Meet the World Cup stars who are set to play against their girlfriendsJuly 18, 2023
Meet the football stars who are set to compete against their girlfriends for Women’s World Cup glory
- Partners set to compete against each other
- Sam Kerr and Kristie Mewis will lead the way
- Here are the game’s biggest power couples
As the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand draws closer, fans are looking to learn more about their favourite superstars than ever before – and that includes the power couples.
Female football players have faced horrific and grossly stereotypical comments on their sexuality for decades.
A lot of women play with and against their partners, and have done so for many years; with no hint of not giving it their all for their coaches, teammates and fans.
The fact Matildas skipper Kerr felt the need to address and highlight that with hyperbole like ‘we’d (her and partner Kristie Mewis) kill each other’ on the the field speaks to that.
That being said, here are four couples who may well compete against each other on the world’s biggest stage – and are ignoring the haters as they live proud and out loud.
Sam Kerr (Australia) and Kristie Mewis (USA)
American midfielder Kristie Mewis and Matildas skipper Sam Kerr have been together for more than two years and the high-profile pair are packed with chemistry off – and even on – the field
The pair broke the internet when Mewis was photographed consoling Kerr after the USA won the Tokyo Olympics bronze medal match in 2021, effectively announcing to the world their blossoming romance
Kerr and Mewis broke the internet at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, when the Aussie was consoled by her partner on the field after the Matildas lost the bronze medal match in heartbreaking circumstances. Since then, the pair have become one of women’s sports’ most recognisable power couples, and are the Insta-perfect pair many women aspire to be.
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, though. Mewis and her USA teammates thought the self-described ‘s**t-stirrer’ was ‘crazy’ after she tormented them during an international. But the relationship quickly blossomed in Covid via Instagram before one of the more unconventional first dates you’ll hear of: two-weeks of Covid isolation together.
And they fell head over heels in love, and look to still be in the honeymoon phase despite needing to make long distance work between their UK (Chelsea) and US (Gotham FC) bases.
Some female footballers like to keep their relationships on the down low, be it because they are private in general, unsure of their sexuality or fearful of what can be an, at times, horrifically homophobic reaction from fans and even influential figures. But Kerr and Mewis are fiercely passionate about being role models for young gay women – and love sharing their love with the world.
‘I was so proud that she was mine so I wanted to share it. I love her and I was so proud to be her girlfriend,’ Mewis told UK magazine Gaffer on when they went public. ‘We’re not private people. I like sharing my story. I like sharing who I am outside of football. Football is five per cent of my life,’ agreed Kerr.
The Matildas skipper says all is fair in love and war when it comes to the football field – and says the pair would ‘kill each other’ if it came down to it
Such is the obvious love and affection they have for each other, some fans might wonder whether it would mean the pair may hesitate for a split second should they come across each other on the pitch in the knockout stage. Kerr put that very swiftly to bed, in the most Aussie way possible.
‘What I worry about most out of anything is that our coaches or teammates don’t think that we can separate the two. I hope people know that when it’s training time or play time, it doesn’t come into it,’ the fiercely competitive Matildas skipper said.
‘I remember one time in Newcastle (Australia) she came on, we were playing against each other, and we went in on each other. We’d kill each other. But I worry that people think that we’re not serious about our careers.’
When they aren’t on the football period (which is not much of the time in-season!), the self-described couch potatoes will binge a murder mystery, head out for a fancy wine or coffee or scroll through fashion sites on their phone (Mewis is looking to get into the industry).
With the USA and Australia two of the favourites to go all the way, a match-up in the knockout stages is certainly on the cards – and love will surely get the boot if that eventuates.
But they won’t be hiding it from the world, because both Mewis and Kerr see it as their duty to ensure young gay woman know they are normal, and aren’t alone.
‘I think if we can change the way one or two people feel about themselves, they can look at us and see that we’re happy and we’re trying to be as successful as we can and we’re an out gay couple. I think that that’s so important,’ said Mewis.
Ellie Carpenter (Australia) and Danielle van de Donk (Netherlands)
Aussie superstar Ellie Carpenter and Dutch midfielder Danielle van de Donk are teammates at French powerhouse Lyon – but rivals on the international stage
Aussie superstar Carpenter will be one of the main attractions this World Cup as one of the best fullbacks in the world. She plays with breathtaking speed, tenacity and skill from the back half and is one of the great characters off it,
Her partner, Dutch midfielder van de Donk, isn’t half bad either. She’s won a European Championship (2017) and been a World Cup runner-up (2019) and is a sublime distributor linking attack and defence for the world no. 9 side.
On the field at Lyon, the best women’s side on the planet over the last decade, they are a dynamite pairing. And the absolute perfect match off it, with van de Donk telling The Australian recently that she was attracted to Carpenter because they are ‘similar people in life’.
Carpenter grew up in the tiny NSW country town of Cowra, something that is still apparent in the Aussie’s drawl, wicked sense of humour and down-to-earth nature. Van de Donk is from the picturesque, serene Dutch town of Valkensward. And now they’ve bought a house together in Lyon, something the van de Donk said was ‘wild’ and ‘very cool’ given their different journeys to arrive at the same spot.
Van de Donk sits with an injured Carpenter (who tore her ACL) after Lyon won the 2022 Champions League final
When they aren’t tearing it up on the pitch, the pair can often be seen taking in the finer things in life; whether it be in France, Australia or all through continental Europe. Carpenter freely admits despite her country upbringing, she now enjoys treating herself to expensive Louis Vuitton bags as well as regular manicures and eyebrow shaping.
Carpenter was also able to take van de Donk through her home city, Sydney, last year – and said the ferry tour was so special the Dutchwoman keeps talking about it.
