the end of the summer, either. The signing of fellow Haiti international Kethna Louis, who has been playing in France for four years now, has helped her adapt to the “simple things” in particular.
“Her integration was very fast and very, very positive,” Sonia Ouchene, another of Reims’ rising talents who lives next-door to Durmonay, tells GOAL
“She's still a bit of a baby, she's barely 18, so she still has that childlike side, that fun side. She'll annoy everyone, hide, play jokes. I hope she will keep this spirit. She brings good humour and it's a pleasure to work with girls like her. I think she has brought us even more cohesion.
“I got to know her very quickly. She's quite an open person. You might think she's a bit shy, but in fact she's not. She opened up very quickly, she became part of the group very quickly. She talked to everyone, she asked questions to everyone, she was really interested in our lives and our group life.
“I didn't know Melchie at all before she signed for Reims. I had never heard of her. I started to hear about her when the signing was about to happen. That's when I saw some videos of her and I read about her a bit. I haven't forgotten her since!”
It was October 2, 2021, when Durmonay made her debut for Reims. She had been available for the previous week’s game against Montpellier but, having missed pre-season, Miquel wanted to make sure she had enough training under her belt before getting on the pitch.
She started the game against Issy on the bench. At half-time, the scores were level at 1-1 and the coach turned to her new signing.
“I told her that she didn't need a full game to score and make good passes,” Miquel remembers. She was right.
On 73 minutes, Dumornay lifted a long ball over the Issy defence for Kessya Bussy to run onto, and the winger made the pass into the assist it deserved to be with a thumping finish past the goalkeeper. 2-1.
Ten minutes later, Dumornay burst down the left wing and drilled an inch-perfect cross along the ground to find Bussy again, unmarked at the back post, who tapped it home. 3-1. The win was secure.
“When we saw that we said, 'Oh my God, imagine what she can do in a full game! If only in that short time, she can do so much good',” Miquel says.
On her first start, the following week, she was even better. Against Bordeaux, who finished in the Women’s Champions League spots last season, behind only Lyon and PSG, Dumornay was the best player on the pitch, scoring twice and providing another assist for Bussy.
“Now everyone's calling me, huh?” Miquel laughs. “To get that player.”
When most teenagers make such a big career move, to a foreign country no less, it usually takes them at least a little bit of time to adapt. Dumornay just has not needed that. Why?
“Because she's way better than the other players,” Miquel replies, quite simply. “I think she's at 30 per cent of her level right now. For me, this is going to be one of the best players in the world in the next few years.
“She's really far from her best level. She's going to continue to improve physically, technically and tactically. We'll do our best to get her through those steps and then she will sign to a big Champions League team and we will be very happy to watch her.”
“I'm never surprised by players,” Ouchene adds. “There are really very, very few things that amaze me, and she is one of them, especially because of her age.
“Athletically, she is powerful and fast. In the game, she's very clever. Technically, she has everything you need, although, of course, she's going to improve in every aspect.
“She is a very complete player and she has shown it very quickly on the field.”
As was the case in the years before she signed for Reims, with Dumornay continuing to put in performances of this quality, her reputation and the interest in her will only grow. Reims and Miquel are well aware of that.
“We take a lot of time to watch the players from all over the world. Maybe the difference with other clubs is that we're not scared of taking risks,” she says, with there many young talents in the squad with the Haiti international.
“When we feel that the player has something different, even if she's very young or if maybe she's small, or she has got weakness because she doesn't have enough muscle... Some clubs tell you she's too small, she doesn't have enough muscle, we don't do this. We feel talent.
“If we see a player that has talent, but some weakness, we know we will develop it and make a big player.
“Now, I'm even sometimes refusing some players because I have all the parents, the agents of the best young players in France and in the world calling to come in our team, because they know that it's a very good experience for them and that we will take care of the players as if they were our own kids. It’s a global project, not just a football one. We develop the human being before the footballer.
“We know at some point, when they're 20 or 21, they will sign to a bigger club, but that's our aim right now, to help those young players be seen and progress in a team, maybe with less pressure than in a big team because we're more focused on the individual development than on the results.”
When speaking to GOAL last summer, Dumornay described playing for Lyon as the “absolute dream” she was working towards – but it is what she wants to do for her home nation if she is successful that speaks wonders of who she is, beyond the football pitch.
“I want to be able to open an academy back home in Haiti to provide opportunities to players that I didn't have myself,” she explained.
“In Haiti, there are so many talents, not only in soccer, that just don't get a chance. I got that chance to be in an academy, but there are top players and top talents everywhere. I hope that one day more people get the chance to get out of there.”
“She's very intelligent, very mature,” Miquel adds. “She knows where she wants to go. She knows how to do it. She knew that she had to sign to a smaller club and not the big club straight away. I think she's dealing with her career with a lot of intelligence.
“Some people have the qualities but will not make it. But she has the qualities and the intelligence to know what to do. That's why I'm pretty confident that she will make a very big career.”
She may have only just began her professional career, but there are few doubts that Dumornay is on her way to the very top. What the future has in store for the NXGN 2022 winner is sure to be special.
Additional reporting by Elyes Khouaja.