Tabea Kemme: “I want to make it to Canada”
Born in the German city of Stade near Hamburg, Tabea Kemme is one of football’s all-rounders. Despite originally starting out as a striker, she has since been deployed in defence for both club and country.
The 23-year-old has represented historic women’s football club 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam since her youth and feels so at home there that she put pen to paper on an extended contract earlier this year that will keep her in Brandenburg until 2017. During her career with the club she has won four German championships and lifted the inaugural UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy in 2010.
At international level Kemme has featured for every youth team from U-17 level onwards, becoming a European champion with the U-17s in 2008 before winning the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2010. She is currently with Germany’s senior side in Switzerland as they prepare for the Women’s World Cup.
In an interview with Women’s Soccer United, the multitalented Kemme discusses issues including the current state of women’s football in Germany, training to become a police commissioner, her international ambitions and the upcoming World Cup.
Women’s Soccer United: I recently watched you play for Turbine in the DFB Cup final against VfL Wolfsburg, a match you unfortunately lost despite a great deal of commitment from your team. You had a good game, battled for every ball and had a long-range free-kick only narrowly saved by opposition goalkeeper Almuth Schult, but despite these efforts Wolfsburg were clearly the better side. How do you explain that?
Tabea Kemme: It was a match where we were unable to show our strengths. Although our fighting spirit and dedication can take us far, we simply couldn’t match Wolfsburg’s quality on the day of the cup final. We also made some individual mistakes for the goals we conceded and failed to capitalise on the chances we had. We’ve shown in the Bundesliga that we can beat Wolfsburg, and that made the fact that we weren’t able to reproduce that kind of performance on such a big occasion all the more painful.
WSU: Although the fact that some 19,000 fans were present in the stadium to watch the match is certainly a positive development, the RheinEnergieStadion holds almost 50,000. Cologne has been selected as the venue for the next three DFB Cup finals. What do you make of the atmosphere there and would you have preferred a smaller stadium?
Tabea: I thought the atmosphere was fantastic. The conditions in Cologne were first-class, so I’ve got absolutely no doubts that it’s the right venue. In fact, I think it’s wonderful that the women’s cup final took place there in front of 19,000 spectators and that it’ll happen there again in the future.
WSU: One general question on women’s football in Germany. Although the sport is in significantly better shape in Germany than in many other countries, it was recently announced that VfL Bochum will be withdrawing their women’s team from the second tier for financial reasons. The club is reportedly in need of €100,000 – an amount that could probably be raised without any problems in the men’s game. What is your view of the overall situation for women’s football and what do you think could be done to improve it further?
Tabea: It’s no secret that men’s football is considered more attractive than the women’s game, and as a result the women are first to suffer when it comes to saving money. This is extremely sad and also shows that the development of women’s football is faltering in some cities. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to be proud of when you look back over the years. The simple fact that more and more players are now able to live solely on their club wages shows just how much money is being invested in the women’s game.
WSU: Since 2012 you have been studying hard to become a police commissioner alongside your club and international football commitments. How far have you progressed with these studies and how do you manage to combine the two activities?
Tabea: I’ve spent the last five months doing security and shift work. During the day I work for eight hours as a patrol officer before heading off to training. If the fixture list allows for it, I occasionally work 12-hour night shifts too, but that’s unusual. Sometimes I even surprise myself at how I fit everything in. Just yesterday I was investigating a case and today I’m giving my all in Switzerland in the hope of being selected for the final World Cup squad that travels to Canada. My schedule will continue to look like that until I complete my studies in 2017.
WSU: Although you were unable to win any silverware at club level this season, you still have the chance to clinch the biggest prize of all with the national team. You were not originally selected for the Algarve Cup but were eventually called up after several injury withdrawals. Did the national team coach give any reasons for not selecting you back then?
Tabea: I wasn’t personally given any reasons, but I saw it as an incentive to improve across all areas. I worked extremely hard before being picked for the friendly against Brazil, where I played the full 90 minutes.
WSU: While Germany were unable to defend their title at the Algarve Cup after defeat by Sweden in their opening game, they then performed well at the competition, eventually beating the Swedes to clinch third place. The event also gave the national coach a chance to try out some things. How was the tournament for you? Were you satisfied with your performance and that of the team as a whole?
Tabea: That first match was a real blow for us and we were heavily criticised for it, but we improved from one game to the next during the competition. Losing to Switzerland may have been a perfectly timed setback for us. We took plenty away from that experience, identifying areas where we need to improve and errors we can’t allow ourselves to make at this level. From a personal perspective I was able to gather plenty of experience as a substitute, and even made the starting line-up in our last game. Before I didn’t know exactly where I stood, and so I had to fight my way back.
WSU: You played for the full 90 minutes in the friendly against Brazil and made the leap into the provisional World Cup squad. The team play their final warm-up match on 27 May against Switzerland on artificial turf to simulate the conditions in Canada as realistically as possible. What will you need to focus on when playing the Swiss and what do you think are the main differences between artificial and natural turf?
Tabea: The game against Switzerland will be determined by the side capable of imposing their style of play on their opponents. It’s our last test before the journey to Canada and every member of both teams will want to somehow work out where they stand. Switzerland play good attacking football. We’re familiar with both their players and the skills they offer. We know what each individual player is capable of. We’ve got to put the Swiss under plenty of pressure when we don’t have possession of the ball, and if we can do that we’ll have a chance to restrict their style of play.
Artificial pitches are always a matter for debate. Understandably, almost every footballer prefers to play on natural turf. I’m certainly one of them; I think the game can be played more passionately on a grass pitch.
WSU: Germany must face Côte d’Ivoire, Norway and Thailand in the group stages of the Women’s World Cup in Canada. Have you come up against these opponents before and what are you expecting from them, particularly Côte d’Ivoire and Thailand?
Tabea: We’ve already played Norway on several occasions so we’re familiar with their playing style. When it comes to Côte d’Ivoire and Thailand, our coaching team and video analysts will make sure we are as well prepared as possible.
WSU: If you are among the players selected in the final squad, this World Cup will be your first major tournament with Germany. What personal goals have you set yourself for this competition and beyond?
Tabea: My ambition is crystal clear: I want to be part of the team in Canada! Beyond that, you naturally wonder “What if?” It’s clear that our campaign will be anything but a walk in the park. Winning our group is certainly one goal, but then come the knockout stages. Qualifying for the Olympics is another major objective [Editor’s note: the three best-placed European sides at the World Cup will qualify for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2016]. When it comes to a career highlight like this, you want to get the most out of it. That means winning the World Cup, but we face a long and difficult journey to get there.
Interview by Susanne Meissner, translation by Frances Clarke