Jill Roord discusses her famous father and idolising Ronaldinho
She evaluates how the Netherlands match up against USA
Roord hails “absolute killer” Vivianne Miedema
‘Every child should be ashamed when they see mummy’s tears.’
Frans Bauer’s words, on his hit Als Een Moederhart Moet Huilen, were ones Jill Roord heard growing up. And adhered to. She escaped childhood innocent of making her mother weep. Then adolescence.
But at the age of 22, Jill broke the code – and on a family holiday. Fortunately, her mother's tears were ones of joy by the banks of the river Seine. Chantal Roord had just watched her daughter rise from the bench and head home an 11th-hour winner against New Zealand in the Netherlands’ FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ opener.
It was the goal that kick-started an Oranjeleeuwinnen carnival – vivacious singing and dancing in dressing rooms, those enrapturing Oranje Parades and a run to the Final. FIFA.com chatted to Roord about that hitherto career capstone in Le Havre, going from sub to starter for her country since France 2019, their Women’s Olympic Football Tournament hopes, Arsenal’s trophy chances and Vivianne Miedema.
FIFA.com: Your father Rene was a footballer who wore the No10 shirt for the Netherlands at the FIFA U-20 World Cup™ in 1983 and represented Twente with distinction. How much was football a part of your life growing up?
Jill Roord: Yes, my dad played alongside Marco van Basten at that tournament, so I would hear stories about his career. And my mum played basketball. She played in the national youth teams, but then she met my dad and she wasn’t that serious about it anymore. My mum and dad always told me that as soon as I could walk, I was always playing with a football, but I joined a club for the first time when I was five years old. I was always outside – before school, after school – playing on the streets with boys, my friends, my brothers. Basically, it’s all I ever did. Ronaldinho was my idol. He was the best in the world at the time. The way he played, he was the one who had you on your computer watching highlights.
The Netherlands were drawing 0-0 with New Zealand in their France 2019 curtain-raiser. You came on with 15 minutes remaining and scored a last-gasp winner. Can you describe your emotions at that moment?
It was such a relief, and a very, very proud moment for me. My family was in the stadium, so that was really cool. To score the winning goal in my first World Cup game was amazing. It was the best moment [of my career] so far. After the game, I went to my family and my mum was crying. It was a really beautiful moment.
We saw a lot of singing and dancing…. can you describe the atmosphere in the Oranjeleeuwinnen squad during the tournament?
We had a lot of fun together. We have a really cool squad. We all get along really well. After winning the EUROs, we really started believing that we were capable of a lot of things. We thought, ‘We have nothing to lose, let’s go out and show people that the EUROs was not just luck’. The atmosphere was really chilled.
You came on as a substitute in all seven of the Netherlands’ matches at France 2019, but you’ve started all six of their games since. You must be delighted with this?
I’m really pleased. I’ve been playing in the senior national team for five years, since I was 17. I’ve started some games, but I’ve always been mainly on the bench, so I was always waiting for the moment to be important and start playing. Scoring the winning goal against New Zealand was such an important moment for me. After the World Cup I wondered, ‘Am I going to play? Is the situation going to change?’ We’re going to Tokyo for the Olympics in the summer. I have no idea if I will play or not, but I do feel things have changed a little bit and that I can be an important player for the team.
How much would it mean to you to play in the Olympics?
It’s an amazing tournament. The whole event will be one big adventure, so I’m really looking forward to that. I can’t wait to taste the Olympic atmosphere.
Jill Roord relaxes during a Netherlands training session at France 2019
Jill Roord before a Netherlands U-17 game against Germany in 2011
How confident are you in the Netherlands’ hopes of winning gold?
I know that if we are in good shape, if we play like we can play, we can beat everybody. If we’re not, every game will be difficult. I think the USA are the absolute favourites. They seem to win everything at the moment. But I think we’re getting to that level. We need to keep going and developing, but there’s something about them – they’re just a bit ahead of everybody.
You’ve made a superb start to life at Arsenal…
I joined to develop as a player and because I was really interested in England. Arsenal suits me really well. I have to say, I’m really, really happy. I like the team, the atmosphere in the squad, the way we play. When you sign for someone else, it’s always a bit of a risk, but I’ve liked it here from day one and I think I fit in really well. I really like living in London too – the people are really friendly and I like the culture.
Just how good is your team-mate for club and country Vivianne Miedema?
She’s unique in women’s football. She’s one of a kind, an absolute killer. You see it in men’s football – players who are so cool in front of the goal – but I don’t think anybody else in women’s football has that to her extent. She’s one of the best players in the world.
Arsenal face Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals and, if you get through, Lyon or Bayern in the semis. Do you believe Arsenal can win it this year?
I think we have a really good squad. Obviously Lyon have won everything over the past few years, but I don’t think the gap between Lyon and our team, or other teams, is really big. If we have a good day, we could definitely make it hard for them. I think we just need to play our own game, be confident, and take it game by game.
You sometimes operate as an attacking midfielder and sometimes as a deeper central midfielder. What’s your best position?
It’s an interesting question. I’ve always been an offensive midfielder, a real No10, and I’ve always said that’s my best position. But I think now and in the future I could be a good No6, a bit more defensive, picking the ball up and controlling the game. I quite like being a [No]10 sometimes, a [No]6 sometimes, a bit of variation. I think I can do both. Time will tell.