Simone Laudehr: Good genes for history
In the beginning women's football was like a circus, later Playboy showed interest: from early in her career Simone Laudehr has been a blueprint for the future. "Säbener 51" met one of the most exciting women in German football during her part-time job in the FC Bayern Museum.
Synonymous with women's football
She still has the washboard stomach, just like 13 years ago. Simone Laudehr, 33, checks her muscles under the sweater, satisfied she says: "No fat. I don't have the genes for it." It's a curse and a blessing, a bit clichéd and maybe even chauvinistic, to address her about her washboard belly. But there are moments in life in which everything is compressed, especially in the life of a competitive athlete. Simone Laudehr's six-pack is still synonymous with a number of questions: How has women's football developed? How attractive is women's football? And, not least, figuratively speaking: How fit is it?
Laudehr doesn't have the genes to be overweight, and she doesn't sit around either. This season she has carried out three roles at FC Bayern: she plays on the pitch, does research for the FC Bayern Museum and is a member of the campus analysis team. She gets the competitive genes from her mother, an athlete. She has been a role model for women in German football for years. Laudehr sits at a conference table in the Allianz Arena and looks back at how she started in 2003 as a 17-year-old at FC Bayern. Her dream was to play alongside the great Birgit Prinz in the national team. When she was first selected by the DFB, "I ran for my life - I just didn't want to get in trouble. I was like a mouse."
Laudehr found no trouble. On the contrary. She ran for her life and her dream came true. After her first international appearance, she thought, wow, what a tempo, and she was not selected for the next match. But she never gave up, and soon she played alongside Birgit Prinz in the 2007 World Cup final in Shanghai against Brazil. That day she made history.
"Everything unloads in a single moment"
"It's all in the memory bank," she says at the conference table 13 years later: she smells the pitch, she remembers how the good spirits of the Brazilian women annoyed her before kick-off. Birgit Prinz scored, Nadine Angerer saved a penalty. The opponents played nastily, they pulled on shirts, but when Renate Lingor took a corner in the 86th minute, Laudehr broke free for a hundredth of a second and headed in to make it 2-0. "My opponent was a bit bigger than me, so this tiny advantage was crucial." The story could end here. But Laudehr's was only just beginning.
She didn't think, says Laudehr, you can hardly imagine the feelings of happiness: "The fans always think we have a great life, and yes, we do. But there is this pressure, from the outside, in yourself - and then everything unloads in a single moment." If she had been able to grab the corner flag, she would have destroyed it, or whacked something else. But she pulled her jersey up to the sports bra - and suddenly the celebration was bigger than the goal, the footballer became an icon, unintentionally. "I could have taken the jersey right off, but that would have been irrelevant."
An icon overnight
The image of her washboard belly went around the world, Laudehr became an icon overnight. And 2007 saw German women's football spring out of the starting blocks and lose its ridiculed identity. Four years later the World Cup had been arranged in Germany. Laudehr became a blueprint for the future: a refreshing poster theme. She would have liked it if everyone had reacted like her father. All he said about the photo was that she had obviously been training hard.
After her picture had gone around the world, everyone wanted something from her: countless interview requests, including from MTV, the leading pop culture channel at the time. There were marriage proposals, wishes for children, and, she still sighs today, stalkers. "Football," she says, "was suddenly far away." The hype was intense, but she wanted to please everyone. After returning from China, she only had one week before the Bundeswehr basic training started. "I fell into a hole." Only in the following winter break did her family show her what her true path was. She picked herself up again. Her Shanghai celebration was used for the 2011 World Cup. A pretty headline read: "Navel of the World". Even heroes have cracks in their life, don't they? "Oh god," says Simone Laudehr at such a sentence today - and laughs.
On par with Prinz and Angerer
How does it feel to be one of the most exciting women in German football? Bah, says Laudehr, she often says bah when she needs time to answer. When she hears such questions, they still sound strange. But yes, the end of her career is slowly approaching, because suddenly she looks back more often than she looks ahead. A few years ago, a girl gave her a laudation. "She said that with my physique, my fitness, my game, I had raised women's football to a whole new level." She is only just beginning to realise that she is now in the same league as Birgit Prinz, Nadine Angerer and all the others.
