New Zealand have already left their imprint on the pitch at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and regardless of how the team's campaign concludes, All Whites team doctor Celeste Geertsema has also created a small slice of history off it. The Auckland-based medic is the first female team doctor to look after a participating team in the 80-year history of the FIFA World Cup.
As the All Whites' doctor since 2003, Geertsema witnessed plenty of highs and lows prior to the team ending a 28-year wait last November with qualification for South Africa. In her career as a sports physician, Geertsema also includes on her CV work with athletes from numerous sports plus attendance at the Winter Olympic and Commonwealth Games. "Sports medicine is a great field for women. It's a good fit and I would love to see more women involved in the future," she said.
New Zealand seems an appropriate nation to achieve such a first being the first country in the world to grant all citizens the right to vote in 1893. "I think it's particularly nice for New Zealand, the first country to give women the vote," she said. South Africa 2010 represents a homecoming for the All Whites doctor who grew up in the Rainbow Nation before moving to New Zealand 15 years ago. The 41-year-old was raised in Krugersdorp near Rustenburg, close to where Ricki Herbert's squad are staying. Until last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, Geertsema had not returned to South Africa since 1997, but now she is playing an important role in the greatest sporting event ever to be held in the land of her birth.
"It's all completely changed [the interest in football]," she said. "I knew little about football growing up but my friends have truly embraced football and the World Cup. South Africa is completely different to when I was growing up. I really like the modern South Africa and there is a certain optimism in the air. It's dynamic, vibrant and lively, there is lots happening. Whilst South Africa has its problems like any other country in the world, the South African people are amazing people, and that is what I believe will help them pull through any difficulties."