Sporting colourful wigs with Germany flags painted on their proud, happy faces, Florian and Gabi Gwinn rarely miss an opportunity to watch their daughter Giulia in action, and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 is no different.
“My parents are at my games pretty much all the time. I can’t think of a game that they’ve missed. Obviously that makes me especially happy and it also gives me a certain security too,” said the 17-year-old and youngest of four siblings, fully appreciative of her parents’ support.
Balancing Gwinn’s status as an elite athlete with her everyday life is not easy, as her parents readily admit. “Obviously, Giulia doesn’t have the same life as every other 16 or 17-year-old. Football and school take up so much time that she hardly has any free time,” mother Gabi told FIFA.com. “But she’s always been a very active person, right from when she was a kid. She has this positive energy whenever she does things. She’s very focused and she has that drive you need to succeed,” she continued proudly. “When Giulia sets herself a challenge in her head, she achieves it.”
Indeed Gabi knows all about her daughter’s tenacity and fondly recalls how she dropped her other sporting interests to focus on the beautiful game. “At first I was completely against the idea of her playing football. She was playing handball and doing taekwondo, but she got the football bug from her brothers and after that she only wanted to play football. At some point, we just let her carry on.”
I think our chances at this World Cup are good. If we carry on playing like we have been, we can go a long way.
And what a good decision it has proven to be. Already a regular in the SC Freiburg first team in Germany’s Women’s Bundesliga, Gwinn has made a telling impact for the U-17s in Jordan so far. She was named the Live Your Goals Player of the Match after scoring in her side’s opening game – a 2-1 win against Venezuela – and she also found the net in a 1-1 draw with Canada in the next game. In both matches she set Germany’s attacking tone with her direct running, pace and movement.
Regardless of whether she plays on the right, left or through the middle, Gwinn’s technical ability allows her to operate in the tightest areas, fooling defenders with a feint or shimmy and finding space to shoot at goal or deliver a cross. “There’s no doubting she’s taken that next step here, and she’s massively important for our attacking game,” said Germany U-17 coach Anouschka Bernhardt of the speedy forward. "Because of her speed and quality in one-on-one situations, she’s made us more unpredictable. She’s rejuvenated us."
With four points from two games, Germany are second behind Canada in Group B. However, they trail the Canucks on goal difference only and have qualification for the knockout rounds in their own hands as they prepare for their final group game against already-eliminated Cameroon. “I think our chances at this World Cup are good,” said Gwinn, who will sit her high school leaving exams this year. “If we carry on playing like we have been, we can go a long way.”
As ever, Florian and Gabi will be in the stadium to watch the proceedings unfold against Cameroon, and in the event that her daughter’s team needs a stroke of good luck to progress, Gabi has it covered. “Before the tournament I was at a nursery and I found a four-leaf clover. I picked it up and took it with me, and I’ve now given it to Giulia.” Pleasingly for her mother, Gwinn holds the good luck charm very close to her heart. “Along with the little mascot I got from my friends, it was the first thing I packed in my suitcase. It really means a lot to me,” said the Ailingen native, who triumphed with Germany at the UEFA Women’s U-17 Championship in Belarus, with her parents – of course – in attendance.
Gabi will travel home after the match against Cameroon, but the duration of Florian’s stay depends on Gwinn’s – and her team’s – performances. He has a flexible return ticket back to Germany and so will stay in Jordan for as long as his daughter and her team-mates remain in the competition. A flight home any time after 21 October – the day of the final – would be ideal.