The fans have spoken: In the voting of the German national team fan club, Lena Oberdorf, 19, has been voted National Player of the Year 2020. In an interview with DFB.de, the defensive player, explained why this award is particularly important to her. The young Wolfsburg midfielder also looked back on the international year 2020 and presented her view on the challenges that await her in 2021.
Lena, congratulations on winning the German national player of the year award. What does it mean to you?
Thank you very much. What makes me particularly happy about this award is that it comes from the fans. At the moment, that’s nice because we’re not getting any feedback from the fans in the stadium. We miss the spectators a lot. But we still notice that the support is still there. We are very grateful for that. That goes for both VfL Wolfsburg and the national team.
Are you as satisfied with your year with the national team as the fans are?
It was quite okay. The move to VfL Wolfsburg last summer was a right choice and it gave me another good boost. As a result, I’m also taking on a different role in the national team. Although I’m only 19, I’m trying to be a leader on and off the pitch. It’s simply my aspiration to take on responsibility. Football-wise, this year has given me a lot but of course, it wasn’t particularly great because of Corona.
Since then, we’ve all been living largely in a soccer bubble and trying to make the best of the current situation.
The year 2020 with the national team started with the Algarve Cup.
We started with two wins against Sweden and Norway. I remember that we were just having dinner the day before the final when the news reached us that the virus from China also spread to Germany. Back, Corona still felt far away. I never expected what will follow. The Italians, against whom we were to play in the final, had to leave early. So we shared the Algarve Cup title, which was the best solution in that very strange situation. Since then, we’ve all been living largely in a soccer bubble and trying to make the best of the current situation.
After the first lockdown, you continued with the qualifying matches for the European Championship.
We went through qualifiers without big problems. We won all our matches and qualified without losing any points. We conceded only one goal in all the matches – and that was a penalty against Ireland. Of course, it would be better to avoid that one goal too, but we can’t complain about that too much.
So everything’s fine?
No, of course not. If that were the case, we could have just sit back and stopped training. A lot of things were positive. Obviously, there are still a few things that we can and must optimize. For the most part, I’m satisfied, but there’s always room for improvement.
Are things getting better now after the elimination in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in France 2019?
I think you have to put it into perspective a bit. Not everything was bad at the World Cup either. We had won all four matches up to the quarterfinal. Of course, the defeat against Sweden was bitter. But on that day, things just didn’t go well for us. We had our chances to decide the match in our favor but we didn’t. That’s why the tournament remains negatively burdened in the general perception. But we are looking ahead. We have more than a year to prepare for the 2022 European Championship in England. After all, the tournament has been postponed because of Corona. If we use this time wisely, I’m very confident that we’ll play a good tournament again.
I’m proud to be part of this great team. I’m incredibly excited to play with them again.
What makes you so confident?
We have quality and a good mix of young and experienced players. You need a stable foundation. In the national team, our core is made up of players like Alexandra Popp, Melanie Leupolz, Lina Magull and Dzsenifer Marozsan. I could name a few more. Marina Hegering, for example. The role she is now playing after her very long injury layoff is impressive. I’m also looking forward to Almuth Schult returning soon after the birth of her twins. These are all players who have a lot of quality. In addition, there are the young players who bring a lot of lightness with them and perform in a carefree manner. I’m proud to be part of this great team. I’m incredibly excited to play with them again.
A few days ago, you prematurely extended your contract with VfL Wolfsburg, which runs until 2023, until 2024. Why?
Because I feel like at home and Wolfsburg is just the right club for me right now. Every training session at this level improves me. It’s unbelieveable what this first six months in Wolfsburg has given me. The conditions are super-professional, and every day I’m facing soccer players on the pitch who are among the absolute top in Germany and Europe. On top of that, I’ve finished my education and can now concentrate fully on soccer. That’s a big relief for me. This double burden was very challenging. So there was no reason for me not to extend my contract early.
You’re still in the DFB Cup and the Champions League. In the FLYERALARM Women’s Bundesliga, you have ten wins, one draw and one defeat. But still, you are five points behind FC Bayern. How annoying is that?
It’s unusual for VfL Wolfsburg to be in the chasing pack now. But you also have to acknowledge without envy that the Bayern have played an outstanding season so far. They’ve won everything and conceded just one goal. That’s a fantastic record. But it’s not over yet, they haven’t reached their goal yet.
But it’s clear that we now need a winning streak until the summer.
Do you still have hope of winning the German championship?
We have to win all our games, including the derby against FC Bayern. In addition, we have to hope that Bayern will make some mistakes. I don’t think it’s already decided. But it’s clear that we now need a winning streak until the summer.
Things get underway again at the beginning of February after a short winter break. Have you had enough time to recharge your batteries?
We will see about that. I have the feeling that my body wouldn’t be against a slightly longer break. But for my heart, the break was far too long. Basically, I’m glad that we’re back on the pitch now. Our coaching team will prepare us so that we will hopefully be in top shape for the start of the second half of the season at the beginning of February. We have set ourselves a lot of goals. The race to catch up Bayern can begin!