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Lea Schüller: Finding Family in Football

In collaboration with Nike.

Lea Schüller is a world-renowned football player with a joyful heart and a powerful kick. At age 25, she was named Germany’s Women’s Footballer of the Year, and she’s determined to keep that title.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Joy Smith with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Sonja Baum. Joy Smith was our executive producer. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

 

Once upon a time, there was a football team for young boys meeting for practice in a small city in Germany.
Alexander? Yes!
Felix? Yes!

Lea? Yes!

Yes, Lea was a girl, playing on an all-boys team. But that was no accident. That was all part of Lea’s plan….

SHOW INTRO

I’m Sonja Baum. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us. 

On this episode, LEA SCHÜLLER, star forward, top goalscorer, and Germany’s Women’s Footballer of the Year for 2022.

Lea was born in November of 1997 in a small city in western Germany called Tönisvorst. Lea loved growing up in Tönisvorst, with its apple orchards and bike paths, historic castles and old manors. But it was on a family trip to France when Lea found her true passion.

Lea and her family were watching a huge football tournament. Lea was mesmerized by the way the players communicated almost wordlessly — crafting their passes and plays with this communal energy. 

I want to do that, she thought. She knew she had a lot to learn, and she couldn’t wait to dive in.

Soon after her family got back from France, Lea joined a local football club. All the players were boys, but Lea didn’t mind. She was sure it would help her build strength and stamina. And it did!

Her family watched in amazement as Lea grew bolder and braver, dribbling and striking with such confidence. Her mum tried to make it to every game, cheering as loud as she could. By the time Lea was 16, she was asked to play in the Bundesliga, a professional association football league in Germany. And the following year, she got her first Bundesliga goal!

Lea’s football career skyrocketed after that. She traveled all over the world playing in tournaments and championships. As a star forward, she was named top goalscorer in her league and even Germany’s Women’s Footballer of the Year!

But that’s not to say she didn’t deal with some major disappointments and setbacks. 

In 2022, at one of the biggest championship tournaments in the world, Lea was so excited to represent her home country. She dove in head first — literally — and helped win their first match with a stunning header. Then, just as Lea was feeling on top of the world, she tested positive for Covid-19.

Lea was shocked and disappointed, isolating herself and wishing she could at least cheer on her teammates.

Weeks later, after taking time to rest and recover, Lea was allowed back into the tournament. In fact, in a dramatic last-minute decision, Lea was picked to substitute for the team’s captain in the final match! Now, Lea was front and center on the pitch, with a record-breaking crowd cheering her on — the whole stadium pulsing with energy and excitement. 

It was a riveting match — the teams were very skilled and competitive. Lea tore down the pitch, focussing only on the ball, the goal, and her teammates. She deftly maneuvered into any open spaces, passing and shooting with clarity and force. 

In the end, the other team scored in extra time and took home the trophy, but Lea still felt so proud of herself and her team. They had worked so hard to be here, and given their all. And the entire tournament had really established women’s football as a fascinating sport. 

Today, Lea continues to make headlines and stand front and center on the pitch. She no longer has to play on boys’ teams to get experience and inspiration. She, and women’s football teams all over the world, are growing stronger and louder every day.

And whatever happens next, Lea believes in herself and trusts in her team. Even when she’s charging down the wing, she knows that she’s never alone. She is part of a growing legacy of fierce female footballers.