The name Lewandowski flashes up on the scoreboard as Bayern Munich celebrate another goal. This would be nothing unusual were it not for the fact that this Lewandowski plays in defence and wears the No2 shirt rather than spearheading the attack as a No9. What’s more, the goalscorer is female and does not hail from Poland.
The player in question is Gina Lewandowski, and she is very much in favour and form for Bayern. The American full-back has found the target in each of the last three Bundesliga matches and scored the only goal of the game against her former club 1. FFC Frankfurt. As if that was not enough, the Pennsylvania native recently made her international debut for the Stars and Stripes – at the age of 30.
“That was super; a fantastic experience,” Lewandowski enthused in an interview with FIFA.com. “I got to play almost 20 minutes [against Brazil] and I was very pleased with that. I was out there on the pitch with girls who are among the best of the best right now.”
A disastrous mix-up
It was a moment she had assumed would never arrive. “I genuinely thought my chance had passed,” she said. “I’d been called up twice before a couple of years ago but could never join up with the squad because of injury or other issues. You don’t usually get invited back again once you reach 30.”
Lewandowski’s recent performances in the league and with the reigning world champions are helping her to make a name for herself at last, having spent years being confused with the Polish superstar in the FCB men’s team. One particularly bad mix-up occurred when the two-time DFB Cup winner moved from Frankfurt to Bavaria in 2012. The rumour mill went into overdrive as the headline “Lewandowski moves to Munich” led many to believe Robert Lewandowski was preparing to leave Borussia Dortmund to join Germany’s most successful club.
“I was totally unaware of it at first,” the American recalled, “then Melanie Behringer sent me the article. I was still in Frankfurt at that point and had no idea how big an issue it was in Munich. When I got here I saw that the report had more likes and clicks than anything else,” she grinned. “Then they published another article that explained that it was just a Ms Lewandowski joining the women’s team (laughs). It was pretty funny, and somehow I was quite pleased that they’d confused me with him.”
The two Lewandowskis are linked only by their surname and are not related in any way. Gina’s great-grandfather came from the Polish town of Krasnik but her grandfather was born in the USA, while Robert grew up in Warsaw. The pair got the opportunity to discuss this in detail when they met a few weeks ago.
“We talked about our roots and then looked on the map to see where we both come from – the two places really aren’t that far from each other,” the 2008 UEFA Cup winner explained, adding with a grin: “We swapped shirts, which was fantastic. I don’t know what he’s done with mine now (laughs), but I was delighted to receive his – he even signed it. It was very cool to meet him.”
If the 2003 Patriot League Rookie of the Year’s rich vein of form continues, the value of her shirt will continue to rise and she may even get the chance to fulfil her biggest dream of all. The two-time German champion is determined to feature in the national team line-up more regularly and play at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Rio de Janeiro next year. “I don’t think I’ll make it to the next World Cup three years later, but the Olympics would be within reach. Rio 2016 is the next big tournament and I think it’ll also be my last chance.”
The competition would also give Lewandowski the chance to etch her name more firmly in the history books, especially as it is one her Polish namesake has never experienced. It may even end the confusion once and for all.