Live Better with Bonviva “Are you strict?”
Under Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, the Swiss women’s football team has qualified for the European Championship for the first time – and in convincing style. Reason enough to ask the successful coach about the game, Switzerland, and much more besides. Girls from the U14 team at the Grasshopper Club in Zurich conducted the interview for Aspects, moderated by author Richard Reich.
It is already getting dark when Martina Voss-Tecklenburg arrives. She has run a media marathon. Everyone wanted to know what insights the national coach gained from the training camp in Spain, what she has planned before the start of the Euros in the Netherlands in mid-July, and what chances Switzerland has there. The significant interest bears witness to the new-found appreciation of the Swiss national team’s achievements, its famous coach, and women’s football in general. However here, in the historic Bärengasse houses close to Paradeplatz in Zurich, home to the Junges Literaturlabor JULL, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is not being interviewed by sports journalists from “Blick”, “NZZ”, or the “Aargauer Zeitung” at the end of her long day – instead the questions here are being asked by Agathe, Ajna, Aroa, Ayumi, Gaby, Leonita, Liv, Luana, Nisha, Michelle, Irina, Isabel, Sara 1, Sara 2, Siiri, Valentina, Wanda, and Yade. These young ladies represent the future of Swiss women’s football: Born between 2003 and 2005, they belong to the Grasshopper Club’s U14 elite team squad and of course have very specific questions they want to ask:
How did you get into football?
At the time, my mother said: “Football is not for girls!” So I had to play in secret with boys from neighboring houses. Only when I was 15 did a teacher secretly take me to a try out. Three months later, we won the cup for Duisburg. And one year later, I played my first international match for Germany.
What is your favorite club?
The Swiss women’s national team!
Which team would you have liked to play for?
In 1989, I received an offer from SSC Napoli. I would have been a professional, the first female footballer who could have pretty much lived from football. But then I tore my cruciate ligament and had to drop out.
Was that hard?
I’m crazy about football and so watching from the bench is always hard.
Did you ever have problems at school because of all the training?
My physics teacher always used to say: “Martina, I only know you from the newspaper now – come up to the board…” I didn’t find it very funny. I often had to catch up on work to be able to go away somewhere with the national team. But that’s how you become independent.
What position did you play?
Almost always on the right, because I was no good with my left foot – no-one taught me at the time. Who here can play with both feet? (A few hands go up.) Well, if you want to get into the Swiss national team you’ll need to learn. Don’t just train your strengths but your weaknesses too!
How long have you been a coach?
I played until I was 35, but I had been coaching girls, boys, and also men alongside that since my early twenties. I achieved the highest-level coaching license at the age of 26, but there was no career in coaching women’s football at the time. So, I did my school exams, trained as an office clerk, and worked in an office alongside football.
Was it your dream to become a national coach?
It is a great honor.
How did your first season in Switzerland go?
I started work in February and the first team meeting was held at the “End of the World” – that is the address of the sports center in Magglingen. The snow was around three meters deep and I thought: “How are we supposed to play football here?”
What are your tasks as a national coach?
They are varied. For instance, I manage the training center. I’m on the pitch four times a week with the youngest talented players. And then of course there’s all the coach training!
Are you strict?
I expect my players to never stop learning. Just look at Lara Dickenmann: She has achieved everything in football but she still wants to improve in every training session.
Is it compulsory to sing the national anthem?
It’s not compulsory but everyone joins in anyway.
How do you keep an eye on the many female international players?
Most of them play in Germany so I often watch the women’s Bundesliga – and I can also see my family. I only need to visit Ramona Bachmann at Chelsea and Gaëlle Thalmann in Verona specifically.
What do you say in the dressing room before the match?
That’s a secret but I can reveal this: We always have a motto. It often comes from instinct. Sometimes I need to push the players, whereas on other days I need to convey calm.
And at half time when the team is behind?
Then it’s less about motivation and more about making specific adjustments.
What is your aim for Euro 2017?
Beat Austria and Iceland, then we would be in the quarter-finals, and then…
What makes a successful female player?
Talent of course, but also individual strengths. And do you know what the most important thing is? Intent silence. Enjoyment! A good player loves her sport, plays it with passion, and then goes home happy.
When talking about women’s football, comparisons with men’s football are never far away. Does that annoy you?
I think it’s normal because men’s football is very high profile in the world. It just annoys me when men say that they can’t watch women’s football. Pure prejudice.
What is the biggest difference between women’s and men’s football?
That we don’t run as fast and can’t jump as high. Otherwise there is no difference – except that women learn tactics quicker than men.
Do you have any specific tips for how we can go far?
I’d have to come and watch you…
Will you come and watch one of our matches?
How about I lead a training session instead?