Recently, I was interviewed by our local newspaper, the Eindhovens Dagblad. You can find the full interview (in Dutch) here but for those of you that don’t speak that language, here’s a translation of that story!
MOL – In November 2013 Emma Coolen from Son visited a Champions League match of the later finalist Tyresö FF. Since then, she wants to reach the Women’s World Cup of 2019. At VC Moldavo in the Belgian ‘1e Nationale’, she is working on that dream.
All by herself in the stands, Emma Coolen saw the light. She was in Sweden for five days, because she was learning that language in a gap year. Upon recommendation of a friend, she visited a Tyresö FF game there. ‘I thought: This is what I want, this is where I want to play someday. Since that day, everything has changed. I suddenly started wondering what I had been doing with my life all of those years’, Coolen says, who until that moment had played at local clubs SBC and Nederwetten, without any ambitions in soccer. ‘From age 15 to age 20 I played at the lowest level. Soccer was more an excuse to drink a lot of beer on Sunday. I smoked a pack a day and went out to party three times a week.’
Back home, sitting on the couch, she asked her mom whether she thought it would be possible to become a professional soccer player, after you had just turned twenty. While her parents are still under the impression that it’s just a whim, Coolen dives in head-first. But how do you start a mission like that? ‘I had no idea. I got soccer books at the library and started watching matches on YouTube’, Coolen says. On her hand, a written number counts down to that big goal: the 2019 World Cup. ‘It’s sort of a silly ritual, but it reminds me how fast that tournament is coming closer. This Monday, the number reads 761. If it’s possible? ‘I think it is. It’s very motivating to have a goal of which everyone around you tells you you’re never going to reach it.’
That’s also part of the reason why, under her shin guard, she’s hiding a tattoo of the jersey number 24. That’s the number that was on her shirt, that one time she got to sit on the bench for a professional team, PSV/FC Eindhoven. ‘Back then, I already did something that I never thought I could do.’
The 23 year-old goes all-in, sometimes bordering on the maniacal. With Merel van Dongen (defender of Ajax and the Dutch national team), she spoke about balance in life. ‘She told me: I don’t think even Cristiano Ronaldo trains as much as you do, and that was far from a compliment. That eye-opener really helped me.’
And so, Coolen started at college, Communication and Multimedia Design in Den Bosch. She blogs and vlogs about her starting career. ‘People have often called me an idiot, but I hope that I can show everyone that you can always try. I don’t have to wonder about what I’m missing in life because of soccer, because I know that, I’ve been there, and I like this way more.’
Coolen finds her own way up. When things weren’t going so well at her previous club FC Eindhoven, she googled clubs just across the Dutch-Belgian border. That’s how she ended up at VC Moldavo, a club from Mol with only women’s soccer. ‘When people talk about the first team here, they’re talking about us, isn’t that amazing?’
Last Saturday, she ended the season with a 2-1 win over Standard Luik’s second team. ‘In Belgium, practices are very focused on the tactical side of the game, and that’s precisely the knowledge that I was lacking. If I want to work on receiving a ball I can do that at home, just kick a ball against a wall a thousand times. I know I’ll never become an extremely technical player, I need to compensate for that in other areas. And I believe that I can.’