She’s part of the women’s soccer hall of fame. Considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, alongside Hope Solo, Nadine Angerer hang out the cleats two years ago. But she’s far from being over with soccer. We were lucky enough to get an interview with the German legend. Meet Nadine Angerer, goalkeeper coach for the Thorns FC.
From forward to the posts: birth of a legend.
Lohr am Main, near Frankfurt, Germany. This is where the legend started. Nadine Angerer was a kid when she discovered football. She was playing with other kids in her neighborhood who eventually convinced her to give the Beautiful Game a try. She was six when she started in her first club. A mixed or a women’s club? “Not at all, actually, there were only the boys and… Me.” At that moment of her young career, she wasn’t a goalkeeper, but a forward. “I played forward until the U16 National Team. At that time, my coach said that she didn’t think I will ever be a good forward but that she sensed in me a goalkeeper.” Shall this be frustrating at first, Angerer turns out to be a really good goalkeeper. So good that she eventually was crowned FIFA women’s player of the year, alongside two titles of World Cup Champion. “A few years later, when we talked about this with my then coach, we laughed. I’ve met the right person at the right moment”. And what a career it was. But if you need a wise advice to become an even better goalkeeper, here are some: “I think that you should play on the field when you’re young so that you’ll learn how to be good with your feet and then become a goalkeeper.” Goalkeeper is a demanding position where you have to be good with your hands but also with your feet.
Her unique style is unforgettable. On the field, she’s a brickwall, a warrior who defeated the French Women’s National Team in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, ending their dreams to reach the semi-final. “It was in Montréal so a lot of the people in the stands were supporting the French.” The game is tough and tied. On the field, Louisa Nécib – now Cadamuro, retired from the game – is giving a hard time to the German. She misses one great opportunity at the very beginning of the game, scores the opening goal and does the handball which leads to the German PK, scored by Sasic. In the stands, it’s very loud. What is it when you’re between the posts, on the pitch? “I don’t actually hear what people are saying.” But it’s way more than that. “It’s a wonderful source of energy that I used to be… No it’s not more “motivated”, it’s something else, even more powerful and it’s so much more enjoyable”, smiles the former Goalkeeper. Considering how loud and passionate are the Portland Riveters, the last part of Angerer’s career should have been an awesome time. It’s inspiring, it’s powerful and it’s the reason why people should come to the games.
Seing the world through a Goalkeeper’s eyes.
It’s the penalty shout out in Montréal. If Angerer stops this one, it’s over for the French. The young Claire Lavogez steps up. On her lines, Angerer is calm. She doesn’t even move, she doesn’t even try to impress her opponent. The whistle blows. And she makes the save, her knee deflecting the ball. Germany will be at the semi-final against the USA and the French will fly back home. Lavogez bites Houara d’Hommeaux’s jersey, containing her tears.
Thought it was heartbreaking for the French, Angerer gets real about this game: “I think that France was the best team at that moment on the pitch on the technical point of view. But we remained strong.” Nothing was played until the very last seconds, but the mentality was stronger in one side of the pitch. The German one. “Actually, the other teams are really lucky that France does still have a few things to solve off the field. Otherwise they would be the best of the world. I am actually a great fan of the French women’s national team. I love their style and I think it’s always very hard to beat them”. We will see if things are solved during the Euro, this summer. But Soccer happens. The rules for the PKs apply for everyone. Just ask the Spirit.
The UEFA and the FIFA recognized her talent. In 2013, she won the FIFA World Player of the Year award. Was it a reason to rest? “Even after winning this award, I kept learning. And I still am. I was learning to be a good soccer player and a good goalkeeper. It’s not about feeling that you’ve got the perfect style: it’s about feeling the process and improving at every practice, every game, every opponent you meet. It never stops.” And now, a good GK coach for the Thorns after she retire, in 2015. “I could have pushed my career for two or three more years. Physically I was still fit. But sometimes, you just feel it’s the right moment. It’s so much better when you decide to retire. Not an injury or not a coach who’s putting you on the bench. So even though I was at the top of my career I said “no, I’m the boss and I’m the one who decides when to retire or not. So I retired after the world cup and I think it’s a good sign when the coach – then coach, Silvia Neid, who retired herself after one last gold medal in the Olympics – and the team want to persuade you to continue one more year. But for me, it was the right moment to retire. And I don’t regret anything: I always enjoyed life and now I have a lot of time stuff I couldn’t do because of soccer. I love being a coach, and with all my heart, I’m a goalkeeper coach.” As it’s her second year as the GK coach of the Thorns, she can already see the improvements: “It honestly makes my day. I can see that they are feeling what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m teaching them the German way of Goalkeeping, staying in your lines and bring more technique and details in your game, because I think it’s a very different style than in the US. The first year, I had to analyse with them what they did well or not and tell them. Now they feel it and they can tell me during the training.”
At the crossroad between Europe and the US.
As she played both in Europe and in the US at the highest level, she confirms the main difference between the two styles: “we’re at a turning point in the US but they are still really physical. In Europe, we’re trained to be more tactical and technical which I think is the hardest thing to learn and teach. But in the US, they’re trying to bring more technique in their game. I think it’s a good thing to bring some talents from Europe or send some of the domestic young players to Europe. To me, it’s important as an individual player to experience both sides. I remember the first game of Amandine (Henry, former Lyon and Paris player), she was so surprised by how physical it is. I told her “welcome to America”! But now she got used to and she’s a key to our midfield with Horan and Long. And I think that Lindsey and Allie have things to learn from her, because the French are so talented and educated on a technical point of view.”
