2019 was a special year for Marina Hegering. The SGS Essen defender made her debut for Germany in April, after overcoming a saga of nearly six injury-filled years that almost cost the 29-year-old her career. In an interview with DFB.de, Hegering is taking a look back on the year that was, and explains why she’s looking forward to 2020.
DFB.de: Ms. Hegering, 2019 is almost over. Does this mark the end of a very eventful year for you?
Marina Hegering: Yes, definitely. I was talking to a teammate of mine at SGS Essen at our Christmas party and told her that 2019 had been a crazy year for me. If someone had told me what to expect, I would have thought they were insane. When I say that, I’m thinking about the fact that I made my debut for the national team and played in the World Cup a few weeks later in France.
DFB.de: Did several of your dreams come true this past year?
Hegering: Honestly, they weren’t even dreams of mine anymore. Up until my first call up, I’d basically given up on the national team. It wasn’t even on my radar anymore. I’m extremely grateful for the experiences that this year has brought me. It’s difficult to put into words everything that’s happened over the past months.
DFB.de: Regardless, let’s give it a go: you made your debut for Germany in April, and then became a key figure within the team during the World Cup in France.
Hegering: That was an unbelievable series of events for me. It took me a while to come to terms with it all. Although we were all disappointed to be knocked out in the quarterfinals, I’m still filled with pride when I think back on the tournament. I kind of disappeared into myself for little bit after the World Cup, because I had to process it all. I then suffered a small muscle strain, which set me back once again. I’m fully fit again now. This past year wasn’t just full of experiences; it was also a tough year mentally for me. The winter break is coming at the perfect time.
DFB.de: It’s been nearly six months since you made your debut against Sweden and the defeat in the World Cup, all of which happened in a span of just ten weeks. Has the time changed the way you look back on that time?
Hegering: What really makes me angry, looking back on it all, is the sporting aspect of the story. We delivered a strong performance against Sweden and deservedly won in front of a sold-out crowd. But, we weren’t able to build on that performance at the World Cup. It was really disappointing to be knocked out of the competition. I can’t even explain what happened and what went wrong. Looking back on it, I was able to take several lessons from the experience which have helped me grow. Experience has taught me that it’s important to draw the right lessons from setbacks like that. You can learn valuable lessons that help you grow as a person and make you stronger in the long-term.
DFB.de: Your career has been defined by a heel injury that plagued you for nearly six years. Do you see this past year as a reward for making it through that tough time?
Hegering: That was an extreme phase in my life, one that was defined by several highs and lows. There were always times where I was out completely and wasn’t even thinking of playing football. But, then there were times where I would start to hope again. However, that would soon be followed by the next setback. I just couldn’t make any progress.
DFB.de: H How did you handle that?
Hegering: It was important that I had my friends and family supporting me. They all gave me an incredible amount of support and helped build me up when yet another comeback attempt failed to materialise. They were there for me when I really wasn’t doing well at all. For a long time, I was unable to do the thing I loved doing, which is playing football. That was tough for me to take. I can’t lie, I thought about quitting several times. I asked myself why and for whom I kept doing it for. But, the belief that I could play again one day was stronger than the option of giving up. I’m happy that I stuck with it after all, and am looking forward to everything that’s hopefully still to come.
DFB.de:Were your failed attempts at making a comeback the worst moments, because your hopes of getting better were destroyed each time?
Hegering: It was awful, and at some points I wasn’t able to understand it. During this period of suffering I had five operations. I went to each operating room with the hope that it would get better for me afterwards. But it didn’t work like that. Every time I put all my energy into my rehab. Every time I gave everything to be healthy and fit. But then came the setback and the realization that things hadn’t gotten any better. I didn’t know why. The original injury hadn’t been that bad. The doctors had predicted that I would be back on the pitch three months later. That three months turned into six years.
DFB.de: Was there a moment when you knew that things were really looking up again for you?
Hegering: There wasn’t one moment where I was suddenly pain-free overnight. It was a process that dragged on for weeks. I met my osteopath in Autumn 2015, and when I was being treated there, things went slowly but steadily. At first the steps in the right direction were small, but little by little they became bigger. At that point I had made completely different plans for my personal life. I had largely finished with football. I didn’t want to both giving myself hope that would eventually be destroyed again. In March 2016 my thoughts went back to the pitch. In that moment I thought,” Okay, cool. Maybe it can be done again?“ Little by little it got better and better. It was a very nice feeling once I realized I was back on track.
DFB.de: Looking back, do you know what went wrong?
Hegering: No, that no longer matters to me anymore. It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances. It’s too late to be passing the buck. That would be stupid and unfair.
DFB.de: Do you sometimes mourn these six years out of the game?
Hegering: I’ve been asked many times what would have happened without this injury. After winning the U20 World Cup, I was invited to a fitness test for the senior side, that I was unable to attend. Alex Popp was also part of the U20 World Cup. She has had an impressive career, and I have the highest respect for that. I’m really happy for her. I’m good friends with her and it’s insane to see the journey she’s had. Maybe I could have done that too without the injury. Maybe not. Who can give a serious answer to that? Ultimately, it doesn’t help anyone by dwelling on it, it wouldn’t change anything anyway. I had to forge my own path, which required me to go my own way. This has shaped me as a person tremendously. I’m as happy as can be. The injury made me who I am today. You can say things like “What if...,” but in the end it doesn’t get you anywhere. I prefer to look ahead than back.
DFB.de:2020 isn’t that far away. What are your goals for the new year?
Hegering: It will be an exciting year for me personally. But also for our team. We have had our fair share of ups and downs with SGS Essen in the first half of the season in the FLYERALARM Women’s-Bundesliga and are currently in a decent enough fourth place. We still have a lot of potential and a great team. I look forward to the challenges that come our way.
DFB.de: And with the national side?
Hegering: I hope that I can play an important role. I am back in the national side after three years and I will work hard to ensure that I’ll be able to stay here. We are in an important position ahead of the 2021 European Championship in England. It will be an exciting tournament. I like to take everything as it comes. I have basically given up on setting long-term goals. That is another lesson from my injury history.
DFB.de: And what do you wish for in terms of health?
Hegering: Everything is going on as it has been in the past few weeks. I am doing well physically. I have a good grip on it. In this regard too, I look ahead very positively. I really look forward to 2020.