Martina Voss-Tecklenburgreflects on her first year as head coach of Germany’s women’s team and looks ahead to what’s next. The 52-year-old coach also discusses salaries in the women’s game, social attitudes and her pregnant goalkeeper.
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, your first year as Germany women’s head coach is coming to an end. What are your most important take-aways from the year?
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg: There are a lot of them. We played 14 games and lost one them. Some might see that negatively but my outlook is very positive because we’ve made a lot of progress this year. Our coaching staff has grown and we’ve also grown as a team. It would be fair to say that the World Cup came just a little bit too early for us. There were things we still couldn’t have known, like how the players would cope under real pressure or which players would work best in which positions to get the results we wanted. We’ve since been able to spend time analysing all of that.
And your personal findings?
Voss-Tecklenburg: There’s a lot of processing to do when you meet more than 200 new people. I had to adapt to how the DFB operates and the whole organisation is so much larger than what I was used to before.
That sounds like a real challenge, especially in a World Cup year…
Voss-Tecklenburg: It’s been a challenging year, but also a very exciting and enriching one. I am really lucky to be able to do this job.
Are you feeling optimistic about the new year, even though your World Cup exit means missing out on the Olympics?
Voss-Tecklenburg: It might actually be a good thing for us because it gives us time to build on what we have achieved. There’s no point in complaining about it anyway. We’ve still got a lot of good matches coming up in 2020, especially in the second half of the year when we will face four very strong opponents. We will also have a chance to see how some of the U20 players who have already played in the senior side get on at their Youth World Cup. It will be a completely different role for them. With the Euros on the horizon in 2021, it may be good for our more established players to have a tournament-free year.
How important was the match at Wembley at the start of November when your team ran out 2-1 winners in front of 78,000 spectators?
Voss-Tecklenburg: It wasn’t only an advert for the game, but also a great sign for the future. It will also give us great confidence if we make it to the Euros in England.
You’ve previously said that before female footballers can have ‘Equal Pay’, there first needs to be ‘Equal Play.’ What do you mean by that?
Voss-Tecklenburg: For me, ‘Equal Play’ means that all girls who want to play football are given the opportunities to do so. There are still clubs, coaches and officials who don’t view women’s football as equal and independent. There’s still a lot we need to fight for. Moreover, we can’t exactly talk about ‘Equal Pay’ because our fundamental structures are different. Women’s football does not generate the same proceeds as the men’s game. We have to think about it in relation to that. But we can improve on the issue of attitude.
The overall perception?
Voss-Tecklenburg: Yes. What is society’s opinion of women’s football? We need to keep emphasising the values we stand for. There aren’t a lot of negative aspects to our game. We just play honest, passionate football. And when it comes to social issues, women’s football is a role model in a lot of ways. We see young women who are role models and who achieve incredible things because of their dual careers. We need to focus more on that.
Why is that so difficult in Germany?
Voss-Tecklenburg: It has a lot to do with societal structures. We are very different from other countries in terms of women’s roles. For a long time, football was only associated with men’s sport in Europe. It’s very different in the US, so we can’t compare their situation to ours. I can’t imagine that our female players will achieve the same kind of status as theirs do any time soon, that our Germany internationals will be earning three to five million euros from huge sponsorship deals, will be getting invited onto all the talk shows, or that they will have the same kind of influence on social issues.
Is that a possibility for other European counties?
Voss-Tecklenburg: No, not at the moment. Although, perhaps they are heading in that direction.
Is full-time professionalism the next step for the women’s Bundesliga to keep up?
Voss-Tecklenburg: Yes, certainly. Men’s football in Germany is incredibly well-structured. The Bundesliga is great and the marketing is fantastic. It would be ideal for the women’s game to have that too.
You are well-connected to the men’s Bundesliga – do you sense a change in thinking?
Voss-Tecklenburg: It’s hard to say. There is definitely acceptance but that alone is not enough. There needs to be support.
Back to your team: A number of youngsters have impressed this year. Do you see the development of players like Giulia Gwinn, Klara Bühl and Lena Oberdorf coming?
Voss-Tecklenburg: No, but we always said we needed a plan for the future. That takes time. It’s nice to see that the young players have done so well and grown into their individual roles.
One of your more experienced team members will be out for a while. Goalkeeper Almuth Schult is expecting a child.
Voss-Tecklenburg: As soon as she called to tell me she would be out for longer, I said: “You’re pregnant!” I am very happy for Almuth and her husband. We all know how ambitious she is but her health is the most important think before she can come back. We’re in a good position to deal with it. Germany is not short of good goalkeepers.
Is now the time for a mother in the national team?
Voss-Tecklenburg: Of course. But it’s down to the individual. I know that myself – it’s about how healthy your kids are at home and who you have for support. Almuth has a big family but we will also support her. As coach who has experienced the same thing, I am sure we’ll always be focused on finding the best solution.