Turid Knaak was born on January 24th, 1991 in Essen, Germany. The current Atlético Madrid player has 280 Frauen-Bundesliga appearances to her name and has made 15 appearances for the German national team. But the forward’s career isn’t as usual as you might think. There’s a significant difference to other professional footballer’s careers. But let us start from the beginning.
Knaak gained her first experience on a football pitch at her local Club SC Rellinghausen.
She joined the girl’s youth department of FCR Duisburg in 2001, after spending some time at Frauen-Bundesliga club SGS Essen which she had joined in 2003. In 2007 she won the German U17 championship with Duisburg where she scored the match-winning goal in a 1-0 win against Bayern München in the final. At the age of 16, she made her debut in the Frauen-Bundesliga after going through the youth stages at FCR Duisburg.
In 2009 the team won the UEFA Women‘s Cup which is today’s UEFA Women’s Champions League. She was also able to win the DFB-Pokal twice with FCR Duisburg, in 2009 and again in 2010.
After two more years with the club, she joined Bayer Leverkusen where she stayed for 6 years. During her time at Leverkusen, she got loaned out to WSL club Arsenal on a two-month deal, from July to August in 2014. One of the highlights of her short spell at the Gunners was scoring two goals in a 7-0 win against the London Bees in the Continental Cup.
From 2017 to 2020 she contributed to SGS Essen’s two most successful league campaigns ever. After playing the DFB-Pokal final with Essen in 2020, she signed a contract with Atletico Madrid. In the 20/21 season, she added another trophy to her list by winning the Supercopa de Espana Femenina with the Spanish club. The 30-year-old has 31 appearances in all competitions for Los Colchoneros to her name so far.
As for her international career, Knaak has gone through all the youth stages of the DFB, beginning from the U15.
During her time in the U15 squad, she made 5 appearances and scored 5 goals which made her the record goal-scorer of this youth stage, to date.
Actually, she has a quite successful youth international history. With the U 17 team, she won Euros in 2008. She added the U 20 Women’s World Cup trophy in 2010 and also finished the UEFA Women’s U19 Championship as joint top-goalscorer alongside Dutch winger Lieke Martens in the same year.
The Essen-born received her first call-up for the first German national team in 2015 but didn’t make an appearance during that camp. After returning to her domestic club from the national team camp, Knaak, unfortunately, broke her tibia and fibula in a friendly game against PEC Zwolle. The injury kept her off the pitch for quite a long time and she was only able to make her comeback on 14.12.2016 in a league game with Leverkusen.
The national team debut came two and a half years later on April 10th, 2018 in a World Cup qualification game against Slovenia. On June 10th, she scored her first goal for the German national team in a friendly against Canada.
Her first, and until now only major tournament with the national team was the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, where she reached the quarterfinal with the team.
But what is so special about her?
Throughout her whole football career, Knaak has always invested much time in her own education by combining it with football. When she played for Leverkusen, she started a bachelor’s degree program in “Special Needs Education” at the University of Cologne with the aim of becoming a teacher. She finished her studies in 2016 but knew that a teacher’s job would be difficult to combine with her ongoing professional football career. She, therefore, decided to work as a research assistant at the university rather than getting a teacher’s job at a school. Her employment at the university allowed her to manage her working time much more freely and also gave her the opportunity to do a doctorate. In her time as a research assistant and while working on her doctoral thesis, she gained her first experience in teaching by lecturing at the university in the subject “Social Pedagogics.”
However, she has had to put a lot of effort into managing her two careers. This included driving straight to training from work without stopping at home in between. Already during the World Cup in 2019, the Essen-born was invested in her doctoral thesis. Knaak’s hard work on her doctorate degree paid off two weeks ago when she was supposed to defend her doctoral thesis in a virtual examination to finally get her doctorate. She rushed home from the training session at her club Atletico Madrid but arrived home at her apartment without a functioning WiFi. She had to get help from a mobile phone hotspot to make it work, which it luckily did. Knaak successfully obtained her doctorate and is now officially the first doctor ever who will play for the German national team (male and female).
The thesis’s topic is the importance and promotion of fundamental writing skills of students with learning disabilities. Five individual studies and one connecting text have the 30-year-old written over the years. Her dissertation advisor admitted that 80% of the contenders for a doctorate give up because of the high stress and wants to emphasize Turid Knaak’s achievement therewith.
As a result of obtaining her doctorate, the DFB has reached out to her regarding her name on the back of the national team shirt. She was seriously asked if she wanted to have “Dr. Knaak“ on her shirt. However, she decided against it to keep things as they are because she likes to separate her two jobs from each other. But she can imagine getting one of the “Dr. Knaak“ shirts as a memento.
During the DFB-Pokal draw, live on German TV, in October 2019, where Knaak assisted the draw as a special guest, the German national goalkeeper coach, Andreas Köpke was asked if the men’s team player were also able to manage such a career as Knaak did. Köpke replied, “We train so much, there is no time for any other professional career!”. Knaak was obviously quite perplexed about that answer and just added with a nervous laugh, “We also!”. Rightly, the occasion got much attention in the German media afterwards and the goalkeeper coach was widely criticized for his statement.
Her contract with Atletico Madrid expires this summer and her future is yet undecided. Though, Knaak will definitely be wanting to play professional football for a few more years professional before fully moving on with her second career.