There is a simple reason that the 30-year-old cannot expect her first appearance in the DFB dress any more than children can expect to give presents on Christmas Eve. “I went a different way, maybe the harder way,” she says. When she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer almost exactly three years ago, more than just her career was at stake.
She was still playing for the Birmingham City Ladies when the devastating diagnosis came – but four months after the operation she was back between the posts in the English Women’s Super League (WSL). At first, she said in a digital press round at the weekend, of course, she had doubts: “Many people have already failed because of cancer”. But after the conversation with the doctor, she realized that everything was going to be fine: “And I’ve always been a fighter type, I’ve always wanted to learn the hard way.”
Part of the body felt strange
Half her neck had been cut open, at times she had the feeling that her head was no longer part of her body, some movements felt so strange. She had to build up her neck and shoulder muscles from scratch. But the fighting nature did not give up: “Everyone knows that goalkeepers are crazy in their own way.” The worst experience for you “Control freak like me” was actually, she says in retrospect, having to rely entirely on the doctors.
Her faint soon turned to confidence. Catching balls is just as easy to forget as cycling, she explains succinctly: “After that I felt even stronger. I soaked up football even more. I was born for this moment.” But it took a lot of time to process everything mentally. Only recently, during a conversation with the national player Melanie Leupolz, who moved to Stamford Bridge in the summer, it became clear to her that she needed a full three years to be aware that what she “achieved”. In the meantime she had to, she admits, “turn off my brain, just work.”
“That reflects her life path”
Her rise last season to regular goalkeeper for the English champions, who let the Swedish goalkeeper Hedwig Lindahl move to VfL Wolfsburg after the 2019 World Cup to replace the pregnant Almuth Schult, also made her interesting for the German women’s national team. “Since I started working as a national coach, I’ve had it on my radar”, reveals Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.
The 52-year-old first invited the woman standing up to take the first steps by the DFB women to get to know each other. “I experience her as a very exciting, calm guy. She makes courageous decisions on the pitch – and that reflects her life path wider “, says the national coach: “The blows of fate have shaped her: She knows what priorities in life are. When she makes her first international match, she can bring herself even more in as a personality. It won’t be the last chance to present herself.”
Home game on the island
Ann-Katrin Berger describes the game in Dublin as “Home game”, last but not least, the well-known weather cares for you “Home advantage”she says with a wink. Your job will be to keep the clean slate guaranteed by regular goalkeeper Merle Frohms in the previous seven European Championship qualifiers.
From the point of view of the debutante, it should not just be one mission. The EM 2022 will finally take place in England, where it has been playing for four and a half years: “I feel very good and am hungry for more.” Taking part in this tournament, she says, is definitely on her to-do list.
Exciting fight under the bar
As a result, an exciting all-around battle between completely different characters under the crossbar appears in the near future. “The fight for places is always fierce – in all positions. In the goalkeeper area it’s extremely exciting”, says Voss-Tecklenburg: “If Almuth Schult should manage to return in his old strength, we will have four goalkeepers who can play for Germany in a tournament.” Laura Benkarth from FC Bayern is included.
Currently Merle Frohms from Eintracht Frankfurts “Our number one and in pole position, the others have to overtake them.” Ann-Katrin Berger is the one who can only win, that’s how much she shaped the time of suffering: “I live more consciously, I don’t feel anything more than normal, I am even more grateful. I now appreciate everything I do and receive much more.”
Not only once did she take her grandmother’s motto to heart: “Everything happens out of one sense.” Your life is currently full of risks again: The corona virus is a particularly dangerous threat for people with cancer. It belongs to the group of high-risk patients, “because I am missing the thyroid gland and two lymph nodes”.
Only switched to goal late
The vita of the athlete from Göppingen is special in every respect. She was never used as a goalkeeper for the DFB junior women’s teams because she started playing football in her Swabian homeland at the age of four, inspired by her father, but initially played on the field. Only when she didn’t feel like running anymore at the age of 16 did she go in the gate.
She soon stood between the posts at the second division VfL Sindelfingen, where she impressed coach legend Bernd Schröder so much in a DFB Cup semi-final that he steered the hitherto unknown late starter to Turbine Potsdam. In 2014 it went to Paris Saint Germainwhere she was having a difficult time on the bench because she thought she was the better goalkeeper. Until she realized for herself: “I am my only opponent.”
Her role model is Edwin van der Sar
By the way, she names the Dutch world-class goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar as a great role model. “For me it’s a legend, a real gentleman”says Berger. She also learned something from Manuel Neuer, but every goalkeeper has his own style, “and I prefer van der Sar”. The 1.80 meter tall German is also said to have an enormous charisma with good control of the penalty area. “I know where my sixteen is”, she stresses.
FIFA has recently nominated her as “World Goalkeeper of the Year” after her strong performance at the club: “I haven’t played a single international match. To be among the top six already feels like a win for me”. Her mother reacted even more emotionally to the news: “She looked for a little corner at work and howled with joy. For everything I had to go through.”
Stand: 30.11.2020, 12:40