Thompson, poacher turned gamekeeper
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Journalists who attend matches at the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™ know that they have to stop by the stadium’s media centre to pick up their ticket and press pass. They are aware they have the right to speak to coaches in the press room and interview players in the mixed zone. Something they are possibly not expecting to find is an international footballer overseeing these bustling areas.

The player in question is Bayer Leverkusen forward Shelley Thompson, who, under the auspices of the Local Organising Committee, has been working in a media management role at the BayArena in Leverkusen, a ground she knows like the back of her hand. Her day-to-day duties range from granting interviews to helping journalists with logistical issues.

“It’s not that difficult in reality, as I’m familiar with how they work. And sometimes I even have to give interviews myself, like this one!” she joked to from the confines of her office, located deep within the all-seater stadium.

“It’s a job that involves organisation and logistics. The best part is that we’ve not just been dealing with the German media, but with Japanese and Swedish journalists too – reporters from all over the world, in fact. It’s a learning experience, because you get to see how things work in other countries,” she added.

This tournament has demonstrated that women’s football is constantly improving, and in many different ways.
Local Organising Committee media officer Shelley Thompson

Thompson signed for die Werkself last season and, due to the club’s semi-professional status, had to immediately start looking for another job. The Leverkusen operations of the FIFA Women’s World Cup were recruiting personnel in January, and the opportunity represented the ideal match for the Germany international.

“My background is in marketing and communications, so I was delighted to be offered the role – it was perfect, because I love football, and I know the club so well,” she explained, adding, “Now that the tournament is under way, it’s really amazing.”

Playing pedigree
Top goalscorer at the 2003 UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship and in the 2004/05 Bundesliga season, Thompson has two caps for Germany’s senior side, earned in a friendly with Nigeria in August 2003 and in a qualifying match for the UEFA Women’s EURO against Czech Republic in September 2004, a game in which she even managed to grab a goal.

“I’ve played with most of the German squad taking part in the event, either domestically or at various age levels of the national team,” she explained, deftly dealing with queries from arriving reporters at the same time. “Obviously it would be incredible to be involved as a player, but this opportunity still represents professional success for me. I’m very happy to be a part of this World Cup, even if it’s off rather than on the pitch,” confirmed Thompson.

Asked for a prediction as to who will lift the Trophy, the prolific goal-getter briefly lets her true colours show. “I’d love Germany to reach the Final and win the title. Oops; the thing is, I’m supposed to remain neutral while I’m working,” she said with a smile, theatrically adjusting her uniform.

“But as a German, isn’t it natural to want your nation to do well?” she asked, winking. “I hope that the players are capable of handling the extra pressure, although it seems like they already have that under control. This team is full of quality, and I’m sure that they’ll go far,” said the 27-year-old former Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Atlanta Beat striker.

“This tournament has demonstrated that women’s football is constantly improving, and in many different ways. There’s been some top-notch football on display, and the matches have generally been pretty tight, with no ridiculous scorelines to be seen. But on top of that, there are more people filling the stands. All of these signs make me feel very optimistic about the future of the game,” Thompson continued.

Despite being kept extremely busy by the many members of the press milling about the BayArena, she has tried to take in as many games as possible, gradually forming some opinions about the competing teams.

“Korea DPR going out was a bit unexpected for me. I thought they could be the surprise package of the competition. I was also surprised by France and Japan, who couldn’t maintain the form they had shown in their first two games. That gives you an idea of the factors that can influence a team. It’s not just about quality – how you feel on the day of the match can also come into play. In any case, those sorts of results have made the tournament even more exciting,” Thompson concluded.

The Bayer attacker is not the only member of the Thompson family involved in Germany 2011; her father Roger is one of the many volunteers who have selflessly given up their time to help organise the tournament. An event of this magnitude would simply not be feasible without the efforts of this invisible yet crucial workforce, who get involved primarily because of their love of the game. And that is a concept with which Thompson junior is very familiar.