Inka Grings played for the German national team from 1996 to 2012. In the Chillreport interview she looks back on the days at the DFB, women’s football and the disadvantages of our society.
October 31, 2020 is a special date in German professional football. 50 years ago today, women’s football was first included in the DFB statutes. This day is the hour of birth, even though women’s football was, of course, played a long time ago – just banned.
The lifting of the ban was a milestone in the history of women’s football. But to this day, women struggle for recognition, equality and acceptance.
One of the people who closely followed the association’s development as a national player from 1996 to 2012 is Inka Grings. In an interview with Chillreport, the 41-year-old does not mince words and says: “The appreciation for women’s football is not everywhere in Germany.”
Mrs. Grings, “In the fight for the ball, feminine grace disappears.” This is how the DFB established its ban on women’s football in 1955. What do you think about when you read something like this?
Inka Grings (41): First and foremost, it makes me laugh because you can’t even imagine something like that these days. I also think that one or the other who made such statements at the time thinks differently today. Reading such a thing is bizarre. It is inconceivable that this was ever thought of.
You were a national player yourself from 1996 to 2012. What has changed since you played at the DFB?
I got to be part of the national team at a time that was really exciting. All in all, it must be said that it took a long time for the DFB to see what you had achieved as a woman in the national team. I am thinking, for example, of the then national coach Tina Theune. Everything she had to judge, with limited material, under difficult circumstances. Compared to today, when a much larger staff is available, this is interesting to follow. At the time, she was a pioneer.
Bayern captain Lina Magull recently spoke about Deutschlandfunk about “clear priorities for men’s football” at the DFB. However, the association has a responsibility and must act as a pioneer. Does he fulfill this role?
I think the DFB has invested a lot in women’s football in recent years. Yes, he has to be a pioneer, but the clubs are also responsible. If three people do the work in the club that is actually intended for four or five people, then that is problematic and permanently unsustainable. Much more needs to be invested in public marketing. Very little is happening there. But that is not everything.
What are you specifically complaining about?
I am thinking, for example, of how few former players are involved in club work after their career and are not active there. In 16 years in Duisburg, for example, I was never asked if I could imagine a follow-up contract with the club. Involving former players, such as a Kim Kulig in Frankfurt, for example as coach of the second team: more identification is not possible.
09/11/2009: After their 6: 2 final victory against England in Finland, the victorious German soccer women celebrate winning the European soccer championship on the balcony of the Römer in Frankfurt. Here Inka Grinks (l-r), trainer Silvia Neid and Birgit Prinz. (Source: Jan Huebner / image images)
I don’t see this development in women’s football either. This factor is increasingly being considered and recognized by men. Why reinvent the wheel? I don’t break my crown when I copy and edit good examples from other clubs or associations.
The already mentioned Lina Magull applauds the merger of women’s and men’s clubs, as happened at Eintracht Frankfurt. What do you think of the topic?
I am 100 percent with her. That is the only way. All the possibilities that a men’s club has to offer greatly increase the attractiveness of the club and the competition. Such partnerships are fantastic signals for women’s football as they also increase the quality and level of the club.
Do you still envy abroad, where such collaborations have been better and more professional for years?
Of course I sometimes think to myself that there is a greater willingness to invest in one or the other European country. People work more professionally in many areas, especially in England. Mentally, athletically, also in the coaching position. You have to be willing to invest, because good quality costs. Point. And Germany can and must catch up there.
What conclusions did you draw from last year’s World Cup, when the national team was eliminated in the quarter-finals?
If you are not yet ready to take a different, professional path, then you have no chance internationally in the long term. In Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, the DFB has found a person who is going exactly this way.
Overall, was the World Cup a sobering confession?
Hardly anyone noticed the tournament. How few German spectators were in the stadium, even compared to the Dutch, was terrifying. Other countries go much further than us because they value sports differently.
Goalkeeper Nadine Angerer with the trophy, Inka Grings and Fatmire Bajramaj celebrate the 2009 European Championship title. (Source: Sven Simon / image images)
It has been said for years that “something needs to change”. In fact, nothing changes, or only very little and slowly. Are we going around in circles?
You must not lie to yourself and you must be clear: the appreciation for women’s football is not everywhere in Germany. Showing games on attractive airtime, announcing them in grand style: that has to do with appreciation. To put it charmingly, everything can still be improved.
Why is that?
I do not know. If not now, then when, it always means. I think the problems run deeper. People are so polarized that they say to themselves, why bother when everything is okay. He is then willing to change something under pressure. Here the wheat is separated from the chaff, who thinks outside the box and who does not. Anyone who is innovative and courageous and who informs and exchanges ideas with clubs and associations, with colleagues, will successfully progress, develop and work.
Who do you take responsibility for?
Association, clubs, but also the media. The channels such as ARD, ZDF or Eurosport. You must be convinced of the product you are marketing. And I don’t see it being sold with absolute conviction. To give an example, it cannot be that you live in Cologne but do not notice that the final of the DFB Cup for women is taking place. That’s insane. But I also appeal to society.
Is our society backward?
Not necessarily backwards. That would mean that we were once “further” in our thinking. Rather, I think it is still a “battle of belief and intelligence”. In the 21st century, we still struggle with the fact that men and women, despite the same age, the same education or the same occupation, have a pay difference of up to 40%. That we must apply a quota for women and that women who qualify for a certain position and get a chance to do so.
World Cup 2011: Reservists Inka Grinks (left), Fatmire Lira Bajramaj and Lena Goeßling in the preliminary round against Canada. (Source: Matthias Koch / Image Images)
Our society is far from as tolerant and friendly as some think. But I am convinced that the generations will change – there are many people who fight very loudly – we will develop as a society and see people with their qualifications and personality and not the gender in the foreground. I believe in the good. We’re actually okay. I am grateful to live in Germany. But when it comes to equality, we are way behind the list compared to other countries.
Was there a decisive experience for you that revealed that?
I’ve never really thought about this topic. The sport was the sport. But when I got my coaching license and someone seemed stupid to me, I wondered, crazy, who do you think you are? I clearly gave him my opinion – after that it was good.
Because you are talking about coaches: at the moment almost only men train in the Bundesliga for women.
With Nora Häuptle from SC Sand there is currently only one trainer. Perhaps you should also consider a quota for women here, as well as how to promote women in this area. You are often raised in such a way that a job or study is taken for granted. But I also repeat myself there: trainers, clubs and the association are also obliged to do so. To pay attention to who I have in front of me and to evaluate what skills a player has. To see if she might be a great trainer because she has qualities that should be promoted.
Finally, coming back to the topic of the DFB, what experience of your time with the national team do you particularly remember?
I was just incredibly proud to play for the national team. For me it is and was the best. Training and playing together with the best players was always the best time! Plus the great trips and tournaments. Anyone working in competitive sports should have the clear goal of becoming a national team. When you stand in the square and hear the national anthem, you are proud. I always have been.
Most recently, players played for men sitting alone on the bench in their clubs.
The situation is currently different due to the corona. In the game against Turkey, it was even more difficult as the U21s were on the road at the same time, from which perspective players could have been deployed. Yet it is incomprehensible to me to have players appear who – for whatever reason – do not play a role at club level. I really give this experience to every player because it is unique and the guys gave absolutely everything. But I don’t know if Joachim Löw and the DFB did each other a favor.