Groenen: Judo prepared me for the pressure of big games

    Groenen: Judo prepared me for the pressure of big games

    3 Jul 2020 11:50    Athlete Instagram


    Top football player Jackie Groenen will readily admit it: he’s the daddy of football fanatics. Her father Jef played for Willem II. He, himself, made it to the Dutch lower leagues, but never got to fulfil his fantasy of wearing oranje in a major tournament. Daughter Jackie made to the FIFA World Cup final and was one of the most important players in the team.

    That dream, he decided, would be lived through his son, whom he'd name Jack. Jack never arrived. Jackie's sister Merel did in mid-1993. Jackie followed 18 months later. After watching Jack play in a match, Merel proclaimed that she wanted to become a footballer. Jackie, then just three, said she wanted the same.

    Soon, Jack had quit his job to focus on flowering his girls' gifts. The sisters would watch videos of Johan Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp as their father drove them all across Belgium, where they grew up, to play football. When relentless rain impeded their practise, Jack risked a rollicking from his missus Lisette and built a six-by-five-metre pitch inside the family home.

    Was Jack’s slog justified? Well, Merel became a professional footballer. Jackie did even better. “I was sure Jackie was going to be an Olympic champion in 2016,” said her father.

    Jackie, who won bronze at the European Cadet Judo Championships in 2010, played in the what was a virtual playoff for a place at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016. Vivianne Miedema had the Netherlands on the cusp of qualification, but Olivia Schough‘s equaliser, and the remarkable reflexes of Hedvig Lindahl, silenced Rotterdam and sent Sweden through.

    Yet but it wasn’t orchestrating play on the Maracana grass that Jack envisioned Jackie winning gold, but executing Ronda Rousey-patented hip throws, valley drops and hell strangles on Igusa-straw tatamis. Jackie Groenen was, indeed, a five-time Dutch judo youth champion and one of Europe's finest judokas as a cadet.

    Jackie ultimately quit judo to focus on football, and she’s in line to finally participate in the Olympics next year. On the anniversary of the wonder goal that sent the Netherlands into the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ Final, caught up with the midfielder.

    This article was originally published on

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