Off The Ball

Female stars keeping it in the family

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There’s a whole raft of sayings about family resemblances: 'like father, like son'; 'just like her mother'; 'it’s in the blood', and so on. In the happiest cases, offspring inherit the finer points from their parents – mama’s blond hair or papa’s dark eyes, for example. If you’re unlucky, you might end up with an oversized nose or jug-like ears. However, perhaps the biggest instance of inherited good fortune is being born with natural talent.

American actor Jon Voigt patently passed on his acting ability, as evidenced by Oscar-winning daughter Angelina Jolie. It's hard to argue that Paloma Picasso earned fame completely independently of iconic dad Pablo. The sporting world too is replete with examples of athletes taking after their parents.

Back in February, in our story headlined ‘It's all in the genes’, took a closer look at this phenomenon, checking out players who come from an established sporting family, or whose kids have made it in the world of elite sport. In the second part of our family drama, we’ve turned the microscope on the women’s game.

Like father, like daughterNorwegian star Isabell Lehn Herlovsen ranks among the players who were born with talent flowing through their veins. Her father Kai Erik Herlovsen, appeared for Borussia Monchengladbach in the German Bundesliga between 1982 and 1990, and earned a total of 34 full international caps. One of the highlights of his club career was the 1984 German cup final, when Borussia took Bayern Munich all the way to penalties before finally having to concede defeat.

Confirmation that Isabell would be following in her father’s sporting footsteps came when she was just 16, with a call-up by then boss Bjarne Berntsen for her country’s senior women’s squad. Herlovsen’s first taste of a major international stage followed in 2005 at the UEFA Women’s EURO in England. The Monchengladbach-born player crowned the occasion with a brace against last four opponents Sweden, single-handedly firing her country into the final.

Fast-emerging Germany strike sensation Dzsenifer Marozsan is another daddy’s girl in a very literal sense. Budapest-born Marozsan left Hungary with her family in 1996 and moved to Saarbrucken, due to her father Janos Marozsan, capped four times by Hungary, signing for German outfit FC Saarbrucken. Daughter Dzsenifer, who is now 19, also turned out for Saarbrucken, and became the youngest player of all time in the Women’s Bundesliga when she made her debut at the tender age of just 14.

Marozsan impressed at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Zealand and then truly exploded on to the world stage in summer 2010, as she and her Germany team-mates roared to victory at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on home soil. She has subsequently earned two caps for the senior side, and is currently with the Germany squad at their training retreat in advance of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany™ from 26 June to 17 July.

Bridgette Armstrong made her debut for New Zealand in November 2009 in a friendly against Japan, thus maintaining a proud tradition in the Armstrong family. Her grandfather Ken Armstrong played for both England and New Zealand, while her father Ron Armstrong and uncle Brian Armstrong also represented the All Whites. Bridgette is a powerful defensive organiser for both the Football Ferns and her club, Glenfield Rovers.

Oh brother...In a number of cases, another notable family influence on some of today’s women’s stars was tagging along with a big brother. Germany international Celia Okoyino da Mbabi started her career with TuS Germania Hersel after her older brother took her along to training. And team-mate Fatmire Bajramaj was a member of the same club as her big bro Fatos – in secret at first and against her father’s wishes, but later with his full and unconditional support.

On the other side of the world, Australia international Samantha Kerr had to fight hard to emerge from the shadow of brother Daniel, who plays Australian Rules Football for West Coast Eagles. At the start of her career, Samantha patently became fed up with hearing statements such as: “Oh, that’s just Daniel Kerr's sister.”

"I guess there will always be that thing that I'm Daniel's sister, but it's good to finally get some recognition of my own and let people know I have my own career and do my own things and it's not because I'm Daniel Kerr's sister that I'm getting where I am,” Samantha declared in an interview. In the case of the Kerrs, they’ve obviously inherited their talent from daddy: father Roger turned out for East Fremantle and Port Adelaide.

At the forthcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, Samantha will have to get by without her brother’s close support. "He's pretty disappointed he can't come to the World Cup. Hopefully I can make another World Cup and he can come to that."

One brother-sister combo who both boast World Cup experience are Sone and Eniola Aluko. Ironically, however, the siblings have represented different countries, with Sone representing Nigeria and Eniola emerging as one of England's star players since her breakthrough at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. Sone, the younger of the two, also represented England at U-18 and U-19 level but went on to declare his allegiances to Nigeria, for whom he earned senior recognition after turning out at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.

Football and other sportsFellow Matilda Kyah Simon is by no means the only elite athlete in her family. Cousin Gema is a W-League regular with Newcastle Jets, and both appeared in the Australia U-20 squad at the start of the year. On the other side of the family, we have cousin Kyle Vander Kuyp, a veteran of two Olympic Games as a 110-metre hurdler and a household name in athletics circles. The extended family includes a clutch of rugby players, so there can be little doubt as to the general area of conversation when the clan gets together.

Canada international Chelsea Stewart boasts impeccable family sporting credentials. Father Bill and brother Trevor play ice hockey, but sister Emily decided to go along with Chelsea and plays football. Canada team-mate Laura Chenard was obviously brought up in a multi-disciplinary environment. Dad plays baseball, mum plays handball, and grandpa is a marathon runner, a near-perfect gene set for an international footballer.

Brittany Bockof the USA will have drawn inspiration and presumably DNA from father Brian, a standout baseball player. And finally, in a rather more unusual family connection with sport, the mother of US international Yael Averbuch is the author of nine books so far, including the intriguingly-titled “Goal! The Ultimate Guide for Soccer Moms and Dads”.

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