"It is such a massive statement from the German football federation that they let us continue the league," said VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Ingrid Engen. "It is an important sign of equality and it makes us feel valued." After Italy yesterday became the last country to cancel its women's football season, the German Frauen Bundesliga is now the only one among the main European football leagues as a bastion for equal opportunities in the women's football.
After two months without competitive action, club doctors in Italy believed that players who had not yet resumed training would need a month of preparation to reduce the risk of injury. In Germany, Engen and his Wolfsburg teammates returned to contactless training a month before the start of the league, as she explained: "I was feeling really good when I got back to Contact training through a good program. Coaches and kiosks develop step-by-step training. At first there was a lot of focus on technique and individual training, and then that was getting harder as the season approached. They were smart and I feel well prepared even if you can never be completely safe from injury. "
Like all other teams, the Wolfsburg team had to train for a week in a quarantine camp while the players were regularly tested for Covid-19. "I think you get used to everything after a while," admits Engen. "This is a lot to remember and there are a lot of rules to follow, but we all try to do everything right if that is what it takes to play games. let's help each other and I really feel very grateful to be in a club that has good resources. "
After three weeks at home in Norway, Engen has been away from her family since returning to Germany in April, which she admits is "difficult". After training alone for several weeks, she savored the opportunity to train again as a team. "It was like a preseason again! It was so nice to be back with the team – first in small groups and then everyone together. In the moments when you have to train alone, you really feel how much you appreciate being part of a team and playing games together. "
German champion Wolfsburg played the first home league game against FC Köln on Friday 29 May. Engen started the match as a substitute observing social distance in the stands, she described the surreal experience of playing without spectators. "It was like we were alone in the stadium, and we really missed our incredible fans. It was not the same atmosphere at all, and it was weird not to celebrate in front of the fans like we are used to after the match. But I think the girls on the field were completely focused without thinking about the circumstances when they were playing. We all wore masks on the stands. "
In the two league games since the restart, Engen replaced Danish striker Pernille Harder, UEFA women's player of the year for 2018, in the second half. Having played and trained alongside From harder all season, Engen has no doubts about his qualities on and off the field.
"Pernille is perhaps the best player I have ever played with. She is such a complete player – she has great technique and intelligence, and she provides assists and scores in almost every game. But I really like that she also works very hard and a real leader. I think she is one of the most competitive on the team, both in training only in matches ".
Engaged for the first time by Norway as a teenager, Engen scored the first goal against the European champions, the Netherlands, in a victory that reserved his country's place in the finals of the World Cup last summer. Her national coach, Martin Sjögren, praised her maturity, "It is remarkable to be so steady and steady in her performance at this age. She is only 20 years old but acts like she’s been playing international football for 10 years. "
At the World Cup, Engen gained international renown after securing Norway's place in the quarterfinals of the competition by converting the winning penalty into a spectacular late-night shootout with Australia. "This penalty was a great moment in my career, mainly because I was so proud of the team and it was so huge to live the whole World Cup with them."
"This moment was also very important for women's football in Norway, as more and more people started to follow our matches and enjoyed seeing us play well and go far in the tournament."
"I feel like I have a bigger profile in no time and it was a lot of attention that I was not used to Having a higher profile also makes you think about what you do / post / say a lot more. I try to be a good role model for young girls and boys with big dreams and ambitions. "
During the pandemic, Engen demonstrated this social conscience. In March, she was one of the many players who asked her club to give up 10% of her salary to provide financial support to people affected by the virus. Last month, she also donated one of her national team jerseys to The One Goal, which raised £ 20,492 by selling 20 jerseys from different players. "Hopefully more players will get involved and take action," she said, "to give back to the communities that support and encourage us."