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Wieke Kaptein: A young and fearless champion

“Who is a champion to me?” Wieke ponders aloud. “A person who is both themselves and a team player, not necessarily someone who wins prizes.” With her down-to-earth attitude, infectious optimism, and youthful sense of responsibility, it’s evident that she belongs among the champions. And when it comes to awards? Kaptein is a fearless captain navigating the tumultuous waves of professional football.

Wieke Kaptein

To trace the roots of Wieke Kaptein (18), we head towards Hengelo in the east of The Netherlands. Here, the football star was born, raised, and first touched a football at her local club Achilles ‘12. This wasn’t her initial plan, though. “When I was five, I spent exactly one week in gymnastics,” Kaptein begins with a grin. “But then I ran onto the field during my brothers’ football matches, and people suggested that might be more my thing.” They couldn’t have been more right.

The ball didn’t start rolling slowly but certainly rolled. “I always looked forward to playing,” the midfielder recalls. “I was a very energetic girl, and football was my outlet.” Wieke always played in boys’ teams at Achilles ‘12, effortlessly embracing her underdog status. “You’d hear things like, ‘There’s a girl in midfield, so this should be easy.’ It won’t surprise you that these remarks were often retracted before the end of the match.”

Young and Composed

Kaptein joined FC Twente’s youth team, where the club offered her a professional contract at just fifteen years old. The first team followed, as did winning the Eredivisie and the Super Cup in her debut season. We asked Wieke how she dealt with the age difference with her teammates. “I never really had an issue with it,” she explains. “When I joined, the girls immediately welcomed me.” She laughs, “Of course, they sometimes call you baby or jonkie (youngster in Dutch), but that’s part of it. They still do.”

Wieke Kaptein Chelsea

In April 2023, Wieke debuted for the Oranje Leeuwinnen (Dutch National Women’s Team) and was selected for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand aged seventeen. This made the Hengelo native the youngest Dutch international ever to play in a World Cup, for both men and women. As if her achievements weren’t impressive enough, Kaptein also received the prestigious international NXGN9 Award and was named Women’s Eredivisie Talent of the Year last year. Despite Wieke’s modest belief that being a champion isn’t about winning prizes, these accolades are worth mentioning.

The Twente native continues to sail smoothly. She recently secured the ninth league title in FC Twente’s history and is set to leave Twente with her head held high. That’s good news, as clubs across the North Sea are eagerly awaiting her arrival at Chelsea. But first things first: “I want to get my diploma before going abroad, so I’ll finish my ‘Sport and Exercise’ studies at Johan Cruyff College by the end of this month.”

Do you want to read the full interview? You can soon order Life After Football ISSUE 81, which is set to be released in June 2024.