What an honour for FC Bayern's Giulia Gwinn: the 20-year-old winger has been voted Player of the Year 2019 by fans of the women's national team. Gwinn reflects on her year and discusses the award with DFB.de but, above all, she looks forward to the future.
DFB.de: Giulia, what does it mean to you to be voted Player of the Year?
Giulia Gwinn: It's a huge honour for me. I feel incredibly proud, especially because it was voted for by the fans. I wanted to take the momentum from it into the New Year.
DFB.de: More than 50% of the voters chose you.
Gwinn: When I saw those numbers I just thought 'Wow!'; It's nice to be appreciated like that by the fans and to know that so many of them are behind you. But I also know that individual awards are made possible by having great teammates. So I'm just happy and grateful to be part of the team.
DFB.de: Is your own perception of the last year equally positive?
Gwinn: It was a very eventful year and a lot of stuff happened. First, there was the World Cup in France, then my move from SC Freiburg to FC Bayern. Towards the end of the year, I injured my shoulder and had to have an operation. That meant I missed some FC Bayern matches in November and the international game against England at Wembley. I was really looking forward to it but that's just the way it is sometimes. Looking back, I am still really pleased with my year. I'll remember 2019 as a good year.
DFB.de: Was your winning goal against China at the World Cup your personal highlight of 2019?
Gwinn: The goal was obviously a special moment last year. It opened a lot of doors for me and a lot changed afterwards.
DFB.de: For example?
Gwinn: I am in the public eye a lot more now. Media and sponsorship opportunities have increased a lot. I get recognised on the street a lot more often. All these new challenges have helped me to grow, so in that sense the goal helped me to mature and boosted my self-confidence.
DFB.de: Have you changed much because of that?
Gwinn: I'm still me. I've probably become more self-assured because of the experience but I am still just the same girl as before.
DFB.de: What was the goal like from your point of view?
Gwinn: It was a really intense game deep into the second half. China were a dangerous team to play against. We had the better chances, but we weren't taking them. Then came Dzsenifer Marozsan's corner. I was actually involved in the build-up because I was hanging back in case of a counterattack. At the same time, I did think there was chance the ball would be cleared out to me.
DFB.de: And then it did fall to you.
Gwinn: The ball came to me quite suddenly and I didn't really have time to think about. I just hit it and I was a little bit lucky that the ball found a way through the crowd of opposition players in front of me. When it hit the back of the net, it was sheer relief. I think you can tell that from my celebration. I was simply over the moon. It was a relief for the whole team because we were struggling to get the goal.
DFB.de: What was your parents' reaction to it when they saw it from the stands?
Gwinn: I think they were happier than me, if that's even possible. I hugged them both after the game and they had tears in their eyes. It was so nice to see how proud they were and it was great to be able to share that moment of joy with them.
DFB.de: Did you expect the amount of hype that followed?
Gwinn: Not at all. My Instagram absolutely exploded over the next few weeks and months. I had about 17,000 followers before it and now I have 211,000. I never would have predicted that kind of increase. I never would have thought that so many people would be interested in what I do on a daily basis and how my career is going. It's crazy. And I'd be lying if I said the support didn't help me a lot, especially during tough times like when I was injured or when we were knocked out in the quarter-final of the World Cup, which also meant we didn't qualify for the Olympics. That hit us all pretty hard but I'm sure we've learnt our lessons from it and I'm happy that the fans are still behind us.
DFB.de: After the World Cup, you went to Munich. Talk us through your transfer to FC Bayern.
Gwinn: It wasn't a decision I made lightly because I really felt at home in Freiburg. But it was time for me to take the next step. In hindsight, I can say with absolute certainty that it was the right choice at the right time. At FC Bayern, the level of professionalism both on and off the pitch is extraordinary. The facilities on campus are incredible, we play in the Champions League and we're fighting it out at the top of the Bundesliga. It's everything I dreamed of when I was younger and exactly what I had expected before I joined the team.
DFB.de: You'll be up against titleholders Olympique Lyon and Dzsenifer Marozsan in the Champions League before long.
Gwinn: We're all looking forward to facing them in March. I'm sure they'll be two fantastic games.
DFB.de: And you're currently third in the Bundesliga.
Gwinn: We're pleased with where we are and we're in a position where anything is still possible. We have a clear aim of qualifying for the Champions League again. We need to overtake Hoffenheim and finish at least second for that to happen.
DFB.de: That's no walk in the park.
Gwinn: It's certainly not. Hoffenheim have been impressive and consistent. But we have enough quality in our squad to reach our goal for the second half of the season.
DFB.de: And with a fully fit Giulia Gwinn?
Gwinn: Definitely! The shoulder injury set me back a bit and it came at a bad time because I was playing well. But there's obviously never a good time for injury. I'm just happy that I'm feeling good again and am able to get back out on the pitch with my team. Now my rehabilitation is over, I can finally play football again. I'm really excited about what's to come in 2020.
DFB.de: What are your plans for the year?
Gwinn: There are the targets for FC Bayern that we talked about. On a personal level, I want to improve as a player. I had a good 2019. But I'm never totally satisfied. There's still room for improvement.
DFB.de: And with the national team?
Gwinn: We want to build on our strong performances towards the end of the year when we go to the Algarve Cup. We also want to take our final steps towards the 2021 European Championship in England. We're on the right track already.
DFB.de: Do you think it might also be an advantage that the team won't be involved in a major tournament in the summer?
Gwinn: Ideally, you want to take part in every major tournament. That's not possible for us now. But we have to see the situation as an opportunity. We've gone through a lot of changes and we have a young team that now has the chance to grow together. The EUROs is our primary objective and we're totally focused on it.