World and European champion on multiple occasions, ex-Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer’s illustrious career took her around the globe before finishing up in a city she adores, and in the jazz café that is her Portland world, closing time has been put off for a little longer yet.
As the last whistle sounded out on Nadine’s playing days in the company of a sold-out Portland Thorns home crowd at Providence Park last August, the moment had arrived to finally step back from a truly distinguished time at the top. Winning two FIFA World Cups and five European Championships with her country, the former Germany captain also had the honour of being crowned the best of her profession as she was named 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year.
There were more trophies as a club competitor but the silverware sheds light on only part of the picture for somebody who has embarked on a worldwide journey for the beautiful game and brightened it in style along the way. The player affectionately known as ‘Natze’ wore the gloves for clubs back home in Germany, before Sweden, Australia and the U.S. came calling, and each had their own impact on her.
It was, however, through the last of her teams, the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), that she found not only a sporting organisation she could be a valued part of but also a city she happily calls her second home. Even in the twilight of her career, Nadine and her national team coaches noticed how she’d developed even further from being in the American game and now she wants to implement her world-class expertise from a new standpoint, as she begins season one of life as a goalkeeping coach with the Thorns.
Just over seven months ago, she said goodbye to her home fans as a player with 21,144 in attendance to see Portland draw 3-3 with Washington Spirit. The game was also shown live on FOX Sports and it was fitting that a wider audience got to watch the final act for such a formidable performer.
The Thorns’ final home encounter of 2015 was also the swansong for another accomplished player – two-time Olympic gold medallist and U.S. defender, Rachel Van Hollebeke. The artist formerly known as Buehler has also become known for what some consider a distinctive music taste, and for Nadine, who last year featured on a song released back home, she would be her top choice if she ever made a teammate collaboration.
“Rachel Van Hollebeke, absolutely. The thing is, Rachel is a very good singer, and she likes, I don’t know, the old stuff; country, oldies.
“I think, even though I’m not a big fan of oldies, I will cover an oldies song with her just because she’s so good. She has to lead the duet!”
Only a very select few in the game ever get to say they were crowned number one in the world and Nadine has the distinction of being the only goalkeeper (male or female) to ever do it. She has also joined an elite band of players who’ve crossed over into music, with a cameo on the German male group voXXclub’s track ‘So wie heut’ ahead of the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
In the song’s video, Nadine and the group are playing a small-sided game when the ball goes into the water. They row out to retrieve it and that is when the 2013 UEFA Best Women’s Player transitions from shot-stopper to lyric-dropper with a rap in German.
Naturally, the question is how did she come to be involved in the song, and did she enjoy her introduction to the rap game?!
“Yeah, because I can’t sing! I got to know these guys after a talk show on German TV and we had so much fun and we had a really good connection.
“They had this idea that we could produce a World Cup song. I was like, ‘This is a very good idea but the only problem we have is I can’t sing!’
“They said, ‘Yeah, but everyone can rap’, and I’m like, ‘No I can’t even rap!’ They just said, ‘Trust us’, so that’s how we came together.”
While she may have finished up with 146 caps, Nadine certainly had to bide her time before displacing Germany’s long-time custodian Silke Rottenberg. Making her debut against the Netherlands in August 1996 at the age of 17, she was an understudy at the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, the latter of which was a victorious competition for Tina Theune-Meyer’s team as they beat Sweden in the final with a Nia Künzer golden goal in Carson.
Nadine’s moments on the big stage were still to come, but that 2003 tournament in the U.S. sparked what has since become a central storyline for her. En route to the final, Germany ousted Russia in the quarter-final before eliminating the hosts in the semi, with both games being played at Portland’s PGE Park, as it was then known.
That venue is now Providence Park, and with Germany in town for their 7-1 win over Russia, Nadine had her first opportunity to take in the vibe of Portland. While it would not become home for many more years, the impression on her was instant, and she has since found just how much the Rose City and her personality intertwine.
The love for the alternative she shares with her adopted home city is also very much reflected in her best-loved sound choices.
