Beats & Rhymes FC

Selina Wagner interview: ‘Let’s get loud’ – Freiburg midfielder turns it back to the max

Courtesy of SC Freiburg

Courtesy of SC Freiburg

 

A two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner, former VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Selina Wagner has felt the glow of glory and the chill of desolate frustration in her career, but the volume is up again and the harmony feels right for the 26-year-old at SC Freiburg.

Irrespective of the footballing scenery in which a player grew up, some places and some clubs can just become home. That sense of connection can catch fire from the beginning or start to solidify after certain memories are made, with one-time German youth international Selina Wagner somebody who knows all about the latter.

One of Maren Meinert’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup-winning pool of prospects from 2010, the midfielder enjoyed substantial success with Wolfsburg. In her six years with the club, she won six trophies, including two Champions League titles to ensure it will stay in her mind with glittering quality.

The attack-minded performer had, however, found her time with the Green-Whites perforated by two long-term knee injuries, though she managed to return on both occasions. As last season came around, she swapped her familiar colours for those of SC Freiburg, and she is currently part of a team aiming to surpass last year’s record-high Frauen-Bundesliga finish of 4th place.

The game-winner against FF USV Jena last time out, she also takes care of the team as one half of the DJ duo, as she describes.

“That’s Sandra Starke and me; we got a special music box for the team and we see to the playlists. We don’t have considerable singers or dancers but we all like to listen to music.”

Namibian-born former Germany Under-19 forward Starke came up with a double in the 4-0 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach in October and it hasn’t been Freiburg’s only eye-catching result so far this season. Selina’s winner at home to Jena on November 20th kept Jens Scheuer’s side in the league’s leading places heading into December and it is a tough but tantalising trip on the cards when they resume action.

That match-up will be a return to Wolfsburg for Selina on December 11th, where she used to help run the show when it came to music before the game. She has had some extended spells on the sidelines during her injury rehabilitations but that affection for the game wasn’t lost along the way and neither was her feel for the floorfillers that set the mood.

“Music is very important to me and not only before a game; I always listen to music and it must be loud. Before a game, it motivates me and gives me a good feeling.

“In my free time, I also listen to music and I also like dancing.”

 

Photo: Elena Weber

Photo: Elena Weber

 

In her December 2014 interview on here, and with an honourable mention for Andreas Bourani’s ‘Auf uns’ as a winning song for her, Wolfsburg midfielder Lena Goeßling shared how Selina was picking out a little of everything for the then-Champions League holders to listen to in the changing room. The Freiburg number 31 still likes a mix, but it is her affinity for a dancefloor vibe that shines through as she also thinks back to some of the co-DJs from those days with Wolfsburg.

“Lena Goeßling, Noëlle Maritz or Laura Vetterlein also chose it, because they enjoy music, but every player can tell what she wants to have on the playlist, so it was not only our choice. I like r&b; I would name Rihanna as one of my favourite artists, but I listen to different genres, it depends.

“Some of my favourite songs right now are Rihanna (featuring Drake) ‘Work’, Imany (featuring Filatov & Karas) ‘Don’t Be So Shy’, Frenship (and Emily Warren) ‘Capsize’ and Bastian K. (featuring Gustavo Trebien) ‘One of Us.’”

Those are the tracks helping to keep Selina on the level at the moment and she has felt her spirit soaring again of late. The former 1. FC Saarbrücken youngster had come off the bench against Jena, and with five minutes remaining, she strode forward with purpose to meet Klara Bühl’s low cross from the right and buried a right-footed finish that was good enough for all three points at Möslestadion.

SCF are currently in touch with the top of the Bundesliga in 3rd, just a point behind Turbine Potsdam and only two back from leaders and reigning champions Bayern. Domestic cup semi-finalists last season, they are seemingly a team very much on the up, with German national team-capped players like goalkeeper and captain Laura Benkarth, defender Carolin Simon, striker Lena Petermann and leading scorer Hasret Kayikçi.

Another of those is Selina’s ex-Wolfsburg teammate Lina Magull. The 22-year-old midfielder is on loan from the club again this year and she is just one of the contributory reasons toward Selina being completely in tune with her surroundings.

“I really like Freiburg. The club’s atmosphere is very familiar but still professional.

“We are quite successful and we have a special team spirit, so it is a lot of fun to play here. Also, Freiburg is a very nice town and the weather is nice mostly; better than anywhere else in Germany.

“I like to enjoy the sun next to the Dreisam river or along the vineyards.”

