Célia Šašić interview: A groove trip to melodies undiscovered for Germany striker
Rightfully regarded as one of the deadliest strikers at the top level of women’s football, it is difficult not to envisage Germany’s Célia Šašić playing a principle part in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which would mean some new additions to the soundtrack of her sparkling story.
When the most prestigious showcase of talent in the women’s game gets underway in Canada this June there will be 24 nations vying to leave a permanent impression on the competition’s history. Two-time world champions and off the back of a near-flawless 2014, number-one-ranked Germany will take their share of the focus.
Currently out in front for goals in the Frauen-Bundesliga with 19, 1. FFC Frankfurt hotshot Célia Šašić has every chance of leading the line for Silvia Neid’s team when they face Ivory Coast on June 7th in Ottawa. Their Euro 2013 final opponents Norway are also in Group B, as are tournament debutants Thailand, and the German target is for significantly better than their quarter-final exit to eventual champions Japan as the host nation four years ago.
Following European Championship success two years ago, Germany climbed to the summit of FIFA’s world rankings for the first time in seven years in December 2014. VfL Wolfsburg’s midfield star Nadine Keßler became Ballon d’Or winner in January, while her club and Célia’s Frankfurt are semi-finalists and potential final opponents in this year’s UEFA Women’s Champions League.
For all this and many more reasons, it is an extremely bright time for women’s football in Germany, with the profile of the National Team players continuing to grow. At just 26, Célia has 103 caps and a strike rate that is better than one in two, with an outstanding 57 goals for her country.
The 2012 German Footballer of the Year, there is far more to her than just the player you see out on the field. French-Cameroonian by parentage, Célia was born in the west of Germany, amid the backdrop of the Rhine in the city of Bonn.
Football and music share the undeniable ability to touch and enhance people’s feelings and lives and Célia is a firm subscriber to this viewpoint. She explains how a rhythm and melody have remained close at hand for her from those days growing up, all the way through to her present-day standing as a leading female athlete and role model.
“Music means a lot to me; it is a permanent attendant! I connect special events in my life with special songs – so I could produce an album of my life.
“I don’t have favourite artists and genres; I like different styles and that leads to extreme contrasts. There is no genre which I don’t like.”
As she stepped up through the age groups at international level, Célia’s impact was emphatic. A frequent scorer for the Under-17s, she netted three times as Germany won the 2004 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand, a competition in which various notable names to have featured in interviews on here prospered, including Kara Lang, Amy Rodriguez, Ashlyn Harris, Collette McCallum and Becky Sauerbrunn.
Out to help fire Germany to glory this summer, Célia and her compatriots will come up against driven opponents, but many are placing them alongside the United States as tournament favourites. As she takes a look back to her earliest days of building her music collection, Célia remembers a certain American connection of her own.
“I can’t remember exactly but I think the first one I bought was a CD of Aaron Carter.”
Making her senior debut against Australia at the age of just 16 in January 2005, Célia was denied the chance of competing in what was to be a victorious 2007 World Cup for Germany, due to a fractured tibia. After winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, the one-time SC 07 Bad Neuenahr forward lifted her first major tournament trophy as a senior international with the Euro 2009 success in Finland.
Célia was on target in the 3-1 semi-final victory over Norway in Helsinki and came on for Melanie Behringer after an hour in the final as England were swept aside 6-2 in the Finnish capital. Although women’s football in Germany has its own proud heritage, it is fair to say that there are certain similarities with the men’s National Team when it comes to possessing the winning mentality required at major tournaments.
So much preparation and focus is needed to triumph at a World Cup or European Championship and it is intriguing to look into the kinds of characters that make up the German squad. Midfielder Lena Goeßling was the subject of her own music/football interview on this site at the very end of 2014 and she offered her insight into how the players get into the zone on game days.
Every team, whether on the club or international front, is different. The picture can alter depending on the situation, but the U.S. Women’s National Team is one known for favouring high energy in the locker room and having songs for the players to dance to.
Célia explains how the scenario tends to differ slightly from this with the German team, but she also acknowledges the role music still always manages to play.
“Most of the players I know love to listen to music before a game so it’s difficult to say who does not, but it’s not usual to dance and sing loudly with the National Team in this moment. In the changing rooms, we prefer a kind of mainstream music like pop, because you have to meet everybody’s taste.”
For Frankfurt, Célia is coached by Englishman Colin Bell, who has this season guided the three-time European champions to a Champions League semi-final with Danish side Brøndby IF, which they will contest over two legs later this month. It is the dream of pretty much every English football lover to step out onto the pitch as a player at Wembley and Célia went one better than this as she scored twice in a 3-0 win for Germany before a crowd of 45,619 last November.
Numerous England internationals have featured on here and the likes of right-back Alex Scott and forwards Lianne Sanderson and Ellen White have spoken of how it is commonplace for players to have to sing as a forfeit if they forget to pick up their water bottle during training for example. Célia is also no stranger to this, although she has never had the spotlight placed on her and been made to tackle a vocal performance as a new player with a team during her career.
“It’s a popular punishment after a lost training match to sing in front of teammates, but you do it in a group, not alone. I don’t like it but I do think it should be a punishment.”
Seven-times winners of the Frauen-Bundesliga, Frankfurt have not won their domestic league since 2008, but as the season races on toward its conclusion they currently sit in 3rd place on 43 points. Bayern Munich lead the table with Wolfsburg in 2nd but Frankfurt are just four points off the top and with a game in hand on Bayern.
