Our own European champion at Tilburg University

Law student Jackie Groenen (22) recently won the European Women’s Football Championship with the Dutch national team. We spoke with Jackie, the attacking midfielder, on the phone.

Jackie, we hear a car in the background, you’re definitely a lot on the road these days?

“My mom is driving me to Frankfurt right now. My club, FFC Frankfurt, is preparing for the new season, which will start in two weeks. The last days were indeed pretty hectic, but also very much fun. We were honored in Utrecht and I was also personally celebrated at my favorite pub in Poppel, in Belgium, where I grew up. We partied with many friends and family. I really enjoyed that.”

Of course, we’d first like to congratulate you on winning the EC as well. And not just that! Even professionals have proclaimed you one of the best players in the whole tournament.

“That makes me very proud and happy. The performances of our team also made it possible for me to meet a lot of people whom you don’t get to talk to otherwise. Former football player Pierre van Hooijdonk for instance. But I also met Mark Rutte and Jesse Klaver. After the first championship match, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima also visited us in the dressing room. They were proud of us.”

What does this particular victory mean for your career? Have you already received any offers from other big football clubs?

“Personally I don’t engage in negotiations and offers; my agent does that for me. Last year I switched from Chelsea to Frankfurt and that’s a big club that just won the Champions League, so I’m just fine where I am right now. And I’m definitely looking forward to the new season in Germany. The past few weeks were big fun. But right now, I’d rather just play football again and get back to the normal routine.”

You did indeed radiate, you walked around the field with a smile all the time, even during those moments you were being tackled.

“I love the game a lot. I think it’s awesome that I’ve been able to turn my hobby into my job.”

We talked to you before. At that time you told us about your sister, Merel, who also plays football. She’d just suffered a major setback then: a severe knee ligament injury. How’s she doing now?

“She’s well. She plays with Moldavo in Belgium. In addition she’s working at Ernst & Young. And next to that, she’s even studying for her Master’s degree at Tilburg University. I don’t know whether she’ll move up the soccer career ladder any further. Who knows, she might even get into the Dutch national soccer team as well. She surely is just as good as I am, but still quite different. She’s a defender and she can be really rough and tough sometimes. I wouldn’t like to come across her on the field!”

You are studying Law in Tilburg yourself. How’s that working out in combination with a career in top sports?

“It’s not easy to combine, so it’s all going a bit slow. The fact that I’m not able to follow any lectures isn’t helping either. The books are sent to me in Frankfurt and I work with Blackboard. In addition, I try to study during the winter and summer months as much as possible, when the football season is on hold. This last summer, I couldn’t do much of course, due to the EC. So I’m now trying to shift that study workload to the coming winter period. That’s now a possibility with the new ‘flex-training’ program, which I’ve entered. I’m currently following second-year courses. But it will surely take a while before I finish.”

Will there be a celebration at the university?

“The university’s top sports coordinator did in fact ask if I’d appreciate a celebration, but I hardly have the time for it; I’ve got to get prepared for the new season already. So it’s probably not going to happen.”

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