Interview: Belgium and Manchester City’s Tessa Wullaert

Manchester City are currently top of the Women’s Super League, they finished second last season and are hoping to take the spot at the top this season. I was able to talk to Belgium captain and City attacker Tessa Wullaert about what it is like to captain her country and how Nick Cushing helped her develop as a player.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself as well as your experience at youth football?
My name is Tessa and I play for Manchester City and I played for Wolfsburg before that and before that, I started playing with the boys when I was about five until I was fifteen. When I was 16 I joined the first team of girls SV Zulte Waregem and then I went to RSC Anderlecht, Standard de Liege and then I went professional to Germany and then to England. I’m an attacker but when I was 15 and played with the boys I was a central defender. No one’s going to believe me when I tell them that but yeah I was. I can also be a winger or a number 10 in the midfield so all attacking positions suit me. I don’t have a club that I support or a team, I look at football on TV but I don’t really support any teams.

You captain Belgium, what is it like to be able to lead your country?
It’s been a year now since I’ve been captain of the national team. It’s a great honour for me and I think its really nice that your captain of your team and you get to lead them on the pitch. It also takes responsibility with you, you have to stand up in difficult times and you have to use your voice to get things done sometimes and you also have to have a good overview of what the group is thinking, how they feel then have good connections with the team to be able to talk with everything if you think there is something wrong or something needs to change.

You signed for Manchester City in 2018, what was it that attracted you to the club and made you want to sign?
After I played in Germany and won every title there was to win I wanted to go to England and for me there was only one club and that was Man City. I think the academy is the best in England and also our stadium is really nice. It’s just a good infrastructure and the team work good together and the team is nice as well. It was quite easy for me to go to City. They accepted me straight away and the first season was really good, we won two titles out of three or four if you count the Champions League. I also like that we really play football and we build up, play on the ground and we don’t try and skip any line we are just built from goalkeeper to defence to midfield to attack and hopefully we score goals.

Since you joined Man City you were coached by Nick Cushing, how did he help you develop as a player?
I think Nick really helped me to understand the game because tactically he was really strong. We always had a plan for every opponent we came against and that was really good. He also gave me a lot of confidence especially last season because I played every game and when I was injured I came back and played straight away again and it helps a player if you have confidence to perform and I think I had a good season last year and that was really good. He also told me to be more selfish because I’m always the one that will give the pass and just shoot to the goal and he said to me that I was one of the best players he had ever seen, what you can do there’s not a lot of players that can do it and then it is up to me if I show it or not. He really believed in me.

Photo: Tom Flathers Photography

What is the best game you’ve ever played in and why?
I can’t really think of a best game and why but I think its the games where you score a lot of goals or when you score an important goal. I don’t really have a particular game in my head but I think there’s a lot games you can look up where I scored some goals or important goals. But one game I can think of is my first game for the first team of Belgium and I was only 17. We came up against Russia and won 1-0 and I scored my first goal and it was the most important goal because we won so that’s a moment I will never forget.

How has lockdown been for you?
Lockdown is actually quite easy for me because I’ve never been home that long so for me its really nice to spend time with my family. Of course not my friends because I’m not allowed to see them but its really nice to be home and be with my boyfriend as well. I’m actually really enjoying it but we’ve got a programme from City as well where they tell us exactly what we have to do to stay fit and to be ready for whenever the league is starting back up again. So yeah, I’m not really bored.

Photo: Tom Flathers Photography

Do you have any pre-match rituals or superstitions?
No, I don’t really have rituals because I think the more rituals you have the more you are stuck to it and whenever you don’t have the time or something happens then you cant do your rituals then you might play a bad game in your head so that’s why I try not to get stuck on to any rituals. For me it’s important before every training that I eat a banana because I’m often hungry and I have a really fast metabolism so I have to be careful not to be hungry during a game so eating bananas it actually my ritual I think.