“There is still a lot of catching up to do on equal rights”
Champions League title, Olympic gold medalist, World Goalkeeper of the Year. Almuth Schult has successfully been defending the goalposts of VfL Wolfsburg and the German national team for years. Since April of this year she has also been looking after her twin babies. An interview about child, career – and life at the top level.
Almuth, for 50 years women in Germany have officially played football. Do you still remember how you got started?
My big brother started at some point. And because little sisters always want what big brothers do, I went along. I liked the game right away and met a lot of friends. Of course I played in a boys’ team for a long time, as there wasn’t a girls’ teams in our sparsely populated area.
Today you are standing between the posts at VfL Wolfsburg – and this year you became the mother of twins. Mother and professional football player at the same time – that is a rarity.
I think that in the last 25 years no player who has had a child has actually played in the Bundesliga. As far as I know, the last one was Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, the current national coach. Famous players like Celia Šašić or Lira Alushi ended their career when they became mothers.
Why did you decide to continue?
I said from the beginning: For me this is a conscious decision. Besides, I have an ongoing contract, which I would like to honour. Before that, I discussed it at length with my family. Everyone said: ‘We’re behind you, we’ll make it work.’ My mother continued to work in her job at the time, so why shouldn’t that be possible in football?
The difficulty is probably: You have completely different working hours than many other mothers.
Yes, it is not so clearly defined. Sometimes appointments are postponed at short notice, sometimes days off are cancelled, sometimes we have a 7-day week. There is not always a nursery that is open. Instead, I depend on a lot of support from my family. It’s not always easy to organize, but so far it’s working out very well. And I am very proud about that.
How does the club support you?
Those responsible at VfL and I had agreed that I could work part-time for the first two months after maternity leave. That was then not possible. However, the club has made it possible for me to gradually return to training. On the one hand I was able to get used to team training again, on the other hand I didn’t demand too much of myself.
Do you see the children in between the training sessions?
No, I can’t do that because I live more than an hour’s drive away. That’s the compromise: My family is always close by at home and can take care of things. But I can also train individually at home. For this purpose I have set up a weight room, which I now use. Generally speaking, I’m always part of the team training and the munchkins are at home.
With your decision to continue to be active as a professional footballer after the birth of your children, you are a role model for many – not only for other female athletes. Do you have any tips for young mothers who, like you, don’t want to choose between child and career?
The most important thing is to ask yourself if and how early I would like to work again. Or whether I would rather spend time with my child. You have to be at peace with yourself. Because if I have to concentrate on work, I can’t look at my smartphone every five minutes. The next step is: Who do I entrust the children to? A daycare nursery? The grandparents? Auntie? Uncle? Everybody has to find their own way. And the third point: You always have to look forward to your children. And if something goes wrong in between, just accept it. That is totally normal.
You work, your husband does too: Are we on the right track when it comes to equal rights in Germany?
It is better than 50 years ago. More and more men are taking parental leave and enjoy watching their small children grow up. Not just going to work in the morning and coming home from work in the evening when the children are already in bed. That is really great. But there is still a lot of catching up to do.
What do you mean?
Personally, I was accused of things like: ‘But now, as a mother, you have to stop playing football. It’s not that I don’t take care of my children just because I work. There are still many prejudices about working mothers.
What do you wish for?
We as a society must continue to create opportunities for mothers. It must not be suggested that working as a young mother is not possible and unfair to the children. That is simply not true.
What can employers do to make it easier for mothers to return to work?
There are a lot of things. Internal company daycare nurseries are important, for example. If something happens to my child, I can go there quickly or even have lunch with them. Maybe that way I can make new contacts with colleagues and help each other – for example, when I pick them up in the afternoon. I would also like to see more mothers in management positions. Those who have themselves experienced how challenging it is for women to get back into the job after the birth of their children. Mothers inevitably have a completely different view on the topic of combining family and career than is sometimes the case with men.
Back to your sporting ambitions: Have you set a schedule for when you want to play again?
I’m in team training, the coach decides according to performance. But I know myself that I am not yet at 100 percent. I need a few more weeks, but I’m on the right track. I don’t worry about stress right now, I’m just happy that everything has worked so well so far. The rest will come.
What are your sporting goals?
I would love to be at the 2022 European Championship in England. The World Cup in New Zealand and Australia 2024 is also very, very attractive. I’ve already won an Olympic gold medal once and would like to experience it again if I get the chance. I would also like to win the Champions League again with VfL Wolfsburg and preferably become German champions’ and cup winners’ again and again.
- Position: Goalkeeper
- Clubs: 1996-2007 FC SG Gartow, 2007-2008 Hamburger SV, 2008-2011 Magdeburger FFC, 2011-2013 SC 07 Bad Neuenahr, since 2013 VfL Wolfsburg
- Successes: U-20 World Champion 2010, European Champion 2013, Champions League winner 2014, German league champion 2013/14, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20, German national cup winner 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, Olympic gold medalist 2016
- Awards: World Goalkeeper of the Year 2014