How Sarina Wiegman manages – by those who’ve experienced it

How Sarina Wiegman manages – by those who’ve experienced it

Editor’s Note: This story is included in The Athletic’s Best of 2023. View the full list.

The photo shows Sarina Wiegman standing in the showers, clothes drenched. A red Ter Leede scarf and a gold medal are draped around her neck. Her players dance around her, arms aloft, celebrating their 2006-07 Dutch title.

“Sarina hates that,” says Ter Leede club president Kees de Lange, sitting on a bar stool in the clubhouse, half an eye on the Formula 1 race on TV in the background. “What?” The Athletic asks. “Being the centre of attention,” De Lange replies.

It is true. In the other pictures hung on the walls next to the bar, Wiegman is on the periphery.

Fast forward 16 years and she has not changed. When Prince William presented the 53-year-old with her honorary CBE (as she isn’t British) at St George’s Park in June, she was almost speechless, and deflected the attention to her Euro 2022-winning England team.

A double European champion and World Cup finalist as a manager, a three-time FIFA Best Women’s Coach selection and winner of last year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony’s Coach Award, Wiegman has had to get used to taking centre stage since those early days coaching Ter Leede.

Sarina Wiegman

Wiegman being given an honorary CBE by Prince William (Photo: Phil Noble/WPA Pool via Getty Images)

“She is the missing ingredient England were looking for,” said Leah Williamson, captain of that triumphant England side, at the celebrations in London’s Trafalgar Square last summer. “She is a special person.”

So what makes England’s history-making coach — the woman who now hopes to lead them to Women’s World Cup glory — the force she has become? This is a window into her world of management.

Baroness Sue Campbell came out glowing after she first interviewed Wiegman for the England job in 2020. The Football Association (FA) knew it was getting the best tactical and technical coach in the women’s game, but “what we didn’t know was that we were getting this exceptional human being”, said Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, after Euro 2022.

Wiegman — who arrived at the 2023 Women’s World Cup having won successive European Championships with the Netherlands and England respectively — has been described as a family person: kind, loyal, dedicated and down to earth. There is another side to her, though. “You can sit and have a coffee with her and chat about family,” says Euros-winning former England midfielder Jill Scott, “but as soon as you cross that white line, you’re also a bit scared that you want to perform for her.

“To have the two parts to your personality is really difficult. You look to the side and you think, ‘I want to do well’, because you know how much she (Wiegman) cares about the team and how much work she has put into it.”

“She has the fire in her,” says Arvid Smit, who was Wiegman’s assistant coach with the Netherlands. “If you are close to her, you can see it. You can feel it. On the sidelines, she will be calm but on the inside I know she will be thinking about every scenario in her head and it goes pretty fast. On the outside, she looks very relaxed. In a way, she is because she has prepared everything. I don’t see any weaknesses. I only saw a lot of quality, a football mind and love for the people she works with.

“If you are a people manager and also have the structure and football knowledge you are special. That’s what Sarina has. She has the X-factor, most people just love her.”

The steelier side of Wiegman was the same when she was a PE teacher at Segbroek College in The Hague in her native Netherlands. “She was strict, but the children did not fear her,” friend and former colleague Ted Bruggeling, sitting in his office at the school, tells The Athletic. “It’s about respect. They feel your enthusiasm, drive, your heart. Then they will always perform for you.”

(Charlotte Harpur/The Athletic)

Wiegman can fix you with an intense gaze from behind those gold-rimmed spectacles, but rarely dishes out any kind of ‘hairdryer treatment’.

“She always seems really decent and nice,” says Annemarie Postma, a Dutch journalist and author of De Oranjeleeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) and Samen Sterk (Stronger Together), two books about the Dutch women’s national team. “One time she did get really mad and it scared the hell out of me. It was like, ‘OK, she’s this tiny woman but there’s definitely some spice in there’.

“I asked her why she didn’t bring a particular player to the 2017 Euros. She nearly jumped off her seat and just started yelling at me. I was insinuating that she didn’t take a player because of her behaviour. She shouted at me that she was not that kind of person, she would always look at the sporting side.

“I was afraid that it would damage our relationship but we shook hands on it. The next time I talked to her, she was very nice. She would let me talk to her daughters and her husband, which she normally doesn’t do. That showed how professional she is.”

Sarina Wiegman

Wiegman at an England training session in June (Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

Wiegman manages pragmatically, not emotionally. She was not drawn into recalling former England captain Steph Houghton for this World Cup, despite external pressure to do so.

