Re­laxed life­style and tougher league – why Ro­ord loves Eng­land

Dutch mid­fielder tells So­phie Pen­ney Arse­nal of­fer her attraction­s Europe can­not match ‘In Ger­many we had a lot of rules – us­ing a phone, wash­ing clothes in the right way, ev­ery­thing’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football -

There are lots of rea­sons why Jill Ro­ord is thank­ful to have joined Arse­nal: a spikier do­mes­tic league, the chance to have an­other crack at the Cham­pi­ons League, and the prospect of liv­ing and work­ing in a new coun­try after two years at Bay­ern Mu­nich. But Ro­ord is en­joy­ing an­other as­pect of life in north Lon­don.

“It’s just re­laxed and re­ally chilled here,” she says. “In Ger­many we had a lot of rules about ev­ery­thing, us­ing your phone, wash­ing your clothes the right way, putting things in the right wash­ing bag – like, ev­ery­thing!”

The train­ing-ground at­mos­phere may be less fraught, but Arse­nal have a tax­ing week ahead, in­clud­ing a meet­ing with Women’s Su­per League lead­ers Manch­ester City on Sun­day and a Cham­pi­ons League last-16 sec­ond leg against Slavia Prague a week tonight.

Then again, these are pre­cisely the oc­ca­sions for which Ro­ord was signed just be­fore the Women’s World Cup in the sum­mer. Want­ing to play in a more com­pet­i­tive do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion was a ma­jor fac­tor in the 22-yearold Dutch in­ter­na­tional’s de­ci­sion to quit her first club, FC Twente, and then Bay­ern.

Hol­land and Ger­many are not the only leagues to suf­fer from a sig­nif­i­cant qual­ity gap – Slavia Prague them­selves are top of the Czech Women’s League with a per­fect record of eight wins from eight, and an eye-wa­ter­ing goal dif­fer­ence of 60 (63 for, three against) – but Eng­land has at least a more level play­ing field.

Arse­nal are one of the game’s su­per­pow­ers, but were beaten 2-1 in their last WSL out­ing against Chelsea, while even City – the only club still with a 100 per cent league record – were de­feated by neigh­bours Manch­ester United in the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup last week­end.

“That’s why I left Hol­land, be­cause I want to be­come bet­ter and the league was just not good enough,” Ro­ord says. “There are a few good teams but the league is just not chal­leng­ing enough. Whereas in the WSL you have a chal­lenge ev­ery week and that will de­velop you as a team, which makes you bet­ter.”

The same ap­plies to the Cham­pi­ons League, the com­pe­ti­tion which first pro­pelled Ro­ord into the wider con­scious­ness. Four years ago, when she was play­ing for FC Twente against the mighty Bay­ern, she scored the kind of goal which is made for the so­cial-me­dia age; a wind­ing run through a slew of de­fend­ers, a cut in­side and fierce shot. It was cer­tainly enough to per­suade Bay­ern that she was a tal­ent.

“After that goal they called me,” says Ro­ord, who moved to Bay­ern two years later. “I al­ways re­minded them of that goal. They hated FC Twente and me for this but I loved it. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing, no­body ex­pected it, I def­i­nitely didn’t.”

Ro­ord has scored 18 goals in 31 games in the Cham­pi­ons League, so clearly feels at home in the com­pe­ti­tion, hav­ing first played in it as a teenager against Lyon. “It was so cool to play in such a big game at that age. We played in a big sta­dium and there were ac­tu­ally a lot of peo­ple. I re­ally en­joyed it. I was 16, I had noth­ing to lose so that’s just how I played.”

The big stage clearly suits Ro­ord. Aside from her Cham­pi­ons League suc­cess, she won the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship with Hol­land in 2017 and reached the World Cup fi­nal in France this year, when they lost 2-0 to the United States.

“The World Cup was like a dream,” Ro­ord says. “To be in a World Cup fi­nal, to play against Amer­ica, the big­gest coun­try in women’s foot­ball, and the whole at­mos­phere, I en­joyed ev­ery minute of it, even when we lost.

With ev­ery­thing that she has al­ready achieved she some­times has to re­mind her­self she is only 22. “I’m still ac­tu­ally fairly young but I‘ve al­ready played two World Cups and the Eu­ros and the Cham­pi­ons League, so it’s a bit weird. Peo­ple ex­pect a lot of me, and I also want them to, but I am still one of the youngest here.”

You do not get the sense that Ro­ord is fazed by those ex­pec­ta­tions. This, after all, is a player who scored a hat-trick in one of her first pre-sea­son games against Tot­ten­ham and also struck in her first game in the WSL against West Ham, but it helps that she has some of her Dutch team­mates, Vi­vianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk, in the same dress­ing room.

“We’re away from home so it’s nice to some­times speak Dutch, to see fa­mil­iar faces,” she says. “But I’m ac­tu­ally re­ally happy here.”

Game face: ‘I’m still fairly young but I’ve al­ready played two World Cups and the Eu­ros and the Cham­pi­ons’ League,’ says 22-year-old Jill Ro­ord

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