Nadine Kessler: Ballon d'Or winner talks about the positive developments in the women’s game
What has changed for you since winning the 2014 Women's World Player of the Year award?
The Ballon d'Or is an award that is recognised across the whole world. Accordingly, the level of media interest increased. We had an enormous number of requests after the ceremony and winning the title made some massive waves.
When did it sink in for you that you were the best player in the world?
It was only after the Gala when I had time to sit together with some friends and I could see how happy it made the people who have been with me along the way that I grasped its significance.
Where did you put the trophy?
It's in my living room in a place where I can admire it every day.
You were given a special honour in your hometown. How did the community react to your award?
Weselberg in the Rhineland Palatinate invited me to our town fair and dedicated a square to me, the Nadine Kessler Square. It's right next to my old sports ground. I still have a lot of childhood memories of that place.
What stands out the most when you think back to the Gala in Zurich?
The event as a whole will stay with me forever. And that obviously includes the moment I went up on stage. I wasn't expecting it at all so I had to collect myself first in order to find the right words in front of so many spectators. The first messages of congratulations and the first call I got from home will likewise stay with me forever.
You stood next to Cristiano Ronaldo for a while in the Kongresshaus. Were you able to talk to him, winner to winner?
We chatted briefly. A lot of former professional players, such as Clarence Seedorf and Thierry Henry, also offered their congratulations, which I was delighted about.
You were especially touched by one message of congratulations in particular, from Pavel Kuka. Why was that?
Pavel Kuka was my idol. He was the one who got me into football and my hometown club 1. FC Kaiserslautern. I was always at the stadium as a child and he plucked me from the crowd as soon as he saw me. He was a great sportsman and is a great person. After the Ballon d'Or he was one of the first people to congratulate me. It was a very emotional message, in which he included a letter I had written to him when I was seven. He took it with him to the Czech Republic and kept it to this day.
You have struggled with a serious injury since the Ballon d'Or. How is your recovery going?
Unfortunately, there's nothing I can say about it right now. I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, which is why it's no longer a case of when I come back, but if. I'm doing everything I can to be back out on the pitch at some point.
Looking back on the FIFA Women's World Cup™ in Canada, do you think women’s football has taken a step forward?
In the run-up to the World Cup there was a lot of criticism about the increased number of participating teams, but I think the tournament proved that criticism wrong. So many sides played extremely well. The aim has to be to offer more female players the opportunity to show what they can do on the international stage in order to reach a different level. That will expand the number of top-class players and strengthen women's football.
Aside from in Germany, England, Sweden and Norway, women's football is struggling in Europe. What is lacking?
In my opinion, I think it's important for our sport to think transnationally and to exchange ideas so that we're all on the same page and going in the same direction. To start with, basic structures must be in place. There are clubs that have good conditions to work in, but there are also a lot of clubs who struggle. It's remarkable what women there are able to do alongside their professional careers. The gaps in the leagues are simply still too big.
Has women's football gained greater acceptance in recent years or is it still fighting to be respected?
I think our performances are increasingly coming into the spotlight. People can see that and are saying; “Women’s football has developed. It’s become more athletic and techni¬cally better. A lot more countries are playing the game and they put on some exciting matches." As a player you can feel that - also in terms of sponsorship and television exposure.
As a top-level player yourself, what can you do to help ensure further progress?
The way you perform out on the pitch is always the most important thing. Beyond that, every player needs to have the courage to have their own profile and to openly communicate what they want.
How would you advertise your sport and encourage a young girl to become a footballer?
I get very emotional when speaking about football. And that’s precisely what sets it apart, so that’s what I'd try to get across. Football connects and stirs up emotions.
Going back to the Ballon d'Or, how do you assess the chances of Carli Lloyd, Aya Miyama and Celia Sasic, the three finalists for this year's award?
They were all outstanding in their own way and therefore worthy nominees. I'm excited to see who wins it.
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