“She can be tough,” says Smit. “That’s also clarity. When she has to make difficult decisions, she does it and she’s very clear in her reasons why.”

Houghton, however, feels she did not get a clear explanation for her omission. “The conversation was very vague, to be honest,” the 35-year-old Manchester City centre-back told the Daily Mail. “That’s what’s hard to take (…) it’s the manager’s decision. I didn’t argue but I did say, ‘I’ve done everything you’ve asked us to do’.” Other players who ended up not being selected for the World Cup squad also describe minimal communication.

That was not the first time Wiegman showed she is not afraid of making big decisions for the benefit of the team’s performance.

When the Netherlands won the 2017 Euros, after the second group game she did not name their captain Mandy van den Berg in the starting XI for the rest of the tournament. “You need to have balls to make these decisions,” says former Dutch international Anouk Dekker, who had played centre-back alongside Van den Berg. “She sees, with assistant Arjan Veurink, what a team needs. It’s not an overnight decision. There are months of discussing and thinking about solutions and consequences.”

“Sarina showed her leadership,” reflects Mary Kok-Willemsen, who was the manager at rival club FC Twente when Wiegman was in charge of ADO Den Haag (2007-14). “She said no one is bigger than the team. When she believes something has to be done for the team to improve the performance, she will do it.

“When the results are good and your captain is playing OK, not many coaches will take the risk to change it. She’s never satisfied with OK. Winning means it has to be the most perfect situation. That sums up Sarina. She doesn’t settle for good.”

At last summer’s Euros, Wiegman did not make a single change to her starting XI for six games in a row. She gained a reputation as the manager who did not budge on squad selection. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Unlike the Euros, however, where everything went smoothly, this World Cup has thrown some spanners in the works. England have had many setbacks: injuries to Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson before the tournament, doubts over Millie Bright’s fitness, Keira Walsh’s injury, Lauren James’ red card against Nigeria and, in general, a struggle to hit top form.

Wiegman had to adapt, and she did, most notably for the China group-stage game when she dropped Ella Toone and switched from her usual formation of 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2. Even when James was sent off, England had a simple but effective plan, moving to a 4-4-1, and held their nerve to win the shootout. Amid all the change, her behaviour and principles remain constant. She is calm and focuses on the team, not individuals.

“She’s very cool and she’s a very calm head, which is so important when you’re in high-pressure moments,” said England striker Alessia Russo. “It’s great to have someone leading us who knows how to deal with those high-pressure moments, as well as someone who keeps everyone calm on the pitch.”

“The team will appreciate that from her,” says Smit. “She always thinks about how to get the team better and how she presents herself. It’s all about the team.”

Wiegman celebrates with the squad after victory over Nigeria (Naomi Baker – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Preparation has always been important to Wiegman, whether as a player, teacher or coach.

“I have to prepare really well,” she said before the Euros final against Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium last July. “I have to stay connected with the team and the staff. We are so well prepared. That gives me calmness too, because we’ve done everything necessary, everything that is in our control. Then it’s good and it’s going to bring us a win, or maybe not, because it’s so tight. But we know we’ve done everything in our control to be as good as possible. Then it’s OK.”

Her meticulousness was evident back in the school environment.

“She wrote a very detailed football programme, broken down into small steps, focusing on technical skills and tactical skills,” says Bruggeling, who leads the Topsport Talent programme at Segbroek.

Wiegman’s Segbroek College profile in 1999. 1. I stand out by… being short. 3. What leisure activities do you do? Football. Little time is left for other things. 4. What would you most like to have become if you were not in education? Professional footballer, but for that you have to go abroad and I don’t see that. 5. Parting words to the exam students? Try to have fun in everything you do! (Charlotte Harpur/The Athletic)

That attention to detail has continued into international management. One example was when she and the Dutch players trained in a room set to the same heat and humidity they expected to encounter in host nation Japan before the Olympics in 2021.

“There is a big year plan and then you make the plan smaller: weeks or camps,” says Smit. “The last thing is the matchday itself. Every morning, you discuss the pre-made training sessions. They’ve (Wiegman and her staff) already talked about them in the weeks before, when the team is not together. The periodisation is tactical — the ways to improve the team’s attacking, defending and transition moments — but it also factors in the physical training and rest.

“She planned all the meetings — individual, staff and team. She planned everything how she wanted it to be, including travel.

