‘Holland is going to miss Van der Gragt’
editor of NOS Sports
editor of NOS Sports
Soccer star Stefanie van der Gragt announced her farewell yesterday, marking the disappearance of a third player from the golden Oranje that became European champions in 2017 under the leadership of Sarina Wiegman. Last year, Desiree van Lunteren and Sari van Veenendaal also put a stop to their careers.
The similarity between the three: they quit at a relatively young age.
“Holland is going to miss Stefanie,” thinks 77-time international Kika van Es. “She is such a nice person and has such a positive influence on the atmosphere. You also notice that on the field. She is a confidant and strongman at the same time. And she always gives everything, always 100 percent.”
“Time for new challenges,” gave the 30-year-old Van der Gragt as the reason. The Heerhugowaard native will become the technical manager of AZ Women starting next season, thus returning to the club with which she became national champion in the 2009-2010 season and won the cup a year later.
“After the summer, I can look back on a successful career in which I experienced everything I wanted to experience as a professional footballer.”
Van der Gragt is expecting a second child with her girlfriend soon. She will finish the season with her current employer, Italian Internazionale, and after the World Cup from July 20 to August 20 in Australia and New Zealand can back in the Netherlands to pay more attention to her family.
Mentioned reasons are hardly ever encountered in men’s soccer. “With women, it is simply different,” said Van Es, the 2017 left back. “At this age, women with a desire to have children face a choice. For one thing, if you are pregnant, you simply cannot keep playing soccer.”
Van der Gragt, Van Veenendaal and Van Lunteren are not the first of the golden EK squad to have other priorities. Reserve goalkeeper Angela Christ put a stop to her career already a year after the 2018 EC at the age of 29. She too opted for her private life and her social career.
Besides family life, finances also play a big role in women quitting soccer earlier. Not all clubs have good financial arrangements for pregnancy. Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir became pregnant in early 2021 and temporarily moved back to Iceland. Thereupon, her club Olympique Lyonnais decided not to pay her wages until she returned to her club.
Gunnarsdottir successfully challenged the loss of earnings with FIFA this year. Olympique Lyonnais still had to pay the former player 82,000 euros in back salary. “At PSV and the other Dutch top clubs this is now well regulated in the collective bargaining agreement,” said Van Es. “It varies per club.”
Moreover, salaries in women’s soccer are not everywhere such that you earn so much during your career that you do not have to work afterwards. Then an early choice to quit and pursue a social career makes more sense. “Fortunately, things are getting better,” Van Es says. “There is growth in it. Financially it’s becoming more and more attractive.”
For the 31-year-old Van Es, a choice like that made by Van der Gragt, Van Lunteren and Van Veenendaal is not yet on the cards. She is not yet thinking about the end of her career. The PSV player, whose contract expires this year, certainly hopes to add a few more years.