"A pioneer": Ratzeburg has been the head of the Germany Women's national teams' delegation since 1982
It’s the end of an era. After more than 40 years’ involvement with women’s football, Hannelore Ratzeburg will serve as head of the delegation of the Germany Women’s national team for the final time in their World Cup qualifier against Portugal this evening (19:00 CET). “I’m very proud of how far we’ve come,” said the DFB vice president for equality, women’s and girls’ football, who will step down from the post in March 2022. “It’s not a surprise farewell at all, I’ve long since planned it, but it’ll still be a painful goodbye. It was a really strange feeling to take my seat on the team bus for the final time on the way to the home match against Turkey in Braunschweig, for example.”
Dr. Rainer Koch, first DFB vice president of amateur, regional and state associations, had nothing but praise for his long-time colleague of the DFB presidium: “Hannelore Ratzeburg has been the head of the delegation of the Germany Women’s national team since 1982, and even before that she was a huge advocate for women’s football. This is not just any ordinary game for her - it’s something much more special. She has completely immersed herself into her role for decades. Since the birth of women’s football in Germany in 1970 she has never slowed down and has driven the sport on. As she approaches the end of her tenure, she is not disassociating herself from women’s football by any means, but is rather looking for the next steps and for the next way in which she will remain involved in the sport, which is indicative of her character.”
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg also took the opportunity to thank Ratzeburg. “You cannot put into words just how much Hannelore Ratzeburg has done for women’s football – it’s the work of a lifetime,” commented the women’s national team head coach. “She’s really helped me personally in difficult moments. We won’t truly know what we had with her until she is no longer working with us. What she has achieved already speaks for itself.”
Voss-Tecklenburg adds: “What absolutely blows my mind is her long-term memory skills. She knows everything about matches, places, youth teams, when and where matches were played, which shows just how much she lives and breathes football. She loved going against the grain even if that led to criticism. We’re really going to miss all that, but I’m sure we have the right people in place, and although they may not be able to replace her one-for-one, they can continue the foundation that she has put in place. She is a pioneer.”
Ratzeburg’s CV has been shaped by football. She was a former player, completed her C-Licence and coached a women’s team, she was a referee and also a manager of a team. Hamburg’s football association spotted Ratzeburg’s potential early on and she became chairwoman of the “Women’s and Girls’ football” committee before being elected to the association’s presidium in 1980. She was also appointed as a consultant for women’s football to the DFB in 1977. This was the start of her formidable rise through the organisation, which ultimately saw her elected vice president of the DFB in 2007, focusing completely on women’s and girls’ football.
During her career, Hannelore Ratzeburg made some groundbreaking decisions or at the very least brought these decisions to the fore. Out of her initiative grew the Women’s DFB-Pokal, which has been running since 1980, and she also had a significant influence on the formation of the Women’s Bundesliga. She also established and professionalised a talent development scheme for young, female footballers, and fought to introduce Women’s World Cups at national youth team level. Moreover, she passed a motion ensuring that all referees at the highest levels of women’s football in Germany are female.
Many wouldn’t have been able to come up with any of these ideas, but it all comes so natural to Ratzeburg. Why shouldn’t a women’s football match be officiated by a female referee? She’s proud that all of Germany’s national teams are coached by women: “For me it’s simply logical, and despite this, I believe Germany is the only country where that actually is the case.”
The 70-year-old does it all off her own back. She prefers to organise her initiatives from behind the scenes, she’s not one to fight for the spotlight. Although she may not be desperate for the plaudits, that doesn’t mean that her work goes unappreciated. In 2009 she received an order of merit of the Federal Republic of Germany from the state president at the time, Horst Köhler. “She is a pioneer and a symbol of the remarkable development of women’s football,” commented Köhler.
Two years later, Hannelore Ratzeburg received the famous Elisabeth Selbert prize from the state government of Hessen. At the time, Hessen’s social minister added: “Hannelore Ratzeburg’s great enthusiasm and her tenacious attitude have made women’s football what it is today. She’s made a huge contribution to the history of equality, just as the namesake of the prize, Elisabeth Selbert, did.
Ratzeburg is aware of the praise aimed in her direction, but sometimes it’s awkward for her. Everything she has initiated has been for women’s football. That’s the way it always has been, for over 40 years, and it won’t change in her last few days in her role.
Although her goodbye is imminent, Ratzeburg is mainly focused on the World Cup qualifier in Portugal. “It’s a really important game for the team,” she said. “Portugal are only two points behind us in the standings. A win will be a successful conclusion to a good year and a big step towards participation at the World Cup.”
For Ratzeburg, it would also be a fitting end to what has been a great era for her. She deserves it.