“Every little detail was spoken about and executed very well. The players knew when to work and relax. It was never chaotic. She had the quality to think forward. She makes it very simple. The only thing you had to do as a staff member was execute your role. She had a sharp eye. If something went wrong, she would be on top of it.”

Sarina Wiegman

Wiegman after being unveiled as England head coach in 2021 (Photo: Catherine Ivill via Getty Images)

As well as a detailed plan, Wiegman communicates her expectations with clarity, a characteristic often cited by members of her England squad. “You know your role and responsibility and she expects no other and that is instilled in you,” Euro 2022 player of the tournament Mead tells The Athletic. “Dutch directness is great.”

In Mead’s book, written with The Athletic’s Katie Whyatt, Lioness: My Journey To Glory, she recalls Wiegman being given a tour of St George’s Park and being told, “This is the men’s pitch.” Wiegman pointed out it didn’t say “men’s pitch” anywhere. She asked whether it was the best pitch in the complex. It was. The newly appointed England Women’s manager concluded that her team should therefore be able to use it. In preparation for last summer’s Euros, they did just that, even if Gareth Southgate’s men’s team were there training for their Nations League games in June.

“She was just honest,” says Scott, who retired after England’s triumph. “People think you’re (as an elite manager) going to give this formula for success but the fact she’s very honest with you, you get the respect and trust. Sometimes you might have managers who don’t want to have difficult conversations because they care too much. I’m not saying she doesn’t care but Sarina wants to win. She’s very honest about where you stand in the squad.”

With the help of her assistants, Wiegman would regularly communicate with team members.

“If she hasn’t spoken with a player in one camp, the next camp she would have a meeting with them,” says Smit. “The personal attention inside and outside of camps was very important for her. She really wants to give everyone attention. She knew exactly who she spoke with and when. There were also social talks. If you walk on the pitch and you talk with a player, these moments are always there. She didn’t want any player to feel she was not appreciated. She knew exactly when she had spoken with the players and keeps track of it on her laptop.”

Arvid Smit was at this World Cup as the Netherlands’ assistant coach (Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images)

While those conversations might sound friendly, Wiegman has no issue with challenging her players when speaking to them. “Sarina is demanding in talking about the performance of a player,” says Niels de Vries, who worked as a sports scientist under Wiegman when she was in charge of the Netherlands. “You talk about performance in football and fitness is a part of that — if you have difficulties finishing the game as you started it, for example.

“The conversation would be reflective, asking (the player) questions, saying, ‘We had a plan of improvement and it’s not there, how come?’. The talk will be there. There would also be a situation that she was not happy and there was a little bit more input or emotion as well.”

Most players buy into her approach. But how does she make sure of that? “Words of wisdom and experience of being in that position before,” Mead says. “She’s been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and she’s been there and done it again.”

“Without knowing it, you were 100 per cent in from the beginning,”says Scott. “I remember hearing her speak, and it wasn’t this complicated speech where she was changing the world. She just set out what she wanted the team to do, the objective, our values. It was, ‘You fit in or you’re out’. She gets the buy-in by being honest, getting results and you want to be part of it.”

To be a part of a Wiegman team is to know exactly what is being asked of you.

She has transformed England since succeeding former Manchester United stalwart and England international Phil Neville in September 2021. A team which lost semi-finals in three consecutive major tournaments between 2015 and 2019 has been close to unbeatable since, losing once in 37 matches, being crowned European champions, defeating South American counterparts Brazil in the Finalissima in April and the world’s top-ranked team and World Cup holders, the United States, in a friendly last October.

One way she has achieved that is by instilling unwavering belief in the squad. When Spain and then Germany tested the team by taking them to extra time in the knockout phase of the Euros, the players had no doubt they would win. “She makes you feel on top of the world and confidence can go a long way for a footballer,” says Mead. “That’s what a lot of us were playing with.”

England have not had the same fluidity this summer but the belief is still there. It was in evidence when the Lionesses knocked Nigeria out on penalties in the round-of-16 match and came from behind to defeat Colombia 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

Sarina Wiegman

Wiegman celebrates with Millie Bright after beating Spain in the Euro 2022 quarter-finals (Photo: Naomi Baker via Getty Images)

There is also clarity of tactics. “When I saw England play after she arrived, I saw in just a couple of weeks that Sarina and Arjan were in charge of this team,” says Smit. “Defending zonally with three midfielders, two No 6s and one 10. When you have the ball, you play with one No 6 and two attacking midfielders. Clarity was very important.

