Steffi Jones is without doubt one of the most famous names in women’s football, and not just because of her successful playing career. While she may be a three-time European champion (1997, 2001 and 2005), as well as a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winner (2003), it was her work as president of the Local Organising Committee at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 that highlighted her abilities off the pitch too.
Jones now acts as a FIFA Ambassador for women’s football and as the German Football Association’s (DFB) director of women’s, girl’s and school football. With the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2012 now very much at its business end, Jones travelled to Japan, where FIFA.com caught up with her for an exclusive interview.
FIFA.com: Steffi, you've arrived in the land of the reigning senior women’s world champions in time for the semi-finals and final. What are your impressions of the tournament so far?
Steffi Jones: I think the level is very good. There are great young players coming through in almost every country, and you can see that more and more is being invested in the development of youngsters. The girls who have come up from the U-17s have taken a step forward and that’s also good progress. I think the future of women’s football is positive as countries are coming closer together and the differences are ever smaller. From an organisational point of view, everything is fantastic. The conditions are great and it’s been an all-round perfect tournament.
Germany have been very impressive here and are in the final following six victories without conceding a goal…
I’ve seen their games on TV and I’m really excited. They play attractive football and I’m delighted for them. They deserve to be in the final.
It has the makings of a true classic, Germany against USA. Will it be an extra special occasion for you, given your American father and German mother?
For me personally it will certainly be something special, but I’m rooting for Germany of course. It’s a duel between two evenly matched teams who have faced each other many times. You can never underestimate anyone at a World Cup. Both of these teams are always among the favourites as they’ve been at the top of the women’s game for decades.
Who is your favourite?
We are the defending champions and don’t need to be scared of anyone. On Saturday, two top teams will take to the pitch and I’m looking forward to a great final.
Here in Japan, how often have people reminded you of the quarter-final at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011, when Germany lost 1-0 to eventual champions Japan?
Not that often actually. People have mainly been saying thank you for the fantastically well-organised World Cup. I’ve met some people who’ve said they were on the FanMiles or who experienced the World Cup up close.
You’ve been a FIFA Ambassador for women’s football for several months now. What exactly does that role involve?
I primarily act as an on-site representative at FIFA events, such as World Cups, further education meetings, marketing functions or symposiums. It’s all about developing women’s football. If I’m able to help, I do so happily.
Germany’s Maren Meinert is the only female coach at this tournament. She could pick up a second title at this level, something nobody else has ever achieved. Is it an advantage to have a woman in charge of a woman’s team?
No, it doesn’t matter at all what gender the coach is. What’s important is how good the coach is. Nowadays it’s not enough just to have a good knowledge of the game, you need to be good in other areas too. You have 20 or 22 players together here, who all tick differently, who all need attention and all want to be trained. We’re happy that former world-class players have filled these coaching positions for us. Silvia Neid, Maren Meinert, Bettina Wiegmann and several others are all coaches who have played at the highest level themselves. That’s our philosophy. A coaching role for me isn’t on the cards at the moment. I do have my license, but right now I’m very thankful for and satisfied with my current tasks.