GIULIA GWINN

‘She had to take life by the horns and make the best of it’ - Giulia Gwinn starring again after recovering from injury hell 

By Amee Ruszkai

Presented by

A lot can change in a year. It’s something Germany star Giulia Gwinn knows very well – in both good and bad circumstances.

A year was more than enough time to completely change her life in 2019. She began it as an exciting young prospect making waves with Freiburg. On January 9, 2020, she was named Germany’s Player of the Year. In the time between, she signed for Bayern Munich, played at a Women’s World Cup and collected the tournament’s Best Young Player award.

Her trajectory has been one of almost constant ascendancy, a talented young player continuously able to adjust to the next step and make her mark. But 2020 would bring her a challenge much greater than those faced before.

It was September 19 and Gwinn was starting for Germany's senior team. That had become the norm now for the then-21-year-old. Her game had matured massively since her debut in late 2017, in every department. She was not just one of the most exciting young players in Germany anymore, but just one of the most exciting players, outright, across the whole of Europe.

GIULIA GWINN

‘She had to take life by the horns and make the best of it’ - Giulia Gwinn starring again after recovering from injury hell 

By Amee Ruszkai

Presented by

A lot can change in a year. It’s something Germany star Giulia Gwinn knows very well – in both good and bad circumstances.

A year was more than enough time to completely change her life in 2019. She began it as an exciting young prospect making waves with Freiburg. On January 9, 2020, she was named Germany’s Player of the Year. In the time between, she signed for Bayern Munich, played at a Women’s World Cup and collected the tournament’s Best Young Player award.

Her trajectory has been one of almost constant ascendancy, a talented young player continuously able to adjust to the next step and make her mark. But 2020 would bring her a challenge much greater than those faced before.

It was September 19 and Gwinn was starting for Germany's senior team. That had become the norm now for the then-21-year-old. Her game had matured massively since her debut in late 2017, in every department. She was not just one of the most exciting young players in Germany anymore, but just one of the most exciting players, outright, across the whole of Europe.

However, just past the half hour mark in a UEFA Women's Euro qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament. For a player who had never experienced an injury so serious before, it would be a real test of her character.

The old saying, though, is that you learn more through adversity than from success. The journey Gwinn would go through to get back onto the pitch, 336 days later, would certainly endorse that mantra.

Gwinn was playing for FV Ravensburg when Birgit Bauer first saw her play. Bauer has worked at SC Freiburg since its women’s set-up was founded back and had made the short journey to watch this promising 14-year-old take part in a training session with her boys’ team.

Impressed by the youngster’s speed and technique, two years later, she would help bring her to Freiburg, where she would play in the Frauen-Bundesliga.

It was a big move. It would require Gwinn to leave home at 16 years old. It would take her “out of [her] comfort zone”.

“I had to learn to take care of myself and become more independent,” Gwinn tells GOAL. “I joined a women’s team after playing with boys until I was 16 and I made my first steps in the Bundesliga. I was able to develop in the best way possible back in that time.”

She developed physically, needing to be “more robust” for the Bundesliga, in Bauer’s words, and quickly became a key player for a team that finished fourth in the league that season.

“She always had a clear idea of what she wanted. She showed her ambition to absolutely want to achieve this and did everything to achieve it,” Bauer recalls.

After four seasons with the club, she was ready for the next step, ready to “join an even more ambitious club”.

“At Bayern I can - and I have to - compete with the best players in Europe, which makes me stronger,” Gwinn adds. “We demand success from ourselves and are never satisfied with the status quo. You always want to improve, achieve more and have success.”

The 2020-21 season was Bayern’s most successful to date. It saw the club bring home a first Frauen-Bundesliga title in five years, while also reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League, something it had only done once before.

Unfortunately for Gwinn, it was one she watched mostly from the sidelines. While her team-mates were working towards titles, her focus was on being able to run again, jump again.

“There’s a big difference between working with a whole team or working on your own in rehab,” Gwinn says. “At first it was quite hard, because it seemed so far away to be able to come back.”

In a documentary Bayern Munich produced about her comeback, her father recalled the day she underwent the first big step: surgery.

"Now, after surgery, she's going to be a real pain for the first few days,” he recalled being told. “And she was. But that's normal for the pros. When they're torn from their normal lives, they're really out of sorts at first.

