Steffi Jones, the ambassador for the UEFA women's football development programme, will be looking on with pride at tonight's action in the UEFA Women's Champions League final between Olympique Lyonnais and her former club 1. FFC Frankfurt at the Olympiastadion.
The German women's football legend – also ambassador for the Munich final – has put herself at the service of the women's game in outstanding fashion. Since last autumn she has been helping European football's governing body transmit the message that women's football is on the rise – and playing an increasingly vibrant role in the overall European football landscape.
Jones had already won worldwide acclaim as a central defender, helping Germany win three European titles, Olympic bronze medals in 2000 and 2004, and their first FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003. She won 111 caps for her country and at club level aided Frankfurt to the former UEFA Women's Cup in 2002 and 2006 – scoring in the inaugural final.
After ending her playing career in 2007, Jones was president of the 2011 Women's World Cup organising committee, promoting the tournament in Germany around the globe and cherishing its resounding success. A qualified coach, she then accepted a role as German Football Association (DFB) director of girl's and women's football, as well as taking her ambassadorial post with UEFA.
"It's a great honour for me to be able to travel around for UEFA as an ambassador," Jones told UEFA.com. "The member associations, especially after the Women's World Cup, want to do a lot for youth football. We have noticed that all the countries are catching up. This is why I am very happy that UEFA wishes to invest money in the development of girls' and ladies' football. "
What does Jones see as the biggest challenge? To try to bring the smaller countries to the next level, or to have a look at every single country individually to see what needs to be done? "This is the balancing act that we have to perform, because there are still huge differences and we must adjust that," she reflected.
The UEFA ambassador has no doubt about the biggest attraction of her role. "The promotion of girls' and women's football. Football unites, it makes women stronger in general. These are the topics that we deal with on a daily basis, and women's football can make its contribution."
Ahead of tonight's big game Jones identified the major change in women's football since 2002, when the UEFA Women's Cup was introduced and became the UEFA Women's Champions League. "It's changed because the game has become faster; the conditions and investments have all become more."
"To play in the Champions League has huge significance, and that's why we are happy about the development. It was a huge challenge – the Champions League has a different sound, it has something special to it. It's a really positive development."
Jones has been promoting the Munich final tirelessly, and is looking forward to the game – and to another record-breaking crowd, just as at the Women's World Cup. "It has always been a highlight so far," she said. "It is really the biggest event there is for the clubs."
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