“I’m a big fan of ska music, for example (Mexican band) Panteón Rococó, and I also like Russian ska. I like music a lot, I like to go to concerts and I often hear music before a game.”
Coming from Lohr a.Main, an hour or so from Frankfurt, Nadine started out playing against boys before she joined the girls’ team, ASV Hofstetten. Maybe surprisingly to some, she was an attacking player until into her teens, filling in for an injured player in goal in a regional trial game and subsequently impressing.
Her progression over the next couple of years was considerable and at the start of her career she moved from home to Munich by herself to play for FC Bayern, where she would win promotion to the top level. Also representing 1.FC Nürnberg and FC Wacker München in her early days in the game, Nadine had the possibility of pursuing college soccer in the U.S. but decided against a Stateside switch at that time.
In music at least, there was a fleeting American connection for her back then, as she recalls when asked about her very first album.
“It was from R.E.M. but soon I found out that’s not my type of music! It was a present.”
Last year in Canada, Nadine made the World Cup’s All-Star Team just as she had done in her outstanding debut tournament eight years earlier. With Silke Rottenberg out with a torn ACL, China 2007 was the big opportunity she had been working for, and as Germany went all the way, Nadine made history as she completed the entire competition without conceding a goal.
Shutting out the opposition over six games, the feat was made all the more impressive as she had to save a penalty against Brazil in the final from the tournament’s top scorer and reigning World Player of the Year, Marta. Germany were playing under Silvia Neid for the first time at a World Cup and goals from Birgit Prinz and Simone Laudehr secured the trophy in a 2-0 win.
That was very much the breakthrough for Nadine as the team’s number one and with three European Championship successes already on her résumé she won the tournament for the first time as a starter in Finland in 2009. Although Germany were eliminated on home soil to Japan at the last eight of the 2011 World Cup there would be glory to come once again two years later.
Nadine had succeeded legendary striker Birgit Prinz as captain by the time Euro 2013 came around and after helping guide her team through the earlier stages she saved another show-stopping performance for the final. In the first half in Solna, she denied Norway’s Trine Rønning from the penalty spot and repeated her heroics in the second half as she kept out Solveig Gulbrandsen.
With Anja Mittag giving Germany the lead in between the two penalties, one goal was enough to win through on the day and the celebrations followed. Three players who started that final for Germany – Lena Goeßling, Célia Šašić and Dzsenifer Marozsán – have been the subject of their own music interviews on here, so who was the most regular team DJ during Nadine’s international career?
“That’s a funny story – it was me…exactly one game! I got kicked out because I thought that everybody likes ska, but then I found out very quick that I’m the only one!
“It was usually Anja Mittag, and Lira Alushi and Célia who did the music.”
Along with her silverware-laden international story, Nadine has also swept the board with domestic league and cup triumphs, as well as continental success. While with Turbine Potsdam, she won two Frauen-Bundesliga titles, three German Cups and the UEFA Women’s Cup, before a move to Sweden in 2008 with Djurgårdens IF.
Returning to Germany with Frankfurt in 2009, there was another domestic cup to celebrate in March 2011 before the end of her European career arrived with the first of two stints at the W-League’s Brisbane Roar in Australia. Before Portland’s coaching offer a few months ago, the other option Nadine was looking at was to return home. For now, it may have to wait, but perhaps one day she can finally catch the live music celebration at the top of her wishlist, which is hosted in northern France’s Samois-sur-Seine.
“There is one big festival I really want to go to and it’s the Django Reinhardt Festival. It’s a jazz festival and there are a lot of stages with live music.”
Australia’s W-League has had many superb homegrown and international players in its eight seasons, although it is fair to say that Nadine coming to the league in 2013 with her move to Brisbane Roar was quite a coup. It was Australia midfielder Tameka Butt (an interviewee on here in March 2014) who got Nadine interested in a move to Brisbane during their time at Frankfurt and in her debut season in Queensland, the Roar were Grand Final runners-up to Melbourne Victory.