“I had taken Giulia home and she was really... yes, almost mean to me and then I said a few harsh words to her. Then she started crying and during the crying it turned into laughter and from then on, it was okay.

“She realised the situation she was in and she knew she now just had to take life by the horns and make the best of it."

“I fought it and developed a high motivation to go through the process,” Gwinn remembers. “And you learn that you are actually not alone – I’ve had the best support from the club, the team and everyone around me.”

Jovana Damnjanovic, Bayern’s Serbian forward who had the same horrible injury news just a few months earlier, was a huge part of that support system. Little touches by the team, like running over to celebrate goals with Gwinn on the sideline, went a long way too.

The motivation needed for such an arduous comeback might have been difficult to find in such a dark time, but there was no doubt it existed in such a driven, ambitious player and, slowly but surely, she was on her way back.

Gwinn flew to the United States last summer for Bayern’s pre-season tour. It was there she entered a match for the first time. A few weeks later, she started a competitive game. There have only been four games since in which she’s not been in Bayern’s line-up.

“I realised that I was able to fight back and I have more self-confidence now,” Gwinn says, reflecting on the positives from the toughest period of her career. Damnjanovic describes her as “more grown-up” now.

“I appreciate the normal or small things in life,” Gwinn adds, “like every training and being part of a great team.”

Had the UEFA Women’s Euro not been delayed a year by Covid-19, we would not have seen Gwinn there last summer. It’s telling of what she's been through in the last 18 months that when GOAL asks about her aims for the tournament, she starts with: “I’m happy to be able to take part.”

Germany will be a front-runner, having won the title a record eight times. The team crashed out in the quarter-finals of the last edition though - as they did at the 2019 World Cup. Is Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's side ready to be challenging again? 

February’s Arnold Clark Cup should be a good litmus test, with Germany to face England, Canada and Spain.

“After the World Cup qualifiers, with lots of games against smaller teams, the Arnold Clark Cup will be a good chance to see how good we actually are,” Gwinn believes.

The 22-year-old is one of five Bayern players in the squad – the same number selected who have passed through Freiburg. Two of those – Klara Buhl and Lina Magull – are with her now in Munich. Sara Dabritz also joined Bayern from Freiburg, before switching to Paris Saint-Germain in 2019. The fifth is Merle Frohms of Eintracht Frankfurt, who Gwinn played with for one season.

“Of course, the club and myself are happy when such players take their first steps in professional football with us,” Bauer, entering her 31st year at Freiburg, says, reflecting on the role the club has played in Gwinn’s career. “I would be even more happy if we could keep such players in our club, but that's dreaming.

“But seriously, I am very happy that she is making her way and that some of her goals have already been achieved – and she will continue to achieve them.

“Personally, I'm happy that we still have a bit of contact. I think that she has stayed ‘normal’ and will continue to follow her goals. I wish Giulia the best from the bottom of my heart.

“I'll be proud when we win the European Championship in England in the summer and we have players like Giulia in the German team. Then SC Freiburg could also contribute something - because Giulia is not the only one in the national team with a Freiburg past.”

Tickets to watch England, Germany, Spain and Canada play in the Arnold Clark Cup are available now.

Matches are being broadcast live in the UK on ITV.

However, just past the half hour mark in a UEFA Women's Euro qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament. For a player who had never experienced an injury so serious before, it would be a real test of her character.

The old saying, though, is that you learn more through adversity than from success. The journey Gwinn would go through to get back onto the pitch, 336 days later, would certainly endorse that mantra.

Gwinn was playing for FV Ravensburg when Birgit Bauer first saw her play. Bauer has worked at SC Freiburg since its women’s set-up was founded back and had made the short journey to watch this promising 14-year-old take part in a training session with her boys’ team.

Impressed by the youngster’s speed and technique, two years later, she would help bring her to Freiburg, where she would play in the Frauen-Bundesliga.

It was a big move. It would require Gwinn to leave home at 16 years old. It would take her “out of [her] comfort zone”.

“I had to learn to take care of myself and become more independent,” Gwinn tells GOAL. “I joined a women’s team after playing with boys until I was 16 and I made my first steps in the Bundesliga. I was able to develop in the best way possible back in that time.”

She developed physically, needing to be “more robust” for the Bundesliga, in Bauer’s words, and quickly became a key player for a team that finished fourth in the league that season.

