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Going Up for a Header with Steffi Jones

Action Hero Turned Diplomat

Now I’m not a big guy (1m 79 cm in metric, which translates to about 5 feet 10½ inches) but, in my soccer-playing days, I used to fancy my prowess in the penalty box, especially going up for headers on corners. But I’d shy away from any competition with Steffi Jones. Let me tell you: she’s got real presence – and a tough looking left-arm tattoo! And in one of the reports on the show we got a sample of her heading prowess. No surprise, then, about her answer to one of my standard warm-up questions: “What’s your favourite movie?” No hesitation: “Well, it’s got to be action…” Then: Die Hard – the whole series. That fits!

So, action woman. But, you know what? She was nervous before the show. Distinctly nervous. Even when we chilled out as she signed shirts for my soccer-playing daughter and her best friend. And I’ll tell you why: because Steffi’s got a new job. After finishing her playing career in 2007 (111 international appearances), she’s now a roving ambassador for German soccer after becoming, in 2008, the head of the organising committee for the Women’s World Cup tournament here in Germany in 2011. So, Steffi spends much less time on the pitch these days, much less time keeping fit (which she seemed pretty concerned about), and much more time selling soccer and, of course, selling the world cup. And she’s still just a little nervous, just a little edgy before going on air because this is very much a new role. A re-invented Steffi.

This is the Steffi Jones who grew up in the Bonames district of Frankfurt (drugs, crime), with a struggling (but clearly inspiring) single mother. Now she’s moved to another address in the same city: the Frankfurt headquarters of the DFB – the German soccer federation, one of the most dynamic, successful, powerful, integrative, hierarchic, conservative, hidebound (depending on who your source is!!!) organisations in Germany. So, image the pressure on Steffi, who is still, she says, learning on the job.  But she’s a true pro and has, after all, played in front of crowds of up 70,000!! And when the lights went up and the show began, she became the perfect ambassador for Soccer Germany. Open, easygoing, and so very neudeutsch, as they like to say here. And, by the time we’d finished, she was also saying “du” to me (big deal in Germany, quite an honour). But I still wouldn’t go up for corner with her!


April 14, 2009