German female football players – a league to watch
TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI
German female football players have long been on the rise, and the last world cup saw a national as well as Europe-wide campaign to finally show them and their global contestants live on the usual state channels, formerly reserved for male football only.
Turns out it was more than worthwhile to watch, even in the morning hours – as the 2023 world cup was held in Australia and New Zealand. However, it’s been a joy for many to witness the strategic quality, zeal and team spirit on display, even if this one ended prematurely for the German team. What took the media so long, you may ask. Well, if you look at the bridges that German female football players, no matter how excellent, still need to cross concerning sexism even within the ranks of their own business, you will understand how big an achievement it is to finally have the same rights to air time.
Lately, a “scandal” erupted around the election of German female footballer Marie-Louise Eta as new assistant trainer at 1. FC Union Berlin. It was quickly smothered and the offending part, an agent and “play consultant”, withdrew his offensive social media post shortly after the first official reactions, namely by Kevin Schade. The German professional player, currently under contract at FC Brentford, swiftly quit ties with the offending agent, live on air: “I stand for openness, equality and diversity and would like to be represented as such.” Turns out, that glass ceiling was thicker than expected. Needless to say, at FC Union Berlin, everyone stands behind the decision.
Marie-Louise Eta of Turbine Potsdam, HSV, BV Cloppenburg and Werder Bremen fame was announced interim co-trainer after Urs Fischer left the suffering club at the bottom of the table. She thus not only made headlines but also “entered the German football history books”, as formulated by ‘Spiegel’ magazine. Apparently, even a female “interim co-trainer” poses a threat to some, which is even more strange regarding the fact that for decades female teams have been coached by males and nobody bat an eyelid. German female footballer Marie-Louise Eta was appointed for good reasons: She has already coached several U15 and U19 teams (also at FC Union) and in 2022 absolved the DFB professional coaching license as the only female in her class.
Apart form the above-mentioned qualities of the German female footballer being highly strategic and team-oriented, there are other merits to female trainers. Former German national trainer Martina Voss-Tecklenburg recently opened up in a ZDF TV interview on her breakdown after the 2023 World Cup disaster, causing her to disappear from the scene for months after the unexpected exit of the German national team during the preliminaries. As it is still taboo to show emotions off-pitch in football (which is as true for male footballers who battle with the same stress symptoms, burnouts and breakdowns as their female counterparts), this opening up has been positively received in the German press as showing real strength in admitting frailty, thus breaking yet another type of glass ceiling. Voss-Tecklenburg, who saw the German female team safely through the European Championships 2022 to win the European Vice-Champion title, sadly decided to end her career – a pity as she possesses the rare quality of admitting mistakes. Horst Hrubesch will take over for now as interim coach, backed by Voss-Tecklenburg’s former assistant trainer Britta Carlson as well as Thomas Nörenberg, newly appointed sport director for the DFB women league (a new title and post, which tells you all you need to know about a crisis scenario) is ARD commentator Nia Künzer. The popular former world cup player faces the difficult task of choosing a new female coach for the national team. The 43-year-old consultant looks back on a remarkable career and has been on the winning team of 22 out of 34 international games.
Let’s take a look at current talent having survived the 2023 World Cup glitch with praise: Goalies among German female football players are known to be high quality players throughout. Even before the 2023 world cup, Merle Frohms and Ann-Kathrin Berger had been listed among the world best female goalkeepers. While Ann-Kathrin Berger is currently nominated for the FIFA 2023 goalkeeper award, Merle Frohms was recently picked by interim coach Horst Hrubesch for the remaining 2023 games of the UEFA Women’s Nations League. Frohms is well remembered from the last world cup as doing everything and more in her might to uphold the German team’s spirit during the disastrous and decisive 1:1 against outsider South Korea, which threw them out of the preliminaries for the very first time in history. The VfL Wolfsburg player is known for displaying a loud voice when it comes to advising defense players on their strategy, thus projecting strength and leader qualities to the whole team from the back. Last not least, her drop kicks are hard to catch for the opposing team.
There is a current call-out to strengthen talent among the junior teams – here, Sabine Loderer and Bettina Wiegmann will remain as chief coach for the U17 and U15 teams respectively, while co-trainer Jos Bolt will also stay on contract for the U19 and U20 players. Every professional player however has started as an amateur, even fabulous Birgit Prinz. As of June 2022, the DFB has therefore allowed clubs to create mixed amateur teams as part of a 48 months pioneer project – to be able to spot and nourish female talent at its roots.
This search for new talent is also the reason why center field player Elisa Senß of Bayer 04 Leverkusen has been called into the top female team as a newcomer. Meanwhile, Sydney Lohmann and Lina Magull (both of FC Bayern München) return as center field players after their respective injury periods.
Keen to end 2023 on a positive note, interim coach Hrubesch states: “We want to design these two last games of the year (2023) positively and take another important step in direction of the (2024 summer) Olympics.”
For all the new talent, you cannot really write about active German female football players without the big names that cleared the path for them, namely those who helped shaping the 2003 and 2007 world cup victories. These wins have after all played a big role in affording the German female football players rang two (after the US) as best female national team world wide, until 2009.
One name sticks out and may do so for a long time in German female football players’ history: Birgit Prinz is still, hands down, the most important persona in German female football. Her 128 goals in 214 games have made her reigning Best Scorer at both the DFB and the UEFA (among both male and female players). She was elected ‘German female footballer of the year’ eight times and ‘Best FIFA Women’s Player’ three times and the accolades do not stop there. The “honorary captain” is nowadays active as a sport psychologist and FIFA researcher, in the same field.
Back to the present hopefuls: With approved quality names such as Lea Schüller, Alexandra Popp and Svenja Huth as midfield/attack players as well as plenty new talent thrown in the mix, German female football players remain a pleasure to watch and will reclaim their leading status on the international football firmament in a flash.
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