‘It’s the best way to see the harbour (by ferry). We went to Taronga Zoo to see the koalas and kangaroos because she’d never seen them either. She still talks about it,’ she said.
It’s very clear the loved-up couple are a perfect match who are completely besotted with each other. The pair have been together for roughly two years, and van de Donk could not be any more glowing in her praise of her superstar partner.
‘She (Carpenter) is the most energetic person I know. She is very, very positive, and off the pitch she just brings a different kind of energy to the room,’ she said.
‘Even when she was injured, the coaches were saying to her, ‘Bring your energy to the team, we need it’.
‘She is already a star but she is just going to get bigger and bigger. She is only 23.’
Like Kerr and Mewis, given the standing of both sides a match-up in the play-offs is certainly likely. And you know Carpenter won’t be holding back from her 100km/hr approach to football.
Pernille Harder (Denmark) and Magdelena Eriksson (Sweden)
Denmark captain Pernille Harder and partner Magdelena Eriksson, a defender for Sweden, have been vocal advocates for gay rights and better visibility for LGBTQI+ people in sport
A superstar trio: Harder (left) with Aussie gun Sam Kerr (centre) and partner Eriksson after a Chelsea win in May. The two partners have since signed with German giants Bayern Munich
Denmark captain Pernille Harder has won just about every individual and team award as one of the best strikers on the planet. Her partner, Swede Magdalena Eriksson, is held in such high standing she captained the star-studded Chelsea side that won 10 trophies during her 180 appearances in blue.
The pair, who have been together for almost 10 years, have since moved to Bayern Munich to chase even more trophies as one of the most talented power couples in world football since meeting while teammates at Swedish club Linkoping.
And they are also well aware of the fact they are role models for gay women everywhere, and even contribute one per cent of their salaries to PlayProud, a global initiative that aims to make sports safer for LGBTQI+ people.
But it wasn’t always that way. The pair were just living their lives as open, proud gay women before they realised people were watching. That was no more obvious after the kiss that broke the internet at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Eriksson had just won the third place playoff with Sweden against England, and as many male athletes have done before, she wandered over to the sideline to embrace Harder, who despite her standing as a Danish legend was supporting her partner by swearing a yellow Sweden jersey.
Social media went into meltdown over the heartwarming scenes, with the two instantly becoming role models for the entire LGBTQI+ community – though that is not why they did it.
The kiss that broke the internet: Eriksson (back to camera) kisses Harder after Sweden won the third place playoff at the 2019 World Cup in France
‘We’ve always just been natural, not so much thinking of being inspirations together, putting pictures up of each other or anything like that. But when we saw that photo and the comments around it, then it was really something; like: ‘We’re role models.’ We had messages from a lot of young people, people of our age, but older people also,’ Harder told The Guardian after the now-famous kiss.
While Eriksson’s upbringing in cosmopolitan Stockholm made coming out a much easier process, Harder said that wasn’t quite the same for her in Denmark.
‘It was a bit like being a homosexual in this small place was weird and not normal, and no one was it. I think it’s important that environments are open and people can talk about it more. Then everyone can just be themselves,’ said the Danish superstar.
For Eriksson, one of world football’s most respected leaders, she is just determined to be someone gay people of all ages can look up to, and know it’s okay to be the way they are.
‘I think that’s when I felt the demand for role models in that way, because of how big it was (kiss at 2019 World Cup) and how many people wrote to me on Instagram saying they looked up to us and how much we’d helped them. That’s when I understood that we’re really powerful together,’ she said.
Soon, they might be forced to be powerful against each other on either side of the football pitch.
Ann-Katrin Berger (Germany) and Jess Carter (England)
Teammates at Chelsea but rivals on the international stage, goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger guards the sticks for Germany while the versatile Jess Carter is a crucial part of England’s stellar squad
When it comes to competing against each other on the world’s biggest stage, Berger and Carter are no strangers. The couple, who got together when reuniting at Chelsea in 2019, were on opposing sides in the 2022 Euros final, where Carter’s Lionesses beat Berger’s German side to win the title.
While the other three in this list of power couples got together in a love-at-first-sight/fairytale romance situation, Carter wasn’t exactly sure of what the now loved-up couple were at first. The two became firm and platonic friends are meeting while playing for Birmingham in 2016, with the couple eventually sharing a flat together.
The English defender had only previously been in a relationship with men, and despite the pair sharing undeniable chemistry, she wasn’t sure what was going on at first.
‘I had broken up with my boyfriend when I moved in, but as far as I knew I was straight,’ Carter told The Guardian last year of their blossoming relationship.
But after organising a date (which Carter initially thought was just as friends), and then taking the plunge by initiating a kiss while the pair were watching a movie at home, Berger had well and truly convinced her Chelsea teammate that the spark was real. And they’ve been inseparable ever since.
The pair got together after reuniting at Chelsea in 2019, with romance soon blossoming despite Jess’ initial confusion about her feelings
Berger has had to overcome two bouts of thyroid cancer since the pair got together, but they are stronger than ever.
And the tables have certianly turned since Carter had to be subtly coaxed into understanding her feelings for Berger. Now it’s the English international who is loud and proud for the world to see.
‘I think I was – and probably still am – more comfortable than Ann is with publicising our relationship, but that is just because Ann is a very private person whereas I am more of a ‘the whole world could know and I wouldn’t really care’ kind of person,’ Carter said in 2021.
‘Over time and because I will say whatever, she has kind of got used to it and goes with it. By seeing that it is normal and you can be whoever you want to be … (it) shows younger people that it is ok to be you.’
And now look at them. After piling on the titles at Chelsea together, they’re now getting ready to compete against each other – again – on the world’s biggest stage.
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