Byron Bay in New South Wales was one of Nadine’s favourite places she was able to experience Down Under and she returned to the Roar with a loan from Portland the following season. They were one of numerous clubs she represented, so given that she has leant her vocals to a song for real, did she ever have the singing initiation task fall upon her when she was a new player anywhere?
“I had to do a lot of embarrassing things but luckily I never had to sing!”
Arriving in the NWSL as the World Player of the Year, Nadine featured 22 times for Portland in 2014, including in their playoff semi-final loss to FC Kansas City after a regular-season finish of 3rd. In 2015, her campaign was interrupted by the World Cup while Michelle Betos’ continued emergence also lessened her participation in a year that saw the Thorns come 6th in head coach Paul Riley’s final season in charge.
Despite only making six appearances, Nadine was still able to have an impact around the place and although Mark Parsons ultimately came in from Washington Spirit, Riley had previously spoken of wanting to bring her back as a coach. Teammates she has had at the Thorns, like Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, have alluded to the stark contrast between the intimidating competitor she is on the field and how fun she is off it, and supporters loved both about her.
As those who have experienced it will know, the scope to explore in Portland is huge and music is included in that. There are also a fortunate few in recent times who have caught an unofficial free gig live and direct from the car of Thorns midfielders Sinead Farrelly (now with Boston Breakers) and Mana Shim, as revealed by the latter on here last May!
Also touched upon in that interview was the locker-room soundtrack for the team, with defender Kat Williamson’s up-tempo tunes one element mentioned at the time. Although her ska hasn’t made it in there, Nadine has been around a good variation during her time as a Thorn.
“Actually we had so many (team DJs); we had this speaker in the middle of the locker room so whoever was here first put her iPhone on and we were listening to it. Mana did it quite often I think, Allie (Long), McCall (Zerboni) I think, but there were a few.”
Canada 2015 was Nadine’s fifth World Cup and in trademark fashion she had the final say in the quarter-final clash with France as she saved the decisive shootout kick from Claire Lavogez. With her retirement looming, she told how although she still felt fine to play she had a desire to bow out at the top, and knew she was doing just that because of how many were trying to persuade her to carry on.
With her Germany teammates putting together a farewell video in which they copied her on-field hairstyle, the Thorns and fans used ‘#DankeNadine’ on Twitter to send messages of thanks to her. Hats were also worn by some in the crowd at her final game as a dedication to her fashion style and the number one was held up as those at Providence Park got their final glimpse of Natze the player.
In December, her return as coach for 2016 was announced and she spent part of her off-season break studying functional athletic training. New head coach Mark Parsons has spoken recently of his admiration for Nadine and also how he can see she was preparing herself to coach for some time before taking on her official role.
On the World Player of the Year shortlist in 2014 and 2015, she was considered among the elite until her career’s end but wanted to welcome the next chapter.
“First of all, I had a lot of ideas about what I can do after my career. I was thinking more about it and I was thinking maybe I would like to be a goalkeeper coach; that’s the thing I can do, it’s where I feel secure and I have good knowledge.
“I’m very happy that I got this very good offer from Portland because everybody knows that I felt so happy here and so comfortable. That’s why I thought it was a good connection, because I need a place where I really like to live, to make a good job.
“Portland fits everything; I love the club, I love the city and I like to be a goalkeeper coach. If all of these three things fit together then I’m happy.”
One country Nadine ultimately never took her club career to was England, which is where this site is run from. Regardless, fans certainly got to know her from the games she played against the Lionesses for example, with previous encounters including the Euro 2009 final which went the way of Germany by six goals to two.
England were one of six teams she faced and kept at bay in her record-breaking 2007 World Cup, with a goalless group draw, and they were also the last opponents of her magnificent international career. Taking them on in the bronze medal game at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium last year, Nadine was impressed at the strides made by Mark Sampson’s team since his appointment in December 2013. When asked, she picked out a former Thorns teammate along with a new face at Chelsea as examples of those she rates highly from the squad.
“Yeah, they obviously improved the last one or two years and they beat us at the World Cup. Generally, I still think we are better, but they really, really improved so much and it’s a serious opponent.
