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Culture

German Girls Prove Soccer Isn't Just For Boys

Germany's national women's soccer team has claimed the last two World Cup titles, which has piqued girls' interest in the sport. Now, nearly one in six members of the German Soccer Association is female.

Birgit Prinz

Birgit Prinz is one of Germany's top female players

"Come on, the strikers have to show themselves!" shouts coach Cosimo Martina during soccer practice. Fortuna Koeln, a traditional club in southern Cologne, is among those which have recently expanded their girls' programs.

Fourteen-year-old Theresa Garsztecki, who's played for Fortuna Koeln for six years already, is one of the senior members on the team. Her friend Luzie Schwarz, who has been involved for just as long, started playing soccer almost by chance.

"When my little brother joined a soccer team, I wanted to do it too," said Luzie.

Role models at the top

Members of the German women's national soccer team celebrate

The German women won their last World Cup title in China in 2007

Luzie and Theresa aren't alone in their passion for the sport. The German Soccer Association currently has over one million female members. Interest skyrocketed last year, with sign-ups jumping five percent over 2007.

The recent success of the national women's team -- they've won the last two World Cups -- certainly has something to do with it.

"The girls sure have enough role models here at home," said Hans-Juergen Tritschoks, who used to coach the successful women's team 1. FCC Frankfurt. "Just take Birgit Prinz, who has been Player of the Year three times."

Tritschoks also named top players like Renate Lingor and Nia Kuenzer. "Those were and still are accessible stars, who patiently give autographs after every game."

Little attention from the media

Lukas Podolski surrounded by journalists

Male soccer players, like Lukas Podolski, get much more media attention

Still, the national players are seldom seen on TV and in the media.

"I think women's soccer isn't reported on enough," said Theresa. Luzie agreed: "Male soccer players are in the media a lot more, often with a photo or an extra story, or something."

So it's no surprise that the girls also look to national men's player Lukas Podolski as a role model. However, Podolski and his team members simply have a physical advantage, when it comes to sprints, goal shots and head kicks, said Tritschoks.

"Thanks to professional training, the (women's) game has gotten a lot quicker and more athletic," he said. "But women just have less muscle mass and therefore less power."

Keep going when it hurts

Nevertheless, women bring just as much technical finesse to the game, added Tritschoks -- and they have a one-up on their male colleagues in at least one area.

"Unlike the men, the women just stand right up again after they've been fouled and keep playing."

For Theresa, combining her hobby with school is a challenge. She goes to practice twice a week, has to keep up with her homework, and has games on the weekends.

"I also like to put on makeup and go out to parties," said Theresa. "And I can still play soccer. I think you can do both."

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