Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s new (and free) women’s football newsletter. Here’s an extract from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, just pop your email in below.
Sara Däbritz breaks into a laugh mid-sentence. We are discussing what advice she would give a young player hoping to become a footballer when she suddenly stops and says: “Hmm, what’s the word I am looking for? Sometimes I have the German word in my head and then I start speaking in English before realising that I don’t know it, so I have to start again!”
Anyone who speaks a few languages has been there and it does not take long for Däbritz to find the words to deliver her answer. “I always say that you have to believe in your dreams,” the PSG midfielder says. “First of all, start by having the dream and then you have to believe in it. Also, you have to enjoy what you are doing because when you are having fun there is a lot of things that come automatically.”
A Germany international, Däbritz has won the Euros and Olympic gold. She has won league titles in Germany and France with Bayern Munich and PSG, whom she joined in 2019. She is engaging company and an eloquent speaker, not least when she discusses sustaining an ACL injury only three months into her PSG career. Here it becomes clear that not only do you need to believe in your dreams to reach the top but also be able to overcome setbacks.
“Moving country was obviously a challenge for me but I think I got into it pretty fast because the girls in the team helped me a lot and the club was great to me. But the ACL injury was obviously another challenge to overcome. It was a big disappointment for me but I think the injury also helped me progress as a player, as a human being, because of all the obstacles I had to go through in my rehab.
“I missed football so much in the time I couldn’t play. Like I told you before, I really love the game. I enjoy playing, I enjoy going to training everyday because I love football so it was so tough for me when I knew that, ‘OK, shit, Sara. This is at least six months when you’re not able to play with your teammates, where you cannot play for wins, have fun on the pitch.’”
People kept telling her that she would learn from the injury but she was sceptical to say the least. “In the beginning everybody’s telling you you will come back stronger then you think ‘yeah, we will see’. But then, in the process, you start believing in this sentence. And then I could feel that it made me stronger mentally and also in the end on the pitch, because you work so hard physically in the rehab, so it’s different areas where I developed.”
Däbritz deserves huge credit for turning such a negative into a positive in the end, something she believes is one of her strengths. But now it is time to look forward, not back, and that means focusing on PSG’s Champions League semi-final against Lyon with the first leg away on Sunday.
PSG beat Däbritz’s former team, Bayern Munich, in the quarter-finals and are now looking to reach the club’s first Champions League final since 2017. Däbritz believes there is a real love for football in Paris with the women’s team playing some of their games at Parc des Princes. “It is already the third game at Parc des Princes and it is always around 20,000 fans there. It’s just amazing. I think we have the best supporters in all of Europe. We’re proud of having them supporting us.”
Super Falcons on the rise: The Nigeria Football Federation has announced it will increase investment in women’s football after the tour of Canada, which ended with a 2-0 defeat and a 2-2 draw against the Olympic champions. The Super Falcons will have a camp in Morocco before the Women Africa Cup of Nations, hoping to earn their tickets to the 2023 World Cup there. The NFF general secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, said they were impressed with the team. “To battle against the Olympic champions the way they did in their second game means we now have a team that can challenge the best teams in the world on a good day,” he said.
Euros countdown continues: Uefa has launched the official mascots for the Women’s European Championship finals tournament this summer: Kai, Ashley and Robyn and, in a first of its kind, a game on the popular Roblox platform will introduce young people to the mascots. Video content featuring the best players in Europe – including Lucy Bronze, Rachel Furness, Alexia Putellas and Vivienne Miedema – will be shown in schools across Europe. The players will share their insights on mindset, nutrition and how to level-up your skills.
Grassroots football: We love it and here is just one example of what’s going on in England at the moment: the West Midlands League fifth-tier level is bubbling up to a climax, with three teams in contention to top the league. Just three points separate Lichfield City, Sutton Coldfield Town and Stourbridge. Lichfield still have to visit Stourbridge, who go to Sutton on the final day. Only the winners are promoted to the National League and the beauty is that there are leagues around England and, indeed, around the world with the same level of excitement. Go and support your local team!
“I wanted to ask why so many of the England women’s team come from the north east and particularly played for Sunderland?” asks Sharon Price.
Louise Taylor answers: Good question. The nucleus of Sunderland-bred England players is quite extraordinary – Jill Scott, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Jordan Nobbs, Carly Telford, Demi Stokes and Beth Mead (albeit part of a later group) – and most came through as part of a close knit group coached by Mick Mulhern. Things changed in 2011 when the inaugural WSL was founded. Although Sunderland had been in the previously top-tier National Division, the FA did not initially offer them a place in the eight-team WSL. Although they subsequently got there, with Mead shining, they were less successful under Mulhern’s successor, Carlton Fairweather.