“I have got a lot of respect for England. They have some good players: Jodie (Taylor) is good, (Karen) Carney also, she’s a very experienced player.
“They were very good in the offensive (area); they were dangerous, they were fast.”
Although she admits she favoured the social scene a lot in her early career, Nadine learned greatly from the aforementioned Silke Rottenberg’s approach, and after a decade of waiting for her chance to become her country’s keeper she made sure she was ready to grasp it when it arrived. Silvia Neid saw Nadine as like another coach when she played for her and now there could potentially be so many who benefit from her understanding of the game.
A great of her sport beyond question, Nadine offers up what she feels such a large proportion of her life spent dedicated to this game has taught her, from a wider point of view than just how to deny approaching forward players.
“Oh my God, this gets very philosophical! This I can’t explain so short but the thing I learned is to stay humble, and to stay together as a team.
“You can be successful if the team is working together very well, otherwise it’s very hard. With a team I don’t just mean the players but the whole staff has to be combining with a lot of trust and respect.
“You can transfer this to life as well: if you have good friends, good family, people you can trust, then everything will be easier in life.”
Along with many medals as a champion, Nadine also went to the Olympic Games in Sydney, Athens and Beijing with the national team, winning bronze on each occasion. She has been able to impact upon numerous teammates and friends, and as much as the development of Portland’s Michelle Betos is down to her own ability and determination, last year’s NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year has said herself that she picked up so much from working with Nadine.
Over the last couple of years, she has devised a bucket list, but prior to retirement she also spoke of wanting to take each day as it comes. There is the feeling that although she’s focused on her new role she can still do that, given her character and surroundings.
In February, Nadine spent two weeks in New Zealand and Australia on her way back to Portland from Germany. She loves to explore; she used to have a VW bus and said it was a dream to one day drive through Africa in one.
A little more imminently, she plans to observe coaching sessions in various countries as she works toward the highest level of licence back home. The learning never really ceases, but as she is now on the teaching side, what would Nadine say if she had some time to go back and talk to a unique star in the making? That starlet being her childhood self.
“Do everything exactly like I did! No, the thing is, I always was really focused on soccer but I never lost the view on life that I like to hang out with my friends and I like to have fun.
“I learned from time to time when it’s good to do these things besides soccer and when it’s not good, but I needed it and I would do things exactly the same. Be very focused on your career, on soccer, but also don’t forget to have fun in life.”
In any ‘best of’ reel of Nadine’s experiences, walking out for her country’s win over Canada in the opening game of the German-hosted 2011 World Cup in front of 73,680 in Berlin would surely have its place. Players and people like her make it possible to enjoy the game on a level that transcends what happens on the field. They bring an extra layer of life and celebration to it, and coupled with her inspirational achievements, that’s why she has been so revered.
Just like a special song remains in the memory, so too do the people attached to it. This closing question has been put to the players at the end of the interviews on here in recent years and although it can understandably be difficult it also provides a genuine look behind the scenes and into the teammates who have left their mark in the very best of ways.
This works by the player placing themselves into a fantasy 5-a-side team, with their choice of four others from any time in their career to complete their group. It wouldn’t be possible to pay tribute to all those who deserve a mention so of course many worthy names will have to start this game from a well-populated bench, but Nadine didn’t shirk the selection challenge, which bodes well for a future head coaching position!
“Saskia Bartusiak (defender) – we played together for Frankfurt and for the national team. We played together for so many years and we knew each other so well that we didn’t have to talk; we had a blind understanding.
“That’s why (I choose her), and because she’s a great person and we are friends still. Anja Mittag, forward – Anja and I, we grew up together and survived together at (Turbine) Potsdam!
“We played ten, 12 years together so I have known her since she’s a little baby. I think she impressed me how she developed as a person; she was very shy in the beginning and after she went to Sweden she grew up.
“I always liked her but she grew up as a personality and became a much better forward. She’s just one of the funniest girls I know.
“Dzseni Marozsán because she’s the best technical midfielder I know and I think in a small-sized field you need a good one. Christine Sinclair (forward) – we would have a good party afterwards!”
To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes
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