“She always had a clear idea of what she wanted. She showed her ambition to absolutely want to achieve this and did everything to achieve it,” Bauer recalls.

After four seasons with the club, she was ready for the next step, ready to “join an even more ambitious club”.

“At Bayern I can - and I have to - compete with the best players in Europe, which makes me stronger,” Gwinn adds. “We demand success from ourselves and are never satisfied with the status quo. You always want to improve, achieve more and have success.”

The 2020-21 season was Bayern’s most successful to date. It saw the club bring home a first Frauen-Bundesliga title in five years, while also reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League, something it had only done once before.

Unfortunately for Gwinn, it was one she watched mostly from the sidelines. While her team-mates were working towards titles, her focus was on being able to run again, jump again.

“There’s a big difference between working with a whole team or working on your own in rehab,” Gwinn says. “At first it was quite hard, because it seemed so far away to be able to come back.”

In a documentary Bayern Munich produced about her comeback, her father recalled the day she underwent the first big step: surgery.

"Now, after surgery, she's going to be a real pain for the first few days,” he recalled being told. “And she was. But that's normal for the pros. When they're torn from their normal lives, they're really out of sorts at first.

“I had taken Giulia home and she was really... yes, almost mean to me and then I said a few harsh words to her. Then she started crying and during the crying it turned into laughter and from then on, it was okay.

“She realised the situation she was in and she knew she now just had to take life by the horns and make the best of it."

“I fought it and developed a high motivation to go through the process,” Gwinn remembers. “And you learn that you are actually not alone – I’ve had the best support from the club, the team and everyone around me.”

Jovana Damnjanovic, Bayern’s Serbian forward who had the same horrible injury news just a few months earlier, was a huge part of that support system. Little touches by the team, like running over to celebrate goals with Gwinn on the sideline, went a long way too.

The motivation needed for such an arduous comeback might have been difficult to find in such a dark time, but there was no doubt it existed in such a driven, ambitious player and, slowly but surely, she was on her way back.

Gwinn flew to the United States last summer for Bayern’s pre-season tour. It was there she entered a match for the first time. A few weeks later, she started a competitive game. There have only been four games since in which she’s not been in Bayern’s line-up.

“I realised that I was able to fight back and I have more self-confidence now,” Gwinn says, reflecting on the positives from the toughest period of her career. Damnjanovic describes her as “more grown-up” now.

“I appreciate the normal or small things in life,” Gwinn adds, “like every training and being part of a great team.”

Had the UEFA Women’s Euro not been delayed a year by Covid-19, we would not have seen Gwinn there last summer. It’s telling of what she's been through in the last 18 months that when GOAL asks about her aims for the tournament, she starts with: “I’m happy to be able to take part.”

Germany will be a front-runner, having won the title a record eight times. The team crashed out in the quarter-finals of the last edition though - as they did at the 2019 World Cup. Is Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's side ready to be challenging again? 

February’s Arnold Clark Cup should be a good litmus test, with Germany to face England, Canada and Spain.

“After the World Cup qualifiers, with lots of games against smaller teams, the Arnold Clark Cup will be a good chance to see how good we actually are,” Gwinn believes.

The 22-year-old is one of five Bayern players in the squad – the same number selected who have passed through Freiburg. Two of those – Klara Buhl and Lina Magull – are with her now in Munich. Sara Dabritz also joined Bayern from Freiburg, before switching to Paris Saint-Germain in 2019. The fifth is Merle Frohms of Eintracht Frankfurt, who Gwinn played with for one season.

“Of course, the club and myself are happy when such players take their first steps in professional football with us,” Bauer, entering her 31st year at Freiburg, says, reflecting on the role the club has played in Gwinn’s career. “I would be even more happy if we could keep such players in our club, but that's dreaming.

“But seriously, I am very happy that she is making her way and that some of her goals have already been achieved – and she will continue to achieve them.

“Personally, I'm happy that we still have a bit of contact. I think that she has stayed ‘normal’ and will continue to follow her goals. I wish Giulia the best from the bottom of my heart.

“I'll be proud when we win the European Championship in England in the summer and we have players like Giulia in the German team. Then SC Freiburg could also contribute something - because Giulia is not the only one in the national team with a Freiburg past.”

Tickets to watch England, Germany, Spain and Canada play in the Arnold Clark Cup are available now.

Matches are being broadcast live in the UK on ITV.