Frauen | 25/03/2020

FC striker

Amber Barrett: “I immediately fell in love”

The 1. FC Köln and Republic of Ireland goalscorer spoke to about her time in Köln so far, keeping fit with the new coaching staff, Coronavirus and Ireland’s form in the qualifiers.

Amber, you’ve been in Germany for a while now – how are you finding it?

I really, really like Germany. The language is a bit difficult, but I’m working on it every day. In terms of the culture and Köln, I immediately fell in love with the place and I’m very happy here. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. The Dom is a real symbol of Köln and the city. I had to go back in again to try and take it in again. It was unbelievable.

What really struck me was how much the club means to the people. It’s amazing. Everyone, as soon as you put on the FC colours, they know who you are and they’re all saying hello, FC and whatever. That was the first day I’ve gone running in the club gear and it was incredible how close the city is when it comes to the club.

You get told that Köln itself is a culture, and before I left, lots of people were saying that it’s a big family club. Until you get here, you don’t really appreciate to what extent that is. The men’s team is selling out, there’s almost 2,000 people coming to our games. You see how many people just come to watch training. Then you realise what the club means to the people.

How big of a decision was it to move to Köln? You had finished your degree and were scoring for fun in Ireland – it must have been a real step outside the comfort zone?

It was, but it was one I wanted to take. The only Language was the initial barrier that was putting me off the move. But gradually, and slowly but surely, I’m starting to get there. It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss and couldn’t turn down. Köln are a club known across Europe, a huge club and one that is going in the right direction with both the men and the women’s teams.

My grandfather had worked in Germany before, but not Köln. He still spoke of the city, however, what it was like and of course Karneval. It was good to have that advice and experience from a family member who had been in the country before. You can tell how proud people are to be from here and what it means to the city and for the club – having played GAA back at home, I completely identify with that passion and loyalty. I feel very at home here.

We’ll start with the inevitable – the Coronavirus. How are you dealing with things?

It’s not been too bad so far. Of course, I miss football, training and everything that comes with it. But it’s an exceptional situation and not one that we ever expected to see in our lives. We are where we are, and we’re dealing with it. I’m trying to keep busy with a few different things. It’s let me concentrate on learning German, which I’m very happy about and I’m putting a lot of time into it.

Before, I maybe was getting half an hour in but now I’m committed to doing an least an hour or 90 minutes. That way, I can communicate even better on the pitch. Aside from losing German and keeping to our fitness plan, I’ve also been learning Kölsch with #DailyKölsch. It’s a really interesting dialect and I’m a big fan of Et kütt, wie et kütt – I think that sums up the situation quite well. We have to accept it and get on with things, and stay at home.

Has it given you a chance to focus or enjoy other things, that you don’t normally do?

I think I’ve managed to find and explore every inch of my apartment since the measures came in here (laughs). It’s not been easy, but it’s given me a great chance to work on my German and I’ve taken that. Otherwise, it’s given me a chance to read a little more and get through a few books that I’ve been meaning to read over the last few months.

With the fitness plan that we have, it’s given me a good chance to get to grips with the city and the layout a bit more. I can run to Geißbockheim and the stadium no problem, which is a start. Köln is a really nice place to run around and, if anything, it’s been nice to get about when not too many people are around and get my bearings a little bit better.

Away from how important it is to take Corona seriously – how frustrating was it to have the big games against Duisburg and Jena postponed, again?

Of course, everyone should stay indoors and listen to the authorities. That much is clear. But to have the game against Duisburg called when we were meant to be back playing was a big blow. We had put in some solid work with Sascha Glass and Mirella Junker in the Winter Break and had been ready and raring to go for the restart. It was majorly frustrating for all of us after all that build-up.

To have so many games called off in such quick succession is something I’m not really used to. I don’t think I’ve ever had a match postponed because of wind. Obviously the storms and the Coroanvirus are something we can’t control. We just have to focus on ourselves and against Duisburg, Jena and Leverkusen, make sure get points in those games. With the rest, we have to work on doing the same.

How have you been keeping fit through the break?

Mirella (assistant coach) has given out a fitness plan to keep us going. It’s definitely been tough, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I wasn’t used to the long distance runs. Normally, in pre-season, we always focus on short, sharp stuff and sprints. But I did some cross-country running in school, so I suppose it’s a bit more like that. It’s been good fun and a nice distraction from everything.

We’ve been going through it for a week now and it’s been a challenge. It’s tough because you don’t have that goal in front of you, like in pre-season or in the Winter Break to aim for. This time it’s different and the motivation can be as much of a challenge as the actual fitness. But I think it’ll pay off when we do get back to football.

What do you make of the new coaching staff?

Sascha and Mirella have been great since they’ve came in. They’ve brought a real drive with them and given us a boost in the relegation battle. Sascha says things as they are, but also gives plenty of praise when things go well. It’s nice to have that, because you appreciate it even more and know when you’ve done well. He’s also been encouraging me to learn more German, so that we can communicate quicker on the pitch. He’s been very supportive in that aspect with me. 

But I’m still very thankful for everything that Willi Breuer did for me. He was the one who signed me and brought me to Köln in the first place, and I appreciate that a lot. He brought a lot to the team and was a real character.

Things have been going pretty well for Ireland in qualifying this year, too.

From an Irish perspective, things have been very good. We’ve had a positive start to qualifying and are top of the group, and haven’t lost yet either. We’re ahead of Germany, but not played them yet. It’s a shame that the game in April against them has been postponed, especially after we’d been in such good form. But Germany are still one of the favourites – not just for the group, but for the tournament.

We still have to play them home and away, and play in Ukraine. We’re not sure if that one will take place, but it’ll be one of the toughest games in the group. We beat them in the home game which was a big boost, as they’re the second seeds. The only dropped points were against Greece, so it was important to beat them in the last international break and win in Montenegro too.

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Total table
131. FSV Mainz 0537
141. FC Köln36
15FC Augsburg36