“The way the players moved to their positions, it was clear. When the winger comes inside or stays wide, they make it very clear what to do. I recognised what she did with the Netherlands, but they have different qualities to the England squad. She thinks about all these things to get the best out of the team. Some coaches, you can see a lot of different tactics. She would say, ‘I want just these two tactics in attacking and these two tactics in defending’.”

“With England, they had a lot of stars before, but it was never really a unit,” former Dutch international Dekker says. “Their discipline in how to attack, press and defend, it is really clear. Playing against England was often the long ball, physical but now you can really see patterns. ‘Why is she not running out?’. No, the ball is there, so you don’t go out even though you want to. You stay there because you need to wait until the team has pushed up or the lines are closer. That’s something they (Sarina and Arjan) brought into that team. The rules are more defined and clearer. They have made individual quality players a good collective.”



Wiegman has been robbed of her biggest stars at this World Cup – it might just suit her

Although Wiegman gives clear instructions, she allows players to improvise and make mistakes. “She’s definitely implemented different tactics,” said England forward Lauren Hemp last year. “But for me, she’s always told me to have freedom, express myself, and that’s what I’ve needed.”

Winger Lieke Martens, who played under Wiegman as the Netherlands won the 2017 Euros and got to the World Cup final two years later, agrees: “She gives me the freedom to move inside and play on my feelings. She always said. ‘Enjoy and have fun’, instead of, ‘Hey, if you get the ball over there, I want you to do this’. In many ways, she let me be free and helped me to not feel stressed.”

Indeed, “enjoy and have fun” are often the encouraging words Wiegman says after a speech, team talk and to substitutes before they step onto the pitch. Her English is excellent but she does have the occasional slip-up — for instance, when asking a player to “switch sides” she will say “swift”.

Although she has the final word regarding substitutions, Wiegman will already have discussed the options with the technical team.

“We always had a plan B and C,” says Smit. “We talk about scenarios. What would we do if, in the first five minutes, we have a red card? Or the opponent gets a red card? Or this player comes off or on? Or if, in the first 10 minutes, we’re 2-0 down? A lot of coaches don’t discuss this. We didn’t discuss this with the (playing) team but the technical staff did, so when they happened, we were prepared. The quality is clarity — thinking about every option, what can happen in a game.”

“If there’s a lot happening in a game and we’re losing 1-0 (at half-time), you would think some coaches would be screaming,” Dekker says. “But she just comes in five minutes later, very calm. Of course, she and Arjan can say, ‘Hey, this needs to be better’ but they’re always giving solutions. At that moment I was thinking this is normal but, with experience abroad (under other managers), it’s not common that a coach has this way of leadership. It’s a really big quality.”

“When you lose, she will talk with individuals and the team,” Smit adds. “She will have two feet on the ground and she will tell the players how she feels and thinks. She can also be vulnerable. If the team loses, she loses with her team. If she thinks she could have done better, she’ll say so. The team will always have the feeling that they (players and manager) lose together.

“She will analyse and see what needs to be better. She won’t be screaming or shouting or doing strange things. She will be very relaxed. Disappointed? Yes. Needs to be better? Yes. If things need to be said, she will do that. No problem. But all with the goal to get better.”

Sarina Wiegman

Netherlands coach Wiegman congratulates the USA’s Megan Rapinoe after the 2019 World Cup final (Photo: Alex Grimm via Getty Images)

Smit was not part of Wiegman’s backroom team for the 2019 World Cup, but when he arrived in October, three months after the Netherlands were beaten 2-0 by the United States in the final, the staff went on to analyse that game three or four more times. What made the opposition stronger on the day? How could they close the gap to the number one team in the world?

Wiegman lives and breathes such questions and her mind will constantly be ticking.

Your strength can always be your weakness. Wiegman’s dedication meant that, as a player, when she was in the zone before a game she could not understand how some of her ADO Den Haag team-mates could be listening to music. She softened in time, realising different people had different needs, but her assistant at Euro 2017, Foppe de Haan, described Wiegman the manager as a “control freak”.

Last year, she requested FA staff all wear matching white trainers. Ahead of this World Cup, Wiegman’s technical team brought forward a blackout on players’ commercial and sponsorship activities so it started on June 17 for physical appearances (more than a month before the tournament’s first match) and July 5 for social-media interactions. This was done to ensure players rested over weekends and on their days off when not in training camp. However, on the day players joined up with England to leave for Australia, the FA emailed new, looser guidance.

