Voss-Tecklenburg: We shared bread and salami with the Danes before the World Cup quarter-final
The first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held from 16 to 30 November 1991
Germany beat Denmark in the quarter-finals exactly 30 years ago today
Germany’s current head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was involved as a player that day
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was 23 years old when she played for Germany at the first FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in China PR back in 1991. Thirty years later, the Duisburg native is in charge of the national side as they seek to book their place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023. In an interview with FIFA.com, Voss-Tecklenburg talked about the first edition of the tournament, one very special player and milestones in women's football.
FIFA.com: This month marks the 30th anniversary of the first FIFA Women’s World Cup. You were there as a player. What are your memories of the tournament? Martina Voss-Tecklenburg: I remember that it was an exhausting tournament because we weren’t used to that kind of workload. We played every two or three days and our muscles stiffened up pretty quickly. I remember that we didn’t like the food much, and Silvia Neid ate nothing but chicken wings. We always joked that she would grow her own little wings by the time we left. We travelled a lot and then spent the evenings sitting in the corridor of our hotel. Our kit manager Wiltrud Friedenstab went around handing out rye bread and salami. Gero [Bisanz, Germany’s national team coach at the tournament] also came round telling us: “If you need a swig of beer to get to sleep, you can do that too.”
The Danes, who were in the same hotel as us, thought that was so great that they joined us in the corridor and we shared our food and drink with them. I’ve got one other little anecdote: Pele was there and said that the No7 [Martina Voss-Tecklenburg wore the No7 shirt for Germany] was one of the best players at the tournament (laughs).
That brings us on perfectly to the next question. Who was the standout player of the tournament for you? There were plenty. I remember Michelle Akers; she could head the ball like nobody else. She really impressed us. Our best player was Heidi Mohr.
You mentioned Heidi Mohr, who sadly passed away in 2019. Can you tell us more about what made her such a good player and how she might compare to today’s players? She was an outstanding player. She knew exactly where the goal was and could score with either foot, her shoulder or head. I always compared her to Gerd Muller, not because they had similar playing styles but because of their threat in front of goal. Heidi was just a great person, with her dialect and unique sense of humour. She came out into the hotel corridor in her pyjamas once and said: “We’re having a pyjama party.” Heidi passing away so young really affected me. She would have been a fantastic player today, too. There haven’t been many like her.
When it comes to that special type of player who stands out as an example of how to play in the box and in front of goal, there’s Birgit Prinz, Inka Grings and Heidi Mohr. We made a good duo. More often than not, I’d play a cross in from the right and Heidi would be waiting in the box. All I had to do was find her and the ball would be in.
How would you sum up Germany’s performance at the tournament? We had a good tournament, but our matches against the USA and Sweden showed us where our physical limits were. We simply weren’t yet at their level in many areas. I had such sore muscles after only the second match. After that, it was all a matter of willpower for us. We grew as a team and that laid the foundation for the success that followed. It wasn't such a great tournament for me personally because I suffered a shoulder injury in the match against Sweden and had to travel home in pain and with plenty of tears.
Women’s football has come so far since 1991. What do you think are the biggest milestones of the last 30 years? All of the firsts in women’s football. From a Germany perspective, it would be our first World Cup title, but also being at the first World Cup. We played at the first Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. We have featured at almost every tournament and that shows how great our development has been. Every moment is important, and the last 30 years have laid the foundation for where women’s football is today and provides fresh perspectives. All of the sport’s development has been based on this.
Today we have professional athletes who can often choose where they play. We have tournaments ahead of us that will be extremely interesting not just because of the football on offer but because of the marketing and the media and fan attention they attract. When you consider that women's football has only been part of the German Football Association for 51 years, we’ve achieved a huge amount in that time.
In 1991 you played at the first Women’s World Cup, and now you are the national team coach yourself. Did you ever think 30 years ago that you would one day be standing where Gero Bisanz was back in 1991? No, of course not (laughs). I wasn't that old in 1991 and still had so much ahead of me, although I was already on my way to becoming a coach as I'd already got my first licences. Having said that, the idea of becoming national team coach was still so far away. Gero Bisanz was a role model for me in many respects, not just as a person but as a coach, too. I learned a lot from him at the start of my coaching career and that really helped me. I'm still extremely grateful to him in many areas.
What have been the highlights of your long career? For me, it’s not the titles and successes that stand out. To be honest, sometimes I have no idea when and where I played and what the results were, but I remember people and events much more clearly. What stays with me is what football has given me so far. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to travel to many different countries and meet people. I’ve made friends, learned so much and have never stopped developing. I’m grateful to be able to make my passion my job, and every day I can keep doing that is a highlight.
What’s better: going to a Women’s World Cup as a player or as a coach? As a player. It's nicer because as a player you always have the feeling that you can have more of an impact on the pitch. As a coach, you are responsible for the team and do your work in advance, but you only have a limited influence on the match itself. If I had one wish, it would to be younger again so that I could play at a World Cup in the current era.