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Rottenberg hopes a good German womenís team performance will make inroads at home where the menís game rules.

By Tim Nash
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, June 22, 1999) -- Silke Rottenberg sees the big picture in this summer's Women's World Cup.

She knows a strong showing by her German team is needed to give women's soccer a boost in her country where men's soccer is and always will be king. "The Women's World Cup gives a good chance to the Germany Federation," the 27-year-old goalkeeper said. "When we are playing well, we can do good things for women's football. In the USA, both men and women seem to watch women's football. But in Germany right now, it is mostly women. The men say women's soccer is not so good. But when we are playing well, they will say it's very good. I hope after the World Cup, they will see that."

Rottenberg said more than 800,000 girls and women are playing soccer in Germany now. "Every year, women's football gets more and more popular in Germany," she said. "And when it is on TV, people can watch it and then enjoy it. I hope after the World Cup, more and more people will get excited about women's football."

Germany has a tough task ahead. Seeded first in the Group of Death with Brazil, Italy and Mexico, the Germans hope to be one of two teams that advance from Group B. Germany tied Italy 1-1 in the first match, while Brazil pounded Mexico 7-1.

Rottenberg was introduced to the sport at a very young age. Living in the small town of Euskirchen, the family was fanatical about soccer. "My father was a football (soccer) player for a small club in the lower divisions, and I started playing football when I was four years old," she said. "Everyone played football. There was nothing else. When I was six, I would go running with my father at 6 a.m. in the forest. Even when I was a little child, I wanted to play for the national team. So I knew I had to train, train, train. And I've got it now."

But she had to fight for it. In 1994, at the age of 22, she was dropped from the German National Team after one year. "First I was very sad, and I did not understand. I was angry and sad at the same time. I knew I was not a bad goalkeeper. At first, I said, 'I will do nothing.' Then after a month, I said, 'I will do everything.' I came back and made the team in 1996, I worked very hard to come back. In the 1997 European Championships, I let up only one goal."

Like many of the players in this summer's Women's World Cup, Rottenberg had to make a choice between soccer and career. Fortunately, she was able to combine the two. "In November 1997, after the European Championships, I joined the German army because my boss (a dentist) said I had to work and could not play football anymore. Now, the army allows me to train three times a week with my club team, twice a week with a third division men's team and the rest of the time I played badminton, run, do jumping or working with our national team trainer. Badminton helps me get faster with my legs. When we have a break, I weight train every day."

Given her success and good fortune, Rottenberg said she feels a sense of responsibility to her sport. "I want to do everything for women's football," she said. "I want to help the young players who come after me."

The best road to success would be victories against Mexico and Brazil, then a likely quarterfinals date against Denmark or Nigeria, followed by a semifinal clash against the United States ... Judging from the opening-game struggle against unfancied Italy, it is not an easy path.

Tim Nash is editor of College Soccer Weekly and can be e-mailed at socrnuz@netpath.net.

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