But more than that: Angerer has seen the evolution of the NWSL through the season. “We have a new great deal with Lifetime to broadcast the game free of charge for the supporters, even all over the world. To me, media coverage is the next big step for the league. We need to fill all the stadiums like we do in Portland, not only in the US, but also in the world. Even in France: all the stadiums should be filled, not only in Lyon or Paris” And boy, the road is still long. “Here in Portland, we have something really special. Boys and girls, it doesn’t matter: they are all here for the love of beautiful soccer. They can feel how much we appreciate the fans.”
Portland could be the city of soccer. It is at least for Nadine Angerer: “there are so many good memories I have throughout my whole career. But if I have to talk about one precisely, I would say that I’m really proud that my very last game was in Portland in a sold-out stadium. It was perfect. There’s nothing better than stopping a career than doing it in front of such a crowd”
Work hard, play hard, but always with attitude.
A crowd that has always understand her and beauty of soccer. If you look closer to the Riveters at Providence Park, there are always LGBTQ+ flags displayed behind the net. Angerer is an out player but it’s obviously not her main and only “feature”. “My main profession is to be a player and now a coach. Being out is a personal decision, I think. Everybody knows that I’m married and I’m gay but it’s never influenced my game. If you’re not ok with that and you’re against it, then it’s not my problem. We can discuss about that but I’m not here to convince people. I just do my job.” Actually, the performance and Angerer’s Palmares talk by themselves. “Being out or not shouldn’t be an issue. Using a platform so important than soccer is absolutely a right thing, to get vocal about subjects, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. The main focus is to be a great player and the best person you can be. You have to find the right balance between being the best player with the best performance you can give and your voice.” And that’s exactly why women’s soccer players are so worthy of their fans support: without their achievements, their skills and their attitude, what’s the point to listen to them?
In Portland, Angerer still has plenty of fans. Boys and girls. Young and adults. People who admire her talent and the person she is. “I love sharing. When people stop me and we take a moment to talk, when kids ask me for advice. Sometimes I even give them my hats. When I was their age, a growing goalkeeper or player, and I could have one second of the attention of the goalkeepers I admired, I was thrilling for weeks. So if I can give myself something back and talk to the kids, help them or lead them, I can’t be more happy. We should always be dedicated and we should always take care of our fans. And be thankful.” She’s part of a generation of legends, alongside Marta, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Behringer… Her name has been loved, cherished but also source of fear from her opponents and she’s been a huge part of the success of Germany for the last decade. “I’m very happy of course. I always loved the challenge against them. I’m very proud to have played against the best in the world. They are amazing people. You know, when we were playing, I didn’t have the feeling we were becoming legends. When I was on the field, my only objective was to be the best player I could be, the best goalkeeper but also a good person. Looking back, the result is amazing but that’s all I was focusing on when I was on the pitch.” It happens she became one of the best goalkeepers in the world, men or women.
If she had to remember one great challenge in her career, it would be against Christine Sinclair, Captain Canada. “We’re always goofing around. She’s the captain of Canadian team and I was the captain of the German team, so we were joking even at the beginning of the game. We were also teammates with the Thorns, so after training, she always stays to shoot some more goals. So I was in my box and we were joking like “hey, let’s play Canada against Germany”. So even if we were serious during the games, and she had the chance to shoot some balls that I saved, we were making fun of it after, like “Sinc, you should practice a little more”. They are both legends and has a great relationship. More than mutual respect, it’s friendship. When talking about Sinclair’s goal against Germany, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011, Nadine Angerer’s laughing: “It was actually the only goal of Canada. So we were teasing each other all the time. When she’s saying “hey, remember the free kick in Germany?” I answer: “actually it was my present to you, Sinc”. It has always been a lot of fun.”
She also shared with Sinclair her experience about hosting the World Cup at home: “Germany 2011 was not part of my best memories. It was actually mixed. We had sold-out stadiums, it was amazing to have this platform to promote the sport. But on the flip-side, we were not really prepared for this. If we were to play against at home and hosting the World Cup with the experienced we had in 2011, we would be a very different team. We all learn from this. I spoke with Sinclair about it a lot before 2015. It’s so much pressure and it’s different than every other world cup.” It’s the same feedback we had when we interviewed John Herdman. A strong and weird mix between huge pride and honor, and pressure and eventual disappointment when you don’t reach the stage you wanted.
Going back to forward.
But now, she’s focusing on the future. Her career as a goalkeeper coach and her personal life. Which doesn’t mean she doesn’t keep an eye on the next generation. “I have a couple of young players that I follow a lot. Almuth Schult is my favorite one. She’s a great goalkeeper but also an amazing person and I support her whenever she needs me. I couldn’t be more proud that she’s the one who’s replacing me now. Maroszan is also amazing.” Future of Germany is bright, no doubt about it. And she’s looking for the future of women’s soccer in general: “when we retire, we need to start a second career to support ourselves and our families. Women’s Soccer has to grow and things have to improve. It has to get better and better, even if it’s small steps, as long as they’re heading forward.”
We’d like to thank Nadine Angerer and her manager for their time. If you can read German, we recommend Nadine Angerer’s memoirs, “Im Richtigen Moment”.
Credits : Featured Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images
Sinclair’s goal : Associated Press