Nadine Kessler is a woman of many talents. As a club player, she won numerous titles, triumphed with the German women’s national team at the 2013 UEFA Women’s EURO, became European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2014. When she hung up her boots, Kessler first worked as an ambassador and advisor at UEFA before being appointed Managing Director of Women’s Football.
In this capacity, the 35-year-old attended the second FIFA Women’s Football Convention in Sydney. Together with Dr Johanna Wood, FIFA Council member and President of the Football Association of New Zealand, James Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, and Monique André, a member of the Haitian Football Association’s Normalisation Committee, Kessler took part in a panel discussion on the impact tournaments have on the development of women’s football.
The fact that three European teams finished in the top four at the recently concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup™ – winning gold, silver and bronze medals – is something Kessler can be proud of.
“I think we have made enormous progress in the last few years. I’m not talking about UEFA, I’m not talking about clubs or associations. I’m talking about us as a whole,” she said.
“It’s really nice that all this hard work is paying off. We have to honestly acknowledge that the whole world has made progress and maybe we are even a little bit lucky to be in this position. Nevertheless, there is a big movement in Europe, and finally we have created competition between many countries, and I think that’s what keeps this movement going.”
Kessler is alluding to the fact that the supposed “small teams” no longer exist and that the investments and progress made in recent years are now paying off. But what can be done to narrow this gap further? How can those countries be supported where women’s football is not yet as developed?
“We have done a lot in terms of the whole competitive landscape in Europe. We’ve really tried to give everyone a chance, especially the countries that maybe haven’t had the best opportunities to play,” Kessler explains.
“We will now start with our new Nations League system. We have changed our club competitions and turned them upside down to allow for more games. The same has happened at youth level. Of course, there is also special support through development projects in these countries. It’s not a surprise, it’s the result of hard work and I think they’ve done a great job at this World Cup.”
Finally, the former world player of the year has some advice for all players who are already thinking about their career after football.
“It’s great that we are now seeing female players exploring different roles. But I would really like to see them in administration to drive organisations like ours, FIFA or clubs, to change things and promote women’s football from within,” Kessler said.
“It is very important that women players do not just become TV experts or coaches. When it comes to representation on committees or women in football in general, we have to make progress in these areas as well. Because otherwise these role models will not exist. I would be happy if more female players would take on these roles and maybe wear the ‘boring suit’ for a change!”
The FIFA Women’s Football Convention took place in Sydney between August 18/19.