- The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper award handed out for the first time this year
- Sari van Veenendaal, adidas Golden Glove winner at France 2019, is nominated
- “This award is an important step for women’s football,” she says
Basketball, volleyball, badminton, swimming, athletics – the list of sports at which Sari Van Veenendaal tried her hand before settling on football is fairly long. And then, at the age of 12, she and a friend gave the beautiful game a shot, and the rest is history.
Ideally, her family would have preferred her to take an interest in other sports and not come home covered in scratches, but the young Dutchwoman had fallen in love with goalkeeping and the responsibility involved in the role. “Now they’re my biggest fans,” she told FIFA.com, laughing.
Today, the talented 29-year-old can point to a CV that includes a UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 winners’ medal and a FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ runners-up spot, as well as the adidas Golden Glove award she earned at the latter tournament. To top it all off, she has also been nominated for the inaugural The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper Award, alongside Hedvig Lindahl and Tiane Endler.
“Both of them are great all-round players and are not afraid of anything,” she said. “They both had a brilliant season as well.” The question of which one of the three shot-stoppers will scoop the prestigious award will finally be answered at Monday’s much-anticipated The Best FIFA Football Awards™ ceremony in Milan.
A first worth celebrating
“It’s an honour to be nominated,” continued Van Veenendaal. "This award says something about the level of female goalkeepers, and I think we have to celebrate it, because it means that we’re being taken seriously. It’s a very important step. Women’s football is growing and now it’s as if the ‘keepers are growing too, so let’s celebrate this accolade together, because it’s ours”.
This first recognition of women’s goalkeepers comes after a World Cup during which they were often talked about, and not necessarily in the critical tone heard at previous tournaments. “I saw some great saves, but also some great personalities, and that’s even more important, because we have a job that carries a heavy responsibility, and seeing that we’re doing well makes me feel really proud,” she added.
Van Veenendaal’s saves were instrumental in the Oranjeleeuwinnen’s historic run to the final in what was just their second-ever Women’s World Cup appearance. On a long list of top-quality stops, highlights include the one she made from Japan’s Yuka Momiki in the Round of 16, the ones that denied Sweden in the semi-final, and the ones that kept the Netherlands alive in the final until well into the second half.
“My best memory from the World Cup is the last few seconds of the semi-final against Sweden. At that point, we knew we were going to play in the final, and that is something that maybe only happens once in a lifetime.”
Doing it her way
Like many goalkeepers of her generation, Van Veenendaal has got to where she is today through hard work, self-confidence and a lot of self-teaching.
In the 2000s, while Edwin Van der Sar was enjoying success in the English Premier League, Hope Solo was breaking down barriers. “She was the first high-profile women’s goalkeeper and I used to watch her training sessions on YouTube,” recalled Van Veenendaal.
“It was very important for me to see that female ’keepers were also capable of great movement, and that helped me. Let’s hope that now, after the World Cup, we can also become role models for boys and girls currently playing football.”
Fans to the fore
Dutch football will be accorded great prominence at Monday’s ceremony, with the nominations of Van Veenendaal, coach Sarina Wiegman, men’s team captain Virgil Van Dijk and various Oranje players in the FIFA FIFPro Men’s and Women’s World XI.
But there is another prize that may end up getting dyed orange: The Best Fan Award, for which the thousands of Netherlands supporters who cheered on their team in France have been nominated.
“If there’s one award I want us to win on Monday, it’s the fan-related one, because our supporters deserve it so much,” said the Netherlands No1. “It was crazy during the EURO in 2017, but we didn’t know what to expect this year, because the EURO was held in our own country. But they’re incredible – they follow us everywhere. We painted France orange, and it was truly special. We need to keep that going. As a team, we feel so proud to have so many fans supporting us. They would be worthy winners.”
On 23 September, the recipients of The Best FIFA Football Awards 2019 will finally be revealed. Will Van Veenendaal become the first-ever female goalkeeper honoured at the ceremony? “I want to enjoy the night, and hopefully we all win, because we deserve it,” she concluded.