Thursday 07 March 2019, 22:31

Chile's Endler leading from the back

  • Christiane Endler will anchor Chile in their first Women's World Cup appearance

  • The PSG goalkeeper will be in familiar territory at France 2019

  • "We are opening doors for new generations of women"

When Chile goalkeeper Christiane Endler helped her team to a 4-0 win over Argentina at last year’s Copa America, held in her home country, there were no wild celebrations, just an enormous amount of tension and nervous energy.

That’s because her team was on the verge of reaching their first FIFA Women’s World Cup™, but had to wait until later in the evening when Brazil were due to face Colombia. Chile were praying for a Brazil victory that would ensure they would qualify as runners-up. Their prayers were answered as Brazil ran out 3-0 winners, and with that result, La Roja Femenina were going to a World Cup.

“Qualification was something we were looking for for so long – the group has been fighting for this for nearly ten years," Endler said, speaking as the Women's World Cup Trophy Tour stopped in Santiago. “It was very emotional when we knew we were going to the World Cup. I remember everything about that night.”

Endler’s experience no doubt played a crucial part in her team booking its ticket to France, which happens to be where the 27-year-old plays her club football, for Paris Saint-Germain.

In France, Endler is exposed to a culture where women’s football is more established. Her club, along with Lyon, have shown significant support to their women’s football programmes; both regularly qualify and perform well in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

But she revealed that with Chile’s progression and qualification for France 2019, attitudes are starting to change back home towards the team and women's sport.

“For a long time, football was not seen as a sport for women, and we are trying to change that. Now we feel the support of the people and they enjoy watching us.

"It has changed a lot over the last couple of years and that is really satisfying for me. It means the work we are doing now is getting the results we want, and we are maybe opening doors for new generations of women, who might have it a bit easier to achieve in sport in Chile.”

Christiane Endler of Paris Saint-Germain poses for a portrait

While Endler and her team-mates may have had barriers to overcome, she was never short of support within her own family, most from her father, Peter.

Originally from Germany, Endler says her father coming from a country where women’s football is well-supported meant he had a different attitude towards her playing.

“For me it wasn’t so hard because my parents were both fans of sport, so I would play football with my father and my brother, as well as my brother’s friends.

“My dad really liked that I played football, so he got me my first pair of boots when I was about five. He was very proud of me when I played and his friends used to say, ‘wow she can play like that,’ and would ask him to invite me to play with them when I was a bit older.”

Chile are making strides in the women’s game following their World Cup qualification, and have been able to test themselves against some of the world’s best sides in recent months, including matches with holders USA, and Australia – who they beat 3-2 in the first of a two-match series Down Under.

Now Endler and her team-mates hope to push even further with the support of the Chilean Federation, who on Thursday unveiled a dedicated changing room for the women’s team at the country’s national stadium in Santiago.

The dressing room has been introduced to help the team’s preparation for future international matches and for France 2019, where Endler hopes her team can make an impression in Group F alongside USA, Sweden and Thailand.

“I am excited because I know some of the [French] stadiums, having played there with my club," she said. "We know we have a tough group, but the Copa America in Chile showed we have good players.

"If you want to do well, you have to play the best. I want to play them, and I want to beat them.”