It has been almost three years since Ann-Katrin Berger’s career was at stake. The Swabian was guarding the gate of the Birmingham City Ladies when the devastating diagnosis of thyroid cancer arrived. However, just four months after the operation, she was back on the football field in the English Women’s Super League (WSL). At first, the goalkeeper tells today, she naturally had doubts, “many people have already failed because of cancer.” But after talking to her doctor, she realized that everything was going to be fine. “I’ve always been a fighter, I’ve always wanted to learn the hard way.”
For the 30-year-old, a childhood dream will come true when she will be able to make her debut this Tuesday in Dublin for the German women’s national team against Ireland (6 p.m., Sport1). The goalkeeper, who is now playing for Chelsea, cannot expect the last European Championship qualifier any more than children can expect the Christmas presents. “The day can’t come fast enough,” says Berger, who worked for this mission for a long time. “I went a different way, maybe the harder way. But I was born for this moment. ”After the deep incision in her neck, she was plagued by the feeling that her head was no longer part of her body, some movements felt so strange. She had to build up her neck and shoulder muscles from scratch. But she never gave up: “Everyone knows that goalkeepers are crazy in their own way.”
Catching balls is something you don’t forget, just like riding a bike, she explains succinctly. “After that I felt even stronger. I soaked up football even more. ”But it took a long time to process everything. Only recently, during a conversation with her new club colleague Melanie Leupolz, she realized that it took her three full years to be aware of “what I have achieved”. In the meantime she had to “turn off the brain and just work.”
Her promotion to the goalkeeper of the English champions last season also made her interesting for the national team. “I’ve had her on my radar since I started working as a national coach,” reveals Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. At first she only invited Ann-Katrin Berger to courses in order to get to know each other. “I experience her as a calm type. She makes courageous decisions on the pitch, which reflects her life, «says the national coach. “She knows what life priorities are. In an international match she can contribute as a personality. “
For Berger it shouldn’t just be an interlude. After all, the 2022 European Championship will take place in England, her adopted home country: She says that taking part in the tournament is definitely on her to-do list.
As a result, an exciting all-around battle between completely different characters for number one is on the horizon. »The fight for places is always forced – in all positions. It’s extremely exciting when it comes to goalkeepers, ”says Voss-Tecklenburg. “If Almuth Schult should manage to return in his old strength, we have four goalkeepers who can play for Germany in a tournament.” Currently, however, Merle Frohms from Eintracht Frankfurt is in the lead.
Ann-Katrin Berger, who moved abroad from Turbine Potsdam in 2014, is the candidate who can only win. “I live more consciously, I don’t feel anything more than normal, I’m even more grateful,” she says. No wonder, your life is now full of risks again: The coronavirus is a particularly dangerous threat for people with cancer. She belongs to the group of high-risk patients, “because I lack the thyroid and two lymph nodes.”
There is no trace of this on the pitch. With her strong physique, the entire penalty area becomes Berger’s territory. The world federation Fifa has even nominated the 1.80 meter tall athlete for election as “World Goalkeeper of the Year”. “To be among the top six already feels like a win for me,” says Berger. Her mother reacted even more emotionally to the news: “She looked for a little corner at work and howled with joy. For everything I had to go through. “