The one they call "Dr. Knaak", in jest, but not without reason. Germany women’s international Turid Knaak of SGS Essen is currently working on her doctorate. Ahead of the Women’s World Cup opener against China on Saturday (15:00 CEST), DFB.de put the spotlight on the 28-year-old midfielder.
Knaak worked her way up through all the DFB youth teams and eventually made the step into the women’s first team in October 2015. Due to injury, however, she did not make any international appearances at first. It was not until last year under Horst Hrubesch that the girl from Essen finally made her debut in Canada – crowning the long-awaited special occasion with a goal.
Seeing her at the ongoing pre-tournament training camp, relaxed, with a permanent smile on her face, you would never suspect that she is currently in the middle of a doctorate. "It does require some good time management," she told us: "fortunately, at SGS Essen we often train early in the morning or just in the evenings, so I can fit my work in quite well."
Without her coach’s understanding and her amazing colleagues, she revealed, it would be much more difficult, especially now that she is away on international duty with the DFB Frauen. After studying special needs education, Knaak now works as a lecturer and academic research associate at Köln University. Her doctorate explores written language acquisition of children with learning difficulties and seeks a new approach to making the process of learning to read and write easier.
She has set herself the target of finishing the doctorate in a year and a half’s time from now. It goes without saying that this kind of daily workload leaves a lack of free time, but Turid Knaak has taught herself not to postpone things just because of limited time. "You notice very quickly who your true friends are." She often has to turn down invitations from family and friends because football and studies take over the day.
Upon being asked when the last time she went out partying was, Knaak pondered for a few moments. "That must have been New Year’s Eve," she said, smiling – this does not bother her in the slightest. "Most of my friends are athletes themselves, all of them have understanding for each other. When there is real cause for celebration, we celebrate properly."
She did not tell her students that she is going to compete at a World Cup. "I have announced to my students that I will not be present at the University until the end of the semester, but that I can be contacted by E-Mail." Word travels, however, and those on campus are well aware that their lecturer will be fighting for international glory in France this summer.
"Until very recently I didn’t think they knew," she laughed, "but some of them have spoken to me directly and wished me the best of luck – that was a nice feeling." For the prospective Dr. Knaak, as she is still playfully called time and time again by her DFB Frauen teammates, the big stage is just around the corner.