“It’s not a control freak (attitude) but thinking about all the possibilities,” says Bruggeling, who has known Wiegman for over 20 years. “As a PE teacher, you’re aware that anything can happen. You have to have eyes in the back of your head.”

She has evolved, though. “She’s now more overseeing, gives it a moment, reflecting, getting others’ responses and making a good decision afterwards,” says De Vries.

“Sarina trusts all of her staff in each department,” agrees Scott. “There’s no wasted energy on anything. Everybody does their bit and it all comes together.”

Smit found a lot of space to say what he wanted: “She always has contact with you. She trusts you, but you discuss it with her. She knew how everyone cooperated. She had a big antenna for this.”

But the desire to have a tight grip on the group remains, helped by the presence of her assistant Veurink and team general manager Anja van Ginhoven, who she brought over from the Netherlands staff when she got the England job. One example is she is known to be sharp on any leaks to the media. On the rare occasion England team news has been revealed before games, an investigation has begun immediately and players told there would be repercussions if it’s found the information came from them.

“She doesn’t like that,” says Smit. “If (leaks) happen, it can kill you as a team. She doesn’t want the pressure to get in the way — don’t be busy with what’s happening outside of the bubble. She will not leave an opening for anyone who is outside the team. That’s impossible. That’s what makes her team so strong. You are in a bubble in a tournament. Together with staff and players, and there’s nothing going out and in. She manages that really well.”

This approach explains why Wiegman has refused to be part of negotiations about the players’ World Cup bonuses, wanting to retain a degree of independence to ensure the training field is separate from the negotiating table.

To Wiegman, the bubble her team exist within is key.

“She was always thinking, ‘What does the group need?’,” recalls Dekker.

“Sarina is very good at bringing people together,” says De Vries, recalling how the Dutch staff would get together for dinner, have a bike ride or go bowling. “The doctor, assistant coaches… giving staff members the right place to perform, looking into the personality of people and getting the right qualities at the right time.”


Wiegman and her backroom team after England won Euro 2022 (Photo: Naomi Baker via Getty Images)

At the start of her tenure with the Netherlands in 2014, she gave the squad copies of an article titled: ‘Thirteen things you should give up if you want to be successful’. She also mixed up the seating plan at lunch, so players sometimes sat next to the physio or head coach. They would go out for dinner as a team, do an escape-room challenge, scavenger hunts or quizzes. The general manager would organise them, but Wiegman would always be overseeing things. She invited athletes from other sports, such as Olympic and World Cup champion hockey player Lidewij Welten, to impart their wisdom, including on topics such as social media use. Given they were the host nation for Euro 2017, Wiegman made sure players had downtime with their families.

It was a similar scenario with England last year.

In her book, Mead recalls Wiegman inviting guests such as Professor Jean Williams, an expert on the history of women’s sport, and former players who were banned for competing in unofficial international tournaments, in to speak. Wiegman wanted the players to know the struggles of previous England teams.

While in camp, there would be barbecues with families, in-squad competitions, darts, table tennis, snooker, five-a-side football, volleyball, hide and seek with staff in fancy dress, and quizzes — including a karaoke round — led by Veurink.

In the Dutch pre-tournament camp five years earlier, Wiegman showed the players an empty picture frame and told them that, in a couple of months, it would house a photo of them with the Euro 2017 trophy.

But before that, there was another piece of silverware to win. In the two-week Dutch preparation camp for that tournament, the atmosphere was very competitive. Wiegman and her team launched their own event: The Euros Tournament.

There was a large scoreboard, with the names of the 23 players on, in the hotel, so everyone could follow their score. Every assignment the players completed, they would gain points — performing a sketch about how badly they wanted to win the Euros, quizzes, penalties, games of five- or seven-a-side. But sometimes Wiegman and Veurink bent the rules. The ball would clearly have gone out of play, but they would say, “Play on!”. A player’s shirt would be pulled, “Continue, no foul!”.

“What is this stupid competition?!”, Dekker and her team-mates exclaimed. “Why is this ball not out when it’s clearly out? We don’t care about this tournament anymore, just let us play!”

“It was sometimes really hard,” Dekker says. “They know if I see a ball is out, it’s out. That’s me as a person. That week, we were not that good friends.

