Although a quick look back at Nadine Kessler’s performances in 2014 makes it clear why she was named FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year on Monday, the VfL Wolfsburg captain could still scarcely believe the news almost an hour after her name was pulled from the envelope.
“I’m still completely overwhelmed by the moment; I’ve got to calm down and let it all sink in first,” the 26-year-old admitted in an interview with FIFA.com.
Despite Kessler’s disbelief, her achievements speak for themselves. Her past year included victory with Wolfsburg in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and Bundesliga, while she was also part of the Germany team that lifted the Algarve Cup.
Having already been named UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe back in August, adding the world’s most prestigious international award to her collection rounded off an exceptional 12 months for the midfielder marred only by a knee operation.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Kessler discussed her journey to becoming a top performer, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ and the sporting significance of the upcoming year.
How was 2014 for you? Although you won the double with VfL Wolfsburg and lifted the Algarve Cup with the national team, you had to undergo an operation on your left knee back in October.
You can certainly split the year into two parts. The first half was definitely positive; in fact it was pretty much perfect.
There just wasn’t anything wrong with it. The second half of the year was dominated by my injury, so it hasn’t been such a happy time for me. Naturally I hope the situation will continue improving.
How are you doing after your operation?
My rehabilitation is well underway, and I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to make progress. But at the moment it’s still not clear when I’ll be able to return to action.
The tension in the Champions League final was almost unbearable, and the same was true in the final round of the German championship. Was the experience just as nerve-wracking for the coaches and players?
It was exciting for us players too, but nerves are definitely something different; they take hold when you’re looking in from the outside and can do nothing but watch. As the team, we were still able to take matters into our own hands.
That feeling stayed with us the entire time, which produced some really exciting games.
How would you describe your role with Wolfsburg and in the national team – to bind the team together and provide direction?
My job and my efforts as captain have always been to lead from the front and ensure that we all continue to improve, feel comfortable and stick together as a team. That’s a crucial factor for success.
You were resigned to watching from the sidelines at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 before becoming a European champion with Germany in 2013. How would you describe your journey to becoming a top performer on the international stage?
The last few years have been very positive and I’ve been able to consistently improve. I’m also extremely happy to have spent so much time playing for the national team. It’s always an honour to represent your country, and I’m proud to have been selected to do that.
The Women’s World Cup in Canada is now on the horizon. Your national coach Silvia Neid believes eight teams will be title contenders: Norway, France, Sweden, USA, Canada, Japan, Brazil and Germany. Which teams do you think could mount a serious challenge for the trophy?
I agree with Silvia Neid’s assessment and think it’ll be possible to single out title favourites before the tournament. There are plenty of friendly matches in the run-up to the competition, so that will give us a chance to see how each team might develop.
Expectations of your team are unlikely to subside after Germany’s men won the World Cup in 2014 just a few weeks before the U-20 women’s side triumphed in Canada. Do you see that as an incentive or a burden?
It just spurs us on build on those achievements. It’s great to see what our men and U-20 women have accomplished, and it would be perfect for our country if we could follow in their footsteps. If there’s any pressure involved, I see it as a positive thing.
How important is 2015 for you in sporting terms?
Extremely important. At club level, we’ll be defending our Champions League title, so we’ll want to show what we can do in that competition once again. My personal goal is to go to the World Cup and play well there.
What would it mean to you to take part in the World Cup?
It would be a childhood dream come true for me, there’s no doubt about it. That has always been my goal and it would be so, so amazing to achieve it.
What’s your goal for 2015?
Apart from going to the World Cup, I’d personally like to stay fit, or rather get fit again and then do my very best. My aim is just to be out on the pitch with my teams and to succeed with them.