Last updated: 25 July 2022
3 min read

In Partnership with Rebel Girls

Lieke Martens

Lieke Martens ran rings around boys’ teams as a kid. Find out how she went on to make her pro debut at only 16 years old!

Lieke Martens. Midfielder, Dutch. Born: 16 December, 1992.

Lieke Martens. Midfielder, Dutch. Born: 16 December, 1992.

Lieke knew she wanted to be a professional football player, but she wasn’t sure how to get there. Growing up, she only saw male footballers on TV, and there weren’t any teams for girls anywhere near her hometown in the Netherlands.

Lieke was determined to play, so she joined a boys’ team. The boys were skeptical. They didn’t think that she could keep up. Lieke had to work extra hard to prove she was a valuable part of the team. The boys had to admit it: Her lightning speed and jaw-dropping goals were impressive. But even after she won over her own team, boys on other teams didn’t want her on the pitch. They pulled her long brown ponytail and called her names. The bullying made Lieke angry. “I’’ll just work even harder”, she thought.

“I’m really happy I can inspire those little girls and let them see what you can do if you work for it.”

Football Stories: Lieke Martens

She kept getting better and better. . . and better. At 16, Lieke joined her first professional team.

Her breakout performance came in 2017 at the Women’s Euro. She made two crucial assists and scored three goals, including a game-winning shot against Belgium. In that same match against Belgium, her Cruyff turn had everyone talking. In one swift move, she faked out two players, spinning the ball with her heel back towards the goal. She was chosen as Player of the Tournament. Lieke held her silver trophy up high as cameras flashed. She was beaming.

Football Stories: Lieke Martens

When she plays in front of sold-out crowds, Lieke feels proud that women’s football is getting the attention it deserves. “When I was young, I had men who were my role models”, she says. “I really feel I have that role now and I want to show girls what they can achieve.”

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lllustration by Bodil Jane

Originally published: 25 July 2022