“I had a conversation with Sarina a few years afterwards. I said, ‘I couldn’t (stand it) anymore with both of you’. Now, I know they were triggering us to get us mad, angry, yelling. It taught me a lot to control my emotions. They were doing it on purpose because a referee can make mistakes in a game.

“Now I think, ‘OK, you did a good job, coaches’. I will never forget it. At that moment, you have no words. You can only scream. They were, of course, laughing in their office: ‘Oh, good day again. We got this out of the players’. Now, I know.”

There was an eventual winner: defender Kika van Es. She was delighted. Her prize? One of Wiegman’s red bras. The rationale being it was a symbol of support. What did Van Es do with it? One of her coach’s old bras? She threw it away. “We had some really weird rewards,” says Dekker. “That’s the thing with Sarina. She was up for everything.” And what of that picture frame? They did indeed put a photo of them as champions of Europe in it.

Wiegman celebrates Netherlands winning Euro 2017 (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images)

This Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand has presented a new challenge for Wiegman.

Can she lead her team to victory on foreign soil, away from the comfort and advantage of being at home, where the Netherlands and England both won their trophies under her? She almost did it with the Dutch at the previous World Cup in France four years ago, but to go all the way this time will be the culmination of almost two months in a camp together, much of it as far away as it is possible to get from England.

The FA spoke of wanting to create a “home away from home” at their base camp in Terrigal, 90 minutes north of Sydney. England players take walks along the beach or visit nearby coffee shops. In their hotel, there are arts and craft tables, arcade games such as Simpsons Hit & Run, a PlayStation, virtual reality headsets, as well as other sport camp pastimes like table tennis and darts. Most importantly, after each game, players are given freedom to leave the hotel and explore the local surroundings with their friends and family.

“We’ve all got families out here pretty much, even Sarina,” Georgia Stanway said. “We’re just loving the fact that if there is time to relax you can take your mind away from football and have some family time.”

“Even Sarina?” a journalist asked.

“Sometimes you don’t realise your head coach is actually human,” added Stanway. “It is nice to see her family are here supporting her with an England shirt on.”

In the past Wiegman has been so consumed by the task at hand that she struggled to switch off.

During those 2017 Euros, she tried to spend time with her family, visiting her husband Marten and two daughters Sacha and Lauren on what was supposed to be a “family day”. But she ended up sitting alone in the back garden, thinking about the tournament. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. She left the day halfway through, telling her loved ones: “I’m sorry, I can’t relax. I can’t do this.”

So how does she relax? “No idea,” says Dekker. “I don’t see her chilling out a lot. I cannot imagine it. She is very close with her daughters. Sarina is non-stop working and thinking about football.”

As time has gone by, though, Wiegman has become more laid-back. After the 2022 Euros, she went on a camper-van holiday with her family. She continues to have power naps and does meditation and yoga almost every day. When she returns to her home town of Monster, on the coast south west of The Hague, she enjoys dog-walking on Zandmotor Beach. Family is central to her life. It makes her stay connected to who she is.

Zandmotor Beach in Monster, Wiegman’s hometown (Charlotte Harpur/The Athletic)

Those who have spoken to The Athletic for this article say Wiegman is still the same person. She is not a “rock star”, in Kok-Willemsen’s words. Whether it’s unveiling a Cruyff Court for kids at Sports Club Monster, visiting Ter Leede in Sassenheim, attending her children’s parents’ evenings at Segbroek College (where her husband teaches economics) or watching her daughter Lauren play for ADO Den Haag reserves, she is still just Sarina, talking to everyone.

She has not changed as a person, but one life event did alter her perspective. During England’s preparation camp for last year’s Euros, Wiegman’s sister died. After the final against Germany, she dedicated the win to her sibling.

“With the passing of her sister, she tries to enjoy it more,” Postma says.

Sitting on the terrace at St George’s Park, England’s training centre, Wiegman, usually very private about her personal life, told Postma: “I cannot believe I’m allowed to sit here with this view. Can you believe this?”

“That was the first time that I saw her really relaxed and taking in what happened to her,” adds Postma. “She seemed so happy with her job. She was happy before but she was really ambitious. Now she seems like, ‘Wow, I’m doing it all’. She was just sitting there, like a queen on her throne, very happy. Something like that (her sister’s death) changed her perspective on life.”

Now comes her biggest challenge yet.

The next time she returns to that St George’s Park terrace, she could be looking out from it as a World Cup winner.

There will be no slipping away into the background if that happens.

(Top photo: Edwin van der Wijngaard)

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