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“Unfortunately, not a lot has changed for girls in football.”

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PUMA CEO Arne Freundt and Alexandra Popp, the captain of the Germany national football team, spoke about leadership and the challenges of women in football. The video interview is part of the sports company’s digital annual report, which was published on March 18 on about.puma.com.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20240319731548/en/

Voted Germany’s footballer of the year three times, Alexandra is one of the most prominent ambassadors for women’s football and she is known for her skill and charismatic leadership on the pitch. She started off her career playing in a mixed team, and she distinctly recalled how girls were often belittled and treated unfairly on the pitch.

“Football is still pretty tough for girls. The boys in my team were cool. But our opponents were another story. They laughed at you. They said: look, they have a girl in their team, we’ll beat them easily,” Alexandra said. “Or when you play and you dribble past the first guy, maybe past the second guy and then the third guy fouls you hard and knocks you off your feet. In a very nasty way. And you have the parents on the sidelines who cheer him on. If you hear how girls are still being treated at some of the clubs, not a lot has changed.”

Arne said her story showed how much there is still to be done to create a level playing field for women in football.

“Your story is very inspiring and had a huge impact on me. I had thought and hoped that our society would be more open and judge players on their skills and performance and not on their gender,” Arne said on his LinkedIn channel. “It clearly shows that we have still a huge way to go. As a sports company we are 100% committed to support trailblazers like you who prove the haters and doubters wrong.”

In spite of the difficult time as a youth player, Alexandra believes the challenges early in her career gave her the thick skin necessary to persevere in her long and successful career.

“I totally get the girls who say: I don’t want that,” she said. “Because it was the path I chose to follow, I can now say that those years helped me build up a certain resilience and a certain mentality. Maybe it was what made me the type and the character I am today when I’m on the pitch.”

When it comes to leadership, Alex said she believes that the necessary skills were part of her mindset early on in her career, but she noted that she still had a lot to learn once she was asked to captain the team.

“I needed a year to grow into that position, especially when it came to communication,” Alexandra said. “As a player, I benefited from tough, straightforward advice. And I thought, well I’ll do it exactly the same way. But that really backfired with some of the players. I had to learn that.”

Arne, who became PUMA CEO in 2022, said he quickly discovered how much he enjoyed leading a team and developing people to reach their full potential.

“My first team was quite small, just two employees,” Arne said. “But I already really enjoyed it back then, to lead them, to develop them and to see that you have an impact. You make them better at what they do.”

Asked to give advice to young people who want to become CEOs themselves, Arne said they should first and foremost follow their passion.

“Look for something that you really enjoy doing. That intrinsically motivates you,” Arne said. “That gives you energy and moves you forward. Once you have found that, there are no further barriers to making you successful.”

Alexandra will captain Germany at the Olympic Football Tournament in Paris this year.

The video of the full interview is available at https://annual-report.puma.com

PUMA

PUMA is one of the world’s leading sports brands, designing, developing, selling and marketing footwear, apparel and accessories. For more than 75 years, PUMA has relentlessly pushed sport and culture forward by creating fast products for the world’s fastest athletes. PUMA offers performance and sport-inspired lifestyle products in categories such as Football, Running and Training, Basketball, Golf, and Motorsports. It collaborates with renowned designers and brands to bring sport influences into street culture and fashion. The PUMA Group owns the brands PUMA, Cobra Golf and stichd. The company distributes its products in more than 120 countries, employs about 20,000 people worldwide, and is headquartered in Herzogenaurach/Germany.

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Contact information

Media Contact: Kerstin Neuber – PUMA Corporate Communications – kerstin.neuber@puma.com

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