Martina Voss-Tecklenburg lives football. A look at the face of the national coach is enough to be convinced of this even as an outsider. Her eyes sparkle with passion as she speaks to her team before and after the game. Despite all the energy that the 54-year-old from Duisburg exudes, there is always a healthy distance.
This shows in her mischievous smile, which Voss-Tecklenburg wears again and again at this European Championship.
The tournament in England is a mission for the national coach. And one that she planned with military precision. Things didn’t always go smoothly. Female players have felt underwhelmed at times, as seen in the Born for This documentary. A reaction to the experiences of the 2019 World Cup, when she had to admit to herself that she had sometimes asked too much of her team.
Voss-Tecklenburg is ambitious, sometimes it goes so far that she seems tense. And don’t spare yourself. At this European Championship she was missing from training and preparation because of migraines, a few weeks after the rather mixed performance of her selection at the Arnold Clark Cup she was infected with Corona, but she gave interviews during this time – digitally then and then while coughing.
But the 125-time national player is reliable in every respect. It’s that something her wives appreciate about her. Voss-Tecklenburg always puts himself in front of her team in public and manages to strengthen the sense of togetherness.
“Someone has to beat us first,” she said after the 4-0 win against Denmark as she formed a circle with her players on the pitch after the final whistle. On the outside, that can sometimes seem arrogant, but it’s Voss-Tecklenburg’s way of naming things that she thinks by their name. She is direct, as people from the Ruhr area are. And she has big goals: she was always convinced that her team was good enough to win the title in England.
“Of course we can become European champions,” she told this newspaper in March. A little later her team lost in Serbia after a poor showing and looked far from being a real contender for the summer highlight. Doubts about their work and the class of the DFB team grew, as did the motivation to show everyone – at Voss-Tecklenburg and within the team.
However, this situation could have turned into cramping again, having to prove it to everyone. Maybe then there was this insight that the national coach described at this tournament with the sentence: “It doesn’t help me if I’m too tense.” So she is more relaxed and that goes down in the team: “It works much better to take us players on board. We didn’t have that in the past,” Alexandra Popp told ARD.
There was never any doubt that Voss-Tecklenburg is an outstanding football specialist. That’s why she became national coach in 2018. But the beginning of a new job is often difficult. In the meantime, she has a completely different connection to her team – and much more trust.
“It’s good for the players that they don’t have the feeling that Martina is always there with the raised index finger and doesn’t like things that they’re doing,” she said, describing her own transformation from an authoritarian control freak to a team player.
And so a team has grown that has just as good a chance as any other remaining in this tournament. On Wednesday the semi-finals are against France, “a tough opponent with enormous quality and fantastic individual players”, as Voss-Tecklenburg believes and therefore believes in a game on an equal footing.
After the team’s four clean sheets at the European Championships, that’s probably the least that can be expected from this German team. “We’ll give everything we’ve got on Wednesday,” promises the national coach – and she certainly means herself.