‘Realize I was privileged as a man’
Wout Brama and Maud Roetgering, two icons of FC Twente, created a children’s book during their soccer careers. Brama found out during that process how different his journey to professional soccer was from that of his female colleague.
Creating a book was not a long-held dream for 36-year-old Brama, who hangs up his soccer boots Sunday after the final playoff game. “It actually came out of nowhere,” he said Tuesday night in Langs de Lijn En Omstreken on NPO Radio 1. “But it sounded very nice.”
No sooner said than done. In early 2022, Brama and Roetgering first sat down together to talk about creating a children’s book. They decided to handle everything themselves, including publishing the book. Only for the writing did they seek help. “Otherwise it would have become a very thin book,” laughs Brama.
Based on own characters
They ended up with Annemarie van der Eem, who showered them with input on what they were like as 11- and 13-year-olds, respectively. Because the main characters in the book Wout & Maud are based on their own characters.
“The characters are 95 percent similar to how Wout and I were at that age,” Roetgering explains. “But mostly it’s a fun adventure book.” It also incorporates some social themes.
Roetgering: “But those aren’t laid on thick.” Brama adds: “The book is written for children ages 7 to 13. Those children need to be introduced to these social issues in a very non-committal way. If you get too pedantic about it, they no longer have the idea that you are reading a book.”
‘Football locker room magic’
The social themes Brama and Roetgering talk about are inclusivity, diversity and gay acceptance in soccer. “My path to the top has been totally different from Wout’s,” said the 30-year-old Roetgering.
When Brama heard about his fellow female soccer player’s road to the top, he was shocked. “I realized even more how privileged I am as a man. The soccer locker room is something magical for me, but Maud didn’t experience that social development in the locker room until she was 15. As the only woman on a men’s team, you sit alone in the locker room after the game, you have to shower alone.”
At the same time, Roetgering also knows that that situation for girls did change in recent years. “I was the first girl at the local club. Then you go through different stories than the girls entering the premier league now.”
Gay acceptance is also discussed in the two footballers’ book. Brama reads a piece from the book by way of illustration, in which the character Wout sings along in the stadium with a song about gays, while the character Maud keeps her lips tightly shut.
“I think that happens to a lot of supporters that way. They sing along without realizing they are hurting certain groups by doing so.” Brama hopes that by describing this, kids will start thinking about it. “We hope to make a small contribution to this development.”
And Brama and Roetgering hope to do that not only with this one book, which will be officially presented Friday. “The intention is to have a series, but then this first book has to sell well,” said Brama.
If that happens, the two Twente players also already know what the second book should be about. “Racism and discrimination in soccer. Soccer belongs to all of us and everyone – no one excluded – should be able to enjoy it.”