Two of the most notable names in the Frankfurt team are midfielders Vero Boquete and Jess Fishlock. Spanish maestro Boquete told on here in 2013 how she performed the Swedish national anthem for her teammates during her Tyresö FF days, while Welsh dynamo Fishlock spoke of her liking for a Tina Turner rendition in her March 2014 interview.
When asked about the most memorable singing efforts she has witnessed from her fellow players in her career, Célia was taken back to the ones who stuck in her mind for the wrong reasons, although she decided to remain tight-lipped on specific names!
“I heard a lot of bad performances, really bad ones, but I can’t mention names. The persons I mean could read this interview!”
Signing for Frankfurt in 2013, Célia was the top scorer in last season’s Bundesliga as she reached the 20-goal landmark. The prospect of leading the attacking charge for Germany in the upcoming World Cup is surely tantalising for her and she already has the experience of scoring in the 2011 tournament.
She hit the decisive second in the 2-1 win in the group opener against Canada, which was seen by a mammoth Berlin crowd of over 73,000. She was also on the mark in the 4-2 group victory over the nation of her mother’s birth – France.
The women’s game has come on leaps and bounds in the four years since the previous World Cup alone. The official anthem for that tournament was Alexis Jordan’s ‘Happiness’, which was chosen as it represents the ‘joyous nature of women’s football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup’.
Although Célia is in complete agreement about the unifying power of music and football, you are unlikely to ever see her heading for the studio to lay down some beats and vocals on a track with her teammates.
“The quantity of singing talents in women’s football is limited; you only have to listen when we are singing our national anthems and a microphone is not far away. I’m sure that there is no record company which would record a song with a women’s football player!”
Whether we made it as a professional or not, everyone who loved to play the game as a kid has their earliest memories of kicking a ball around and reveling in that freedom and love for the sport’s simplicity and enjoyment. For Célia, it was her older brother Nicolas who brought her along to a training session when she was young, while her younger sister Laurence, who we will hear more of later, also played.
Additionally, Célia, whose maiden surname is of course Okoyino da Mbabi, has been married to the Croatian footballer Marko Šašić, a 33-year-old midfielder who has played for German sides SG Mülheim-Kärlich and SpVgg EGC Wirges, since 2013. The beautiful game is painted into the fabric of who she is and although she has had many moments to shine and thrive, she has had her share of challenges to overcome, with injuries and even glandular fever as Euro 2009 approached, which she reflects on.
“Football has taught me a lot of things: to focus your goals, to be disciplined and ambitious, to continue after setbacks. Team sports in general are a good school for the real life.”
As Silvia Neid guided Germany to success at Euro 2013, Célia was an integral player, scoring twice in the 3-0 group win over Iceland and starting every game except the semi-final with Sweden. In 2016, World Cup winner and long-time defender for the Germans, Steffi Jones, will replace Neid, with the two-time FIFA World Coach of the Year as tough an act to follow as there is around.
Germany have been blessed with some of the best attacking talents in the history of the women’s game and although there is much more she can still achieve, Célia has every chance of being spoken about in the same regard as the likes of Birgit Prinz, Heidi Mohr and Inka Grings when she retires. Last month, she reached a century of caps as she took to the field in the Algarve Cup against Sweden and although Frankfurt’s DFB-Pokal Cup run ended with a semi-final defeat to Turbine Potsdam they could yet lift both the league title and Champions League trophy.
Célia’s Bundesliga season concludes on Sunday May 10th at home to Wolfsburg in a potentially decisive fixture, with World Cup fever to take hold in the weeks that follow. Behind the world-class striker with pace, clinical ability in the air and on the ground, as well as intelligence and endeavour, is a vibrant and cultured personality.
Raised speaking fluent French and German, Célia identifies two of her biggest interest areas as communication and culture. With her mother coming from France, she has family in the country and has said she may look to live there one day.
She speaks respectfully about French women’s football and the nation in general but is very much a proud German and only ever considered representing the country of her birth and upbringing. The pursuit of honours is understandably dominating her objectives in a footballing sense at present and away from that she places the emphasis simply on good company.
“I don’t have a lot of time besides football, especially in these busy days when we are playing in more than one competition with Frankfurt and preparing for the World Cup with our National Team. I spend my rare free time together with my husband and also with friends.
“For me, it doesn’t matter what you do, it is more important that you do it with the right guys.”
Representing one of Europe’s leading clubs as well as a true heavyweight in the international arena, there are many career teammates Célia could highlight as she answers the regular concluding question on here. Every player interviewed is asked to imagine a 5-a-side team consisting of themselves and four players of their choice, with the only rule being that they have to have worked alongside them at some point.
Célia once stole her sister’s socks to wear under her football pair at Euro 2009 and her younger sibling is one of her chosen four to play with her here. There are also two World Cup winners, as well as a midfielder she may have a certain level of understanding with!
“As a goalkeeper, I would select Nadine Angerer. She is a crazy person and you can have a lot of fun with her.
“My sister would play in the defence. She played football very well and had the reputation to be as good as me.
“In the midfield, I would choose my husband Marko, who is a great technician, but he scores too little! My Japanese teammate Kozue Ando would be the striker.
“She is a very kind person; we have a lot of fun together.”
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