8 things to know about the woman who (nearly) took the Lionesses all the way

As the England team recover from losing the Women’s World Cup final, here’s what you need to know about England Women’s boss Sarina Wiegman, who steered them through the tournament.

As the heartbroken Lionesses come to terms with their defeat against Spain, we turn our attention to England Women’s manager Sarina Wiegman – the only football boss to have led an England football squad to a major championship victory since 1966. 

Known for her direct responses to the media, a zero-fuss managerial style and her occasional smiles, Wiegman, 53, has become a unifying figurehead for women’s football in the UK.

After the final, she said: “Of course it feels really bad now, we’re really, really disappointed. You go to the final, you want to win the final, and then you lose it. But that happens in sport.

“I think what we have done, how we have shown ourselves, who we are, how we want to play as a team, overcoming so many challenges, I think we can be very proud of ourselves.”

The first non-English manager ever to coach the England Women’s team, here are eight things you need to know about Sarina Wiegman. 

Sarina Wiegman smilingCredit: Shutterstock

1. Wiegman pretended to be a boy to play football as a child

Growing up in the Netherlands in the 1970s, Wiegman began playing football on the streets with her twin brother. Together they joined a team as six-year-olds, but Wiegman was forced to pretend she was a boy, as girls and boys were not allowed to play together. Fortunately, because she had short hair and had joined the club with her brother, she went under the radar. 

By the time she was 11, Wiegman had joined a girls’ side and five years later, she was called up to the Netherlands national side as a 16-year-old, making her debut a year later. 

2. Her career has been influenced by her time in America

Wiegman was part of the Netherlands squad that went to China to participate in the 1988 Fifa Invitation Tournament, a precursor to the first Women’s World Cup. There she met Anson Dorrance, a coach at the University of North Carolina. Dorrance spotted Wiegman playing at that tournament and persuaded her to join him at the college. Wiegman’s path was later followed by England stars Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy, who all played under Dorrance. 

3. She was the first woman to reach a century of appearances for the Netherlands

Wiegman played as both a central midfielder and a defender during her career. Having first made her debut for the national team as a teenager, she went on to play more than 100 times for her national team, or so she thought…  

It later turned out that some of the matches she played had been against non-Fifa affiliated opponents, meaning her total was revised down to 99. Despite that, she was still the first woman to play more than 100 times for the Netherlands. Her final international game was a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic. 

4. She worked as a PE teacher when football didn’t pay

At the time when Wiegman was playing football, it was not feasible to be a professional. Upon returning from college in America, Wiegman found that it simply wasn’t possible to earn enough as a footballer or a coach, and so she became a PE teacher in her hometown, The Hague.  

Following her retirement, and with the development of the women’s game, she was able to become a professional coach. Her experiences caused her to remark that we should “never forget where we came from and be grateful for what has developed over time”. 

5. She has a close-knit football family

Wiegman decided to retire from playing when she became pregnant with her second child. She is married to Marten Glotzbach, an economics teacher, who also works in women’s football coaching. Together, they have two daughters, Sacha and Lauren. However, it didn’t take Wiegman long to get back into football after she had her second daughter. She took her first coaching job three years after stepping away. 

England midfielder Georgia Stanway revealed at a press conference during this World Cup that Wiegman’s whole family were over supporting her, and proudly wearing England shirts. 

6. The Dutch loved her so much as manager, they gave her a statue

Sarina Wiegman’s Euro 2017 win with the Netherlands was when she truly announced herself on the international stage. Wiegman had been assistant coach to the national team for a number of years with some brief spells as their interim manager, but she wasn’t named head coach until six months before the country hosted the Euros. 

The Dutch had qualified automatically for the competition but were low on confidence, having lost four of five recent friendly matches. Wiegman led a remarkable turnaround, which saw them clinch only the second international trophy in Dutch football (men’s and women’s) as they beat Denmark 4-2 in the final. It’s believed 80% of the Dutch population watched the final.  

Two years later, the Dutch reached a first ever World Cup final. Despite losing 2-0 to the United States, the Dutch FA commissioned a statue of Wiegman in commemoration of her achievements. She was the first woman to be honoured in this way. 

7. She is the best paid international manager in the world

Wiegman swapped the Oranjeleeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) for the English ones in 2021. Her contract with the FA made her the best paid international manager in women’s football, with a £400,000 annual salary. 

Footballer Leah Williamson smiles and holds the Women's European Championship TrophyCredit: Shutterstock
Leah Williamson holds the 2022 Euros trophy after Wiegman guided the England side to victory

England were quickly rewarded by Wiegman’s signing – she repeated what she managed to do with the Dutch and won a home Euros within a year of starting the job. The FA wasted no time in offering to extend Wiegman’s deal, with the manager now signed up to coach England until the end of the next World Cup in 2027. 

8. She has bonded with the Lionesses over loss

Following England’s dramatic extra-time win over Germany in the Euro 2022 final, Wiegman kissed a bracelet on her wrist soon after the final whistle. It was a tribute to her sister, who sadly passed away in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Wiegman ended up having to miss some of England’s preparations as a result, and England wore black armbands in a friendly before the tournament against Belgium to pay their respects. 

Wiegman told journalists after the Euros win: “I think she was here, she was in the crossbar. She would have been really proud of me and I am proud of her too.”  

With a number of the Lionesses also having suffered bereavements – Beth Mead’s mother would pass away soon after the tournament – it was clear that the group had secured a close off-the-pitch bond, to match their success on the pitch.  

 

Written by Jessy Parker Humphreys they/them

Updated:

Jessy Parker Humphreys is a freelance women’s football writer and broadcaster. They write about women’s football on their Substack: flyinggeese.football and are part of Spotify’s Counter Pressed podcast.

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