Annike Krahn is currently the Germany under 17’s team manager and is a born leader on and off the pitch.

With 137 caps for her national team, the German legend has enjoyed a successful playing career, featuring in both the Paris-Saint-Germain and Bayer Leverkusen squads.

Away from the pitch, she continues to be a trailblazer for women’s football, leading open conversations on ways to improve the game. 

We caught up Annike, who graduated from the UEFA MIP programme in 2019, to talk all things football …

When did your playing career begin, and at what point did you know you wanted to be a footballer?

I started playing football at the age of four. I don’t think it was ever a decision for me to become a footballer, the more you get into football, one day you just become a professional player.

But how do you define a professional footballer? If it means to only play football, then I only did that for three years while I was abroad, before that I always had jobs or studied while playing. 

Do you have any special moments that stand out for you? 

It’s difficult to pick special moments. You have successful moments where you win a title or a tournament, but then you have a big defeat and that’s something that makes you stronger. 

I played in the Bundesliga, which was different to what it is now. Duisburg was a small club at the time, now they have more money and more structure, the whole league has. 

When did you first hear about the UEFA MIP programme? 

Some Germans were taking part in the first course, and somebody asked me if it would be something I could be interested in. I said I wanted to get more information, because I already had a diploma in sports management. 

I always wondered what more I could get, so I decided to join the programme. 

Do you think it’s important for former players to be in decision making positions after their playing career?

It’s really important. In men’s football, the players often get good careers after they retire, so it’s important that programmes like MIP can teach more of a background around the game.

It’s a bit different in women’s football, a lot of players still have another background anyway because they have to prepare for a career after football. It’s not as easy to find these decision-making jobs after retiring from women’s football. 

You graduated in 2019, what was the experience like for you?

I really enjoyed the course. With my sports management study, I had learnt a lot, but the course was great to experience more practical examples. 

It was amazing to meet all the participants on my programme, I was able to speak with a lot of great people. 

It’s important to learn the environment around football. We spoke about the structure, circumstances around the game and the commercial side too. I never know what’s coming in the future, so it’s good to learn a lot of things. 

What does your career look like now? 

Since retiring, I worked for the Regional Football Association in Westfalen in a project management role on a range of different projects. After, I worked for the German Federation. 

Now I am the team manager for the U17 Germany women’s team. I try to help on the organisational side, but I also speak to young players about certain situations. 

I try not to speak about tactics or technical issues, because we have a lot of good coaches, and this is their job. But I speak about my experience, how to handle pressure, the psychological side. 

Do you have any goals for your career? 

I can see myself working as a sporting director, or in a decision making position. But at the moment we have a lot of changes in women’s football, so I’m not sure what my end goal is. 

I would be happy to stay in women’s football because we have a lot of things that we can change and develop still. There is still hard work needed to get better. 

Do you have any advice for players who may be looking for a career off the pitch?

The most important thing is having an education during your career, so you can learn more about the environment of football. 

During your career you learn a lot without even knowing, information that can end up being useful. 

When I was at international games, I would ask the team managers if it was possible to get into the organisation meeting before the game because I was so interested to see what was going on. 

I knew a lot about what was happening on the pitch, but I wanted to know about the organisation. 

You won the World Cup with Germany in 2007, what was that experience like?

I could write a book on my World Cup experience. I didn’t know if I would make it into the squad, it was my first World Cup and my first tournament in the first team. 

But I was a central defender, and how often do you substitute that position? Not that often!

I thought I’ll get to the World Cup, maybe get some minutes to play, but if not then I’m there and that’s a great experience that I will learn a lot from. 

However, the central defender got injured in a training session, and then I was in the squad, on the pitch. I was in the starting XI and played five games, it was amazing. 

We won the World Cup against Brazil, and there were no goals scored against us, which is amazing as a defender. 

The first player who came to me after the tournament was the central defender that I had replaced, she supported me the whole way and it was her final tournament. 

Are you enjoying the World Cup so far this year?

I am! There are a lot of impressive teams, Japan have been good and winning 4-0 against Spain was a big statement for them. 

There are so many teams who could win this tournament. You never know what will happen in football. 

What still needs to happen to develop women’s football further?

You can see in the World Cup that we are doing well and have a lot of teams. We need to make sure there aren’t many games with high results, 10-0 or 8-0 isn’t good for women’s football. 

It’s important that things don’t grow too fast. In my opinion, it’s not right to say we want equality for everything. 

As a former player, I would prefer we had better conditions in the clubs for players, so that every nation has security. We have a lot of injuries, especially with the ACL, and we need to improve there. 

We don’t want to see more games, we want to see good games. I would prefer it if we protected the games and protected the players. 

We need money, of course, but we have to grow with visibility, then everything will get better. 

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