Steffi Jones loves, lives 'the beautiful game'
Steffi Jones has one of the best jobs on the planet. Which is fitting, given that Jones has one of the best soccer resumes on the planet, too.
Born to a German mother and African-American father in the now non-existent West Germany, Jones started working on her resume as a 4-year-old, kicking around a soccer ball. She joined a team at 7 and played throughout her youth, quickly progressing through the German club system.
In 2000, the standout defender left her home to play alongside American phenom Mia Hamm with the Washington Freedom of the now-defunct WUSA.
Two years later, Jones returned to Germany, where she played for FFC Frankfurt for the next seven years. During a storied career on the field, she amassed numerous victories, two UEFA Women's championships, two Olympic bronze medals and one FIFA Women's World Cup title. Off the field, Jones kept herself busy, writing the autobiographical "Der Kick des Lebens" (The Kick of Life).
Not content to live the good life as a published author and premier soccer player, Jones retired in 2007 and moved into the business world. Her first gig? President of the organizing committee of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Since taking on this role, Jones has been devoted to getting Germany ready for the hundreds of thousands of fans who will descend on the country this summer to watch the world's best women's soccer players in action. With kickoff less than three months away, Jones now spends most of her time in ambassador-mode, touring the 15 nations that will play in this year's Cup.
espnW caught up with her at one of the U.S. stops, a youth soccer clinic in Harlem, N.Y., and asked her a few questions about her life and the upcoming World Cup.
Fay Wells: How will this Women's World Cup will be different than Women's World Cups of years past?
Steffi Jones: Each World Cup is its own chapter. There's lots of pressure because people want to compare this event to 2006 FIFA [men's] World Cup, which did really well. But this is different because it is more for families and fans to have fun. Also, there are new teams, like Equatorial Guinea ... anything could happen.
FW: What are your major goals for the event?
SJ: There are a few. We definitely want the event to be better than ever. We really want everyone who comes to a game to feel very welcome in Germany. We want to build anticipation and ultimately create an exciting atmosphere and experience for all of the fans.
FW: What is your biggest hope for the event?
SJ: To set a milestone for Germany and contribute to the development and exposure of women's soccer worldwide. We really want to showcase this beautiful game and create an amazing, exciting experience throughout the event.
... And for Germany to make the final!
FW: What's been the biggest surprise so far?
SJ: The ticket sales and fan support have been incredible. So far, more than 500,000 tickets have been sold, and the opening game is almost sold out. The national sponsors were a pleasant surprise as well -- all six of them committed very early in the process.
FW: What's been your favorite place to visit on the 15-nation welcome tour (for all qualifying countries)?
SJ: I love them all. Each country I visit and each person is unique and very special. It's been amazing to meet presidents of countries and heads of state, but it's been incredible to meet the young players as well. They are the future of soccer.
FW: Any special messages to women/female athletes reading this who are inspired by your story?
SJ: Be self-confident. Always give it your best. Never stop and keep going for your goal.
FW: One word to describe this year's event?
SJ: I'll give you more than one. The "Beautiful Side of 20Eleven." It's the marketing slogan, but it's also what we believe in. We want people to experience the Women's World Cup in Germany, and to see the beauty of the country both on and off the field.