Jackie Groenen settled down with the Orange women this month in Worsley, a place she knows like the back of her hand as a Manchester United player. The European Championship in England feels like a home tournament for the Dutch midfielder.
Her apartment is a ten-minute drive from the players’ hotel in Worsley, she plays against Portugal in the women’s stadium of Manchester United and the training ground in Carrington is also not unknown to her. In fact, when Greens sets course with the Orange Women to the Stockport County field, she is driving on the road she travels every day as a Manchester United player.
In that familiar environment, the European Championship in England feels for Greens as if she is going to play her second home tournament, after she became European champion in her own country with the Orange women five years ago. “It is a bit similar to 2017,” she says on the terrace of the players’ hotel on Thursday. “All my teammates and family members come to watch.”
The 27-year-old Greens feels completely at ease in England. She has been playing for Manchester United for three years now. “It feels like home at home. In a career you always have to settle in quickly in a city. I like doing that. I like going to restaurants in Manchester, so that you are quickly at home. That is very important to me besides playing football.”
Vivianne Miedema recently said England didn’t feel like her “first home”. “I can’t say that, because then my mother will have a heart attack,” says Groenen with a laugh. “Sometimes when I’m at home with my parents, I say: I’m going home. Then my mother says: ‘Oh, this isn’t a house anymore?’ But I feel very much at home here. This is the first time that I feel completely at home in an environment.”
Jackie Groenen has been playing for Manchester United since 2019.
‘People are very enthusiastic’
Greens think England is a “very pleasant” country to live in for several reasons. This is mainly due to the British population. “People are very enthusiastic. You can also see that by how they stand in football. They are blood fanatics. In the Netherlands they can be very critical, but they are more of this: isn’t this fun?”
“Which is also very typical of England: how often I hear people say that this is the best restaurant ever. If you always have that attitude, it’s very nice. To come home and say: this is the best night ever been.”
For many famous footballers, England also has a downside: the British tabloid press burrows into private life. Groenen says he has “never” had any problems with this. “I don’t know if I want to be a famous person in England. No, I don’t feel that way, we are footballers. But I wouldn’t want to be in the royal family. The British press is very fanatical and wants to push women’s football very much . Every match is live on television. And that only gets more and more.”
That Sky Sports since this season broadcasts the Women’s Super League matches live, it also leads to Greens being recognized more often on the street. “In the area where I live, which is close to the stadium, I am often approached about the match. In the Netherlands it is even more extreme. But I have a great life here.”
Jackie Groenen scored the winning goal against Sweden in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup.
No extra feelings at Sweden, despite goal
For the Greens and the Orange Women, the European Championship starts on Saturday with a group match against Sweden. The tournament really started to come to life for the Manchester United midfielder on Wednesday evening. Then England coach Sarina Wiegman opened the European Championship with a win over Austria at a packed Old Trafford, the stadium of Manchester United.
Groenen watched the first half in the hotel with the entire selection. “I thought it was super cool to see. It is a special stadium and the atmosphere was very impressive. Isn’t it great, Manchester United?” she says with a wink to the reporters. “I’m really looking forward to the games, yes.”
Groenen has fond memories of Sweden: three years ago she scored the winning goal against the Swedes in the semi-finals of the World Cup. However, that highlight did not surface when Sweden rolled out of the box in October in the European Championship draw.
“I actually thought: what a tough group. Sweden really seems like a very good opponent to start against. But it’s not that I thought: I scored against them then. Of course it was a very special moment for me, I never deny that match was amazing† But I’d rather look back at the European Championship than at the World Cup.”