Role models like Rapinoe
The 2011 World Cup was a disappointment. Laudehr had climbed out of her hole, but German women's football hit a low point. She was on the pitch when they lost the quarterfinals 1-0 to Japan. It was an expected result, says the 33-year-old, "but no matter, we should have won". Two years later, the German national team celebrated European Championship victory and in 2016 Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro. But since then German women's football has started to struggle. Maybe now more than ever it needs a new Laudehr, another strong role model.
"Do you move them aside - or do you start crying? I always chose to move them aside. "
She touches the table three times, she never had a cruciate ligament tear. But even without this dreaded injury, she spent a lot of time in rehab, where she worked vigorously: "Do you want to get back on the pitch like this? Better do ten more pull-ups!" For example, she experienced the Olympic gold on the television. In the first group game, an opponent from Zimbabwe kicked in her knee after 14 minutes. "Everyone has obstacles blocking their path in life," she says, "the question is: do you move them aside - or do you start crying? I always chose to move them aside."
In retrospect, the obstacle-moving seems easy, she says, "but as a young player it wasn't. You suddenly stand in front of 60,000 spectators in the stadium and ask yourself: Can I do this?" Now, she is the oldest in the team at Bayern. Today, nobody would talk about a goal celebration with a sports bra: "That's how every woman goes to the gym now." Instead, players like the American Megan Rapinoe use their successes to set political accents. "She doesn't listen when Donald Trump talks," says Laudehr. "Bayern could do with a player like her." Her sports marketing studies come into play today: young girls can look up to Rapinoe, like she used to do with Prinz. President Herbert Hainer's announcement, that he would like to promote women more in the future, is very positive.
"What Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and everyone else has built is crazy."
Laudehr knows from her own experience - and from her work at the FC Bayern Museum - that history needs role models: "What Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and everyone else has built is crazy." She has always been "a history type," she says. When it comes to books, she prefers historical novels, a Goethe or Shakespeare to every thriller," and I was allowed to visit the archives here - it's unbelievable what treasures are there. I learned a lot about the club." And about the FCB women in the early 1970s. Today these pioneers cannot be overestimated: "The fans didn't come to cheer them on, it was like a circus performance for them. But these women didn't let that put them off."
Laudehr's contract runs until 2021, but with completed studies, practical experience in the museum, a coaching license and university certificates, she is well set for the period after her career. She went to Duisburg in 2004 as a player before signing for Frankfurt in 2016, because back then Munich did not offer the same opportunities as today. In every function: "Now I would very much like to stay at Bayern."
"Empress" with a wink
She has 103 caps - like Franz Beckenbauer. "I'm the empress," she says with a wink, because she doesn't take herself too seriously. She hopes for her younger colleagues that women's football continues to grow, "that groups of girls gather around them on the street for an autograph". But this will probably need a new washboard belly event again.
However, women no longer have to rely on the power of images. Laudehr once had an offer from Playboy for a cover shoot. It's not her thing, she says, for example, she's only had an Instagram profile since 2016. Although she has nothing against these pictures in principle, she said: "They are aesthetic pictures, I saw a surfer for example - wonderfully simple, there is nothing to be said against it. But everyone should decide for themselves." She could have done it, but it was no longer necessary to cause a stir in the sport.
Fundamental role in German women's football
In Laudehr's early days, they practiced facial expressions in front of the mirror. An extra coach explained to them how to control their facial expressions when faced with tricky interview questions, when they should be casual and when they should say certain words. It was strange, Laudehr thinks, "but as a young player you carried the goals back and forth in training and kept your mouth shut." Today, on the other hand, the old playerws will drag the goals, which is not ok, "it goes on the cross," she says and grins. She knows that no one will take that away from her. She has played a leading role in women's football for well over a decade - and the washboard belly is still there, but just as a back story these days.