Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has spoken publicly for the first time about mental health problems and exhaustion after the elimination from the World Cup in Australia. In an interview with ZDF, for which the 55-year-old had worked as a TV pundit in the past, the former women's national coach described the circumstances surrounding the health problems surrounding her retirement on Monday. Voss-Tecklenburg also admitted mistakes in her behavior.
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She had suffered from panic attacks and insomnia due to the internal and public criticism following the failure in the World Cup preliminary round. It had "almost completely collapsed". Fears, insecurity and a feeling of emptiness in her head had become stronger and stronger – almost "as if the plug had been pulled on me".
The German Football Association (DFB) had announced at the beginning of September that Voss-Tecklenburg had fallen ill. After several weeks of stalemate, the federation installed Horst Hrubesch as interim coach.
Clear advice from the doctor
"I was sick and I didn't know how long this process would take? I realized that I just had to be there for myself now," Voss-Tecklenburg reported on her physical and mental difficulties in late summer. She noticed: "The head is empty. I'm just crying. I'm not able to think constructively."
Her doctor's advice was clear: to pull out first to minimize the risk of depressive episodes. "I wasn't feeling well. I wasn't feeling well before the World Championships," Voss-Tecklenburg said. Their squad had already revealed unexpected weaknesses in the frustrating June friendlies against Vietnam (2-1) and Zambia (2-3).
The DFB terminated the contract with Voss-Tecklenburg, which was valid until late summer 2025, at the beginning of November after it became known that the Duisburg native had given lectures while she was on a time-out approved by the association. She has informed the DFB that there will be public appearances after the end of her sick leave, Voss-Tecklenburg said now. She had taken vacation and the rest of the year "to get completely healthy, to just use these weeks again, to come back, to be able to participate in life again."
A joint press release with her employer, who had extended her contract prematurely in April and with a lot of premature praise, had not come about at the time for "various reasons". "In retrospect, you can say: How stupid – mistakes," Voss-Tecklenburg admitted a clumsy action on her part. "But I had to pay the price for it to a certain extent, both with my health problem and in the media," she said.
After the historically poor performance at the World Cup, she tried to lift the players up again and give them courage. "All of them somehow tried to function to a certain extent, to do justice to their task." But the mood was extremely depressing, Voss-Tecklenburg said.
"Private" conversation with DFB president
At that time, no one from the players' circle around captain Alexandra Popp was campaigning for a return of the former confidant. At the same time, the majority of the team was pleased that Hrubesch is back. With his comeback, the Olympic qualification for Paris 2024 is to be realized. On Friday, 1 December (20:30 CET on ZDF), the decisive group game against league leaders Denmark will take place in Rostock.
Voss-Tecklenburg announced that there would soon be a "private" discussion with DFB President Bernd Neuendorf. She wanted to have the chance to tell him a few things, "just as I felt and what also touched and affected me and perhaps also disappointed and irritated me to a certain extent". During her term of office, Neuendorf had explained when announcing the separation, "important impulses had been set in the field of women's football".
Otherwise, the 15-line statement on November 4 was remarkably short, and it did not contain a statement from Voss-Tecklenburg. On television on Monday, she was given almost 25 minutes to explain her position. Nevertheless, the last word in this matter, which led all parties involved to unimagined highs and lows, is probably not yet over.