The contentment in the sunshine Selina likes to bask in is something that gets enhanced sometimes by music, with an atmospheric gathering on a Balearic isle forming part of her travels. In fact, it would be accurate to say that she feels very at home in a live show setting.

“Yes, I went to concerts of Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Pink, Jessie J. I enjoyed all of them and I visited a show of David Guetta in Ibiza.”

A starter as Wolfsburg beat Sweden’s Tyresö FF to win the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, Selina celebrated her second European title that night as one of the players nearest to captain Nadine Keßler as she proudly lifted the cup in the air. Attacking midfield force Keßler – the 2014 FIFA World Player of the Year who sadly had to retire at just 28 in April – was a player Selina knew from her career’s beginnings at Saarbrücken and she paid great tribute to her friend as her retirement was announced.

Selina comes from the town of St. Wendel in the federal state of Saarland in the west of Germany and she played for local teams SG St. Wendel and Sportfreunde Winterbach on her way to becoming a professional. It was at Saarbrücken where she made her breakthrough and she earned international recognition with Germany at many age groups.

An Under-23 most recently, it was when she was a little more of a youngster that she had a start with that other love in her life besides football, which she recalls when asked about her first CD.

“I think I was about eight years old when I started to listen to Backstreet Boys, Kelly Family, or mixed music which I found on the ‘Bravo Hits’ CDs.”

Twice a DFB-Pokal champion with Wolfsburg, Selina had tasted the national cup final and all it brings while she was still just 17. That first experience was much rawer than those 2013 and 2015 successes and it came in April 2008 as Saarbrücken took on reigning and would-be league champions 1.FFC Frankfurt, a team rich in players with big-game understanding and mentality.

With 20,000 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Selina would play the entire game alongside some notable future stars in the shape of current Arsenal defender Josephine Henning (18), Lyon and Germany attacker Dzsenifer Marozsán (16) and a relative veteran in 20-year-old captain Nadine Keßler. Saarbrucken were relegated from the Bundesliga in 11th place that year, although Guido Mey’s team actually took the lead on the day.

In the first few minutes, American midfielder Natalie Budge scored past Germany legend Silke Rottenberg, but after heading in at half-time with a 1-1 scoreline following Petra Wimbersky’s equaliser, fellow German internationals Conny Pohlers (twice), Kerstin Garefrekes and Birgit Prinz all struck to make it 5-1. There was of course a flood of success to come for Selina in the years that followed, so the day had undoubtedly been valuable, but has she ever had an even tougher learning experience by being made to sing for her teammates in her career?!

“No and I’m totally happy about that!”

 

 

The nerves and excitement that come with playing in a tournament at a young age are special and most people who have played for their local team or school will have felt it. To find yourself in that situation while representing your nation is a challenge and privilege that decidedly fewer get to ever have.

Selina was one who did, in 2010 as part of the first host country to win the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. Playing under an all-time great in Maren Meinert, Selina and Germany’s youngsters beat Costa Rica, Colombia and France in the group and knocked out North Korea and South Korea before beating Nigeria 2-0 in the Bielefeld final.

The opening game with Costa Rica was the only one Selina didn’t play in and she came on in the closing minutes of the final, lifting the trophy alongside the likes of Almuth Schult, Tabea Kemme, Dzsenifer Marozsán and the tournament’s ten-goal top scorer and Golden Ball winner Alexandra Popp. Selina has encountered so much more since then but it is during such journeys that you start to find out who you are as a player and as a person.

Signing for Freiburg last June, she has been used in varying fashion this season, with Jens Scheuer starting her sometimes and calling upon her as an option from the bench on other occasions. As she proved in the last game, she is capable of delivering with assurance, and she weighs up the areas she has been asked to work from.

“I am a flexible and versatile player; I want to play and I try to give my best wherever the coach wants me to play. I like playing in the centre the most, but right or left side is also nice to play because there you can be more offensive.

“Actually, I am more an offensive player than a defensive one, and I like to score goals, but you should like to do that in every position!”

Joining Wolfsburg in 2009 as a teenager, Selina displayed her scoring touch in the green and white, with perhaps her biggest goal coming in the 2013 Champions League semi-final second leg with Arsenal. Leading 2-0 from the first leg in England, they took the lead in the return at the Volkswagen Arena as Selina arched a looping header in off the crossbar and post to beat Emma Byrne.

It was a vital moment in a 2-1 win that sent Ralf Kellermann’s team to the final at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, where they would beat Lyon for their first European crown. Selina wore the number 10 shirt for the club at the time, which carries a responsibility in itself, and as she was asked which players (from all-time) she would want to practice shooting with, she picked two who know all about taking on pressure.

“Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, because they both have a very special way to play football and score a lot of goals out of their chances.”

Silverware during Selina’s stint with Wolfsburg didn’t arrive instantly, although when it did, it was remarkable. The 2012/13 season was monumental, with the firepower provided by the likes of Conny Pohlers, Martina Müller and Alexandra Popp proving crucial as the club completed the treble of the DFB-Pokal, Bundesliga and Champions League.

Müller’s penalty settled the latter against Lyon, while Turbine Potsdam were edged out in league and cup. In May 2013, it was announced that Selina had sustained a second ACL rupture in her knee, two years after she first suffered women’s football’s most infamous and desperately-despised injury.

She battled her way back once again, playing her part in another superb season for the club in 2013/14. The league was won in dramatic circumstances by way of a title decider on the final day, with Wolfsburg defeating the previously unbeaten Frankfurt, who only needed a draw.

Selina had returned to scoring form with a double in a win at Sindelfingen in March and she started a pulsating Champions League final. Facing the star names of Marta, Vero Boquete, Christen Press, Caroline Seger and company, Wolfsburg had trailed Tyresö 2-0 at half-time before roaring back to level early in the second half.

Marta restored the Swedes’ advantage but Verena Faißt made it 3-3 before Martina Müller settled it on 80 minutes. Selina had played the first half and was right amongst the celebrations with the trophy in the stands at Lisbon’s Estádio do Restelo, although the first time she won European club football’s top prize is actually owner of first place in her heart.

“Every trophy is something special, but the most special trophy in my career was winning the Champions League for the first time. The final took place at Stamford Bridge in London, which was unusual.

“Nobody expected that Wolfsburg will beat Olympique Lyonnais, but we deserved that win. It was a fight but we did it.

“In this season, we also won the league and the (German) cup final as the first trophies ever for the club. It was very special, unexpected and emotional; we were just a special team.

“Me, I was badly injured before two of the final games. That was really hard for me but I was with the team and I was emotionally connected to the team, so I will never forget this time.”

 

Selina (second from right) and her teammates back in her Wolfsburg days.

Selina (second from right) and her teammates back in her Wolfsburg days.

 

Selina got her hands around her sixth and last major trophy with Wolfsburg in May 2015, replacing two-goal Martina Müller late on in the 3-0 DFB-Pokal final victory over Turbine Potsdam in Cologne. It ultimately marked the closure of a long and glorious chapter for her, but one also tinged with severe heartache as she was forced to rebuild physically after her injuries.

With resolve and determination by now familiar friends, she also offers versatility, both with where she plays and with the off-field communications role she fits into at Freiburg. Taking into account a wider plan beyond where she may play in the future, Selina considers also what her greatest lessons from football have been.

“Yes, I study media and communications management. I also worked for VfL Wolfsburg and I work here for SC Freiburg besides playing football.

“I think it is very important to have other ambitions because the time of football can be over suddenly if you get injured, for example. After my two knee injuries, I learned not to give up, even if you think it’s over.

“The same thing in a game, and I found out that you can reach a lot with the right team spirit, even if you are not the best team. I have been happy with all my decisions during my career, so I would do the same again.”

Finishing in the top four last season was something Freiburg could rightly take huge heart from. To now go beyond that and successfully break into the top three will be extremely challenging given that 14 points separated them from Frankfurt in 3rd in 2015/16, but that is exactly where you currently find them in the table after nine games.

They have already gone to champions Bayern and earned a point, while victories like the 5-0 thrashing at home to Duisburg in September are as useful as they are enjoyable. As we leave this interview, the focus turns instead to many of the times that have come and gone, as Selina is asked to offer up just a few of the names she has worked with in her career so far, to make up a fantasy small-sided team.

The idea is that she is one of the players in this team of five and the choices can come from any team she has been with. There are so many names who could be mentioned and perhaps even more reasons why they deserve to make it, but here is Selina’s lineup, built from significance, sentiment and serious ability!

“Alisa Vetterlein (goalkeeper) – we lived together when I came to Wolfsburg and went through really good times in Wolfsburg. Josephine Henning (defender) – we were in the same class in school, lived together in residential school, played together at Saarbrücken and Wolfsburg, so we lived to see a lot together.

“Nadine Keßler (midfielder) – we played together in Saarbrücken and Wolfsburg. I also lived to see a lot with her, and for me, she was the best player ever.

“Alex Popp (forward) – she was my roommate during the Under-20 World Cup in Germany. To win that was an unforgettable experience.”

To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes

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