Arsenal defender Noelle Maritz has a different response to most English players when asked who her football heroes were growing up.
‘I loved Mia Haam back then,’ Maritz tells Sportsmail. Hamm was one of the stars of the US national team who won the 1999 World Cup on home turf. Maritz, who was just three years old when at that tournament but is old enough to remember their Gold medal win at the 2004 Olympic Games.
The US were streets ahead of Europe when it came to the women’s game. For many of the current English stars growing up at the same time, they idolised the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen. But Maritz had ready made role models she could look up to.
Arsenal defender Noelle Maritz (above) looked up to Mia Haam when she was younger
‘In America, girls and women’s football is very big and it’s a big hype,’ Maritz says. I think every girl eventually starts to play football which is different in Europe. It was already very professional at a very young age, you were already travelling around.
‘Everything was very early with broadcasting. You would see them [the US players] and they were more present than in Europe. That is changing now, we have more spectators, more people coming to the games. Hopefully the young girls playing now can look up to a few of the women’s players [in Europe].’
Though Maritz was born in America and grew up loving the national team, both her parents are from Switzerland and when Maritz was 10 they moved back to Europe.
Hamm was one of the stars of the US national team who won the 1999 World Cup on home turf
Maritz, who was just three years old when at that tournament (above) but is old enough to remember their Gold medal win at the 2004 Olympic Games
That is why the right back represents the Swiss national team and at the age of 17, she made her senior debut.
‘We moved to Switzerland when I was still quite young and I also went to a boarding school for the Swiss national team for three years. There was no question that I wanted to represent Switzerland. I never questioned that decision at all.’
Her performance at the 2013 Cyprus Cup convinced Wolfsburg manager Ralf Kellermann to sign her and in the space of seven years she had 12 trophies – including the 2014 Champions League.
‘I got into the national team then I got the call from Wolfsburg. It all happened very fast. I loved Wolfsburg, it was a great experience for me. I think because I went so young it helped with my football development because I had the chance to train and play with world class players but also on a personal side I was very independent from a young age.
‘I was very spoiled with trophies and success at Wolfsburg, when I was there we had a good thing going on. Playing in the Champions League and international games really helped me to become the player that I am. I shared a lot of great moments at Wolfsburg.’
Many of the current English stars growing up at the same time idolised the likes of David Beckham (left), Steven Gerrard (right) and Michael Owe
Though Maritz ended her first season at Arsenal without a trophy, this campaign has started promisingly. The Gunners are top of the WSL with six wins from seven games
Though Maritz ended her first season at Arsenal without a trophy, this campaign has started promisingly. The Gunners are top of the WSL with six wins from seven games and are on course to qualify for the last eight of the Champions League.
‘We’ve started this season very well,’ Maritz says. ‘I feel very comfortable in the team with Jonas’ [Eidevall] playing style. I’ve been enjoying it a lot. I think this season we have a very strong team, everybody has been performing at a great level. Hopefully we can continue and keep on progressing.’
This season has seen the full-back form a formidable partnership with Beth Mead down Arsenal’s right flank. Mead has four goals and four assists in the league this season but Martiz was keen to point out she brings more to the side than just her attacking talents.
‘I really enjoy playing with Beth, she’s been in great form. She’s been scoring goals or making assists. It’s been great playing with her on the same side.
‘Everybody is always applauding her power offensively but she’s great defensively too, she helps me out a lot. I think we have a good connection and it’s been working out well for us on the right side.’
This season has seen the full-back (right) form a formidable partnership with Beth Mead down Arsenal’s right flank. Mead has four goals and four assists in the league this season
Maritz (right) will be part of Switzerland’s squad for the Euros next summer and is in for a tough test with games against Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands
Maritz will be part of Switzerland’s squad for the Euros next summer and is in for a tough test with games against Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands – who will have her Arsenal team-mate Vivianne Miedema leading the line.
‘I think nobody likes to defend against Viv!’ Martiz laughs. ‘For sure it will be very challenging for us. I know a lot of players from the Netherlands, they’re an amazing team.
‘It will be very hard for us but I think we have our qualities too. We’re really looking forward to the Euros, I think it’s going to be an amazing event held in England. It’s gonna be tough but we’re all looking forward to it.’
Switzerland’s first game of the Euros against Russia will take place at Leigh Sports Village, the home of Manchester United – who Arsenal play on Sunday. ‘First let’s get a positive result on Sunday,’ Maritz says. ‘And then another for the Euros!’