Petra Landers was born in 1962 in Bochum, in the industrial Ruhr region. As a young girl, Petra played street football and for junior teams, always with the boys; she did not play for women’s teams until she was thirteen. A fast, very fit midfielder, Petra was soon a key player for Bergisch Gladbach, then the best team in Germany, winning four league championships in a row.
In 1981 Germany was invited to send a team to Taiwan, to play in an unofficial world championship. There was at that time no Germany national team, so Bergisch Gladbach were chosen to represent Germany. They won; a feature film about this called “Das wunder von Taipeh”, came out in 2020. The German FA (DFB) then set up a women’s national team; Petra played in its first international match. Women’s football grew in popularity. In 1989 Germany won its first major tournament, the UEFA Nations Cup.
Empowering Girls in Africa
Petra Landers was a big part of the rise of women’s football in Germany, even though her career was interrupted by injuries. But she got disillusioned with the professional game and the sexism directed at players. She broke off to run a printing business for nine years. But her love of the game at the grassroots never went away, nor did her desire for equality. Since 2014 Petra has done much to help football for girls in Africa. She played in the “Equal Playing Field” match, 5715m high on Mount Kilimanjaro; and has a special bond with the girls of Lusaka in Zambia, as their coach and mentor.
Petra Landers has had many triumphs in football. Her club, Bergisch Gladbach, won more titles than any other team. She represented Germany on the world stage, such as the “Miracle of Taipei” in 1981 and the UEFA Nations Cup in 1989. But, today, Petra has mixed feelings about women’s football in Germany. She does not think the DFB has given the right support for the women’s game; she thinks the professional game is all about money. Petra’s best memories are about her sheer love of the game, of playing with the boys in Bochum when she was very young, and as she now inspires African girls to express themselves through football when she coaches in Zambia.
Educators could look at the life story of Petra Landers and work with young people to consider this question:
- What should the people who run football do better in order to keep alive the spontaneous love of football as a game for its own sake?
Former national player and European champion Petra Landers visits the Würzburg Dragons, the junior football team of the Würzburg Sportclub (Photo: Heinz Reinders, Wikimedia Commons).
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