No player has started the new season like Jill Roord. Two hat-tricks in two games for Arsenal and a thunder strike on the international scene. Taking people by surprise but in contention to soon be known as one of the greatest players on the planet, her rise has been one of gaining experiences, exploring her surroundings and ultimately finding who she is whilst performing on the very highest stage. We chat to her as the league returns in London.

You come across as a creative person, how would you describe yourself?

I like to be a bit alternative I would say. I’m into fashion and that kind of stuff. Maybe not the usual stuff you see. I like to be a bit different.

There're so many big characters and a lot of different tastes across football now, what’s your take on trends in football?

I think it comes from the mixture of cultures. Just look at our team at Arsenal and how many different cultures and nationalities are in the squad. Me being from Holland, I feel that I’ll have a totally different style to the British players. I like that. I feel that everyone has their own thing about them that makes them unique.

You can see your tattoos are subtle and pretty personal to you. Can you tell us about them?

I’ve got the first two letters from my brother's names with mine on my wrist. We all have the same tattoo. Some of my tattoos have a meaning, others don’t. I do like tattoos. They make us unique and I like it when they have memories attached to them. I’m very spontaneous with them. When I was in Amsterdam with some friends on a boat one summer, we went for a day and one of my friends wanted to get a tattoo done but didn’t want to go on her own and she said if I came with then I’d have to get one done too. So I just said I’ll go with you and I got a small tattoo done. It was just three dots.

jill roord soccerbible_0037_IMG_2590.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0029_IMG_2624.jpg

Are you quite a sentimental person then? Family is clearly important for you…

Yeah, my family and close friends are really important. I don’t have many close friends but that close group means so much to me. Family and friends are very big for me.

When you talk about that inner-circle of friends. What's it like as your profile grows in football - do you find that all of a sudden you’ve got people wanting to be your friends because of who you are?

Yeah it’s strange. It changes quickly. You go from not being famous at all to overnight, especially in Holland after winning the Euros, it was like going viral. I’m actually a pretty down to earth person but it was a strange time. I’d say that situation is probably harder for my family. There’s a lot of people who write stuff about me and it’s largely positive but there’s also negative things out there and I know my mum struggles with that. So I think that’s the difficult part.

Football comes with mental challenges like that must be really difficult for your family though they must be incredibly proud of what you’ve achieved?

Yeah they are. I’m very lucky to have their support and they are very proud. They just miss me - I’m obviously not at home that much which is tough but it comes with the job and the role.

When talking about your family, your spontaneous side, your creative edge - where does that come from?

I would say my mum and dad. My football side definitely comes from my dad as he used to play professionally in Holland. My mum played basketball when she was younger on a national team level. So definitely the sport side comes from them. It’s really in the family. The creative side comes from my mum, for sure.

Was it inevitable that you were going to end up as an athlete then given their backgrounds?

I guess so yeah [laughs]. My brothers play football as well and we’re a sporty family as a whole. It’s always been around us. I wouldn’t change that. I love what I do and am lucky to do what I do.

Given that background and coming from Holland. Was it important to move to a city that was culturally switched on like London when picking a team to play for?

I love places like London and Amsterdam. The city life, how busy it is and that kind of thing. I love watching people, seeing how they dress and how they look. I love being in the city. In Amsterdam if you sit down and look around, people dress so differently and it’s all very alternative. I like that. I like how independent it feels. London is similar to that so it’s important for me to have that around me. I wouldn’t say it’s important for me to live in a big city but I do like it at the moment.

jill roord soccerbible_0022_IMG_2656.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0028_IMG_2633.jpg

What was it like to move to Germany with that in mind? What did that do for your headspace? How would you describe that time in your life?

When I moved to Germany I was quite young and it was the first time I lived by myself and in a different country too. So I feel like that’s where I grew up. I feel like when I left Holland to go there I was a baby and within a few months, I was a different person. I’ve just grown up there. It’s where I found different interests and found out about myself. When in Holland I was living with my parents and surrounded by friends and was in my comfort zone. When I went to Munich, I had to change. I had an opinion on everything all of a sudden and my mind just widened.

Do you think your parents noticed that change the first time you came home?

Yeah definitely, it’s something my mum said to me that the first time I came home after about three months, I was a totally different person. It was an important time in my life and good to get out of my comfort zone. I always try to still be myself so I didn’t want to come back all “big time” but it’s about finding my character. With the tattoos for example, I like them - my mum and dad hated them but it’s just what I like and who I am. I think how people dress and the way they look tells a lot about a person's character.

Can you remember the moment Arsenal came calling and how you felt in that moment?

That was such a proud moment. I was with the National Team in South Africa and my agent called saying Arsenal were interested. I immediately knew at that moment “this is what I want”. It was so special for me. It showed me how far I had come and I remember that feeling well.

How did you find the transition between life in Germany and then life in England?

It was so different. I think the culture in Germany is really different. With fashion, with rules - it’s such a different culture. It was interesting and it has been good for me. It’s been good for me when it comes to growing up. I like London. Everything is chilled, I feel very free. It’s a different world.

You mentioned South Africa then. Is seeing the world another part of your life you have enjoyed?

Oh yeah. I love seeing places. I would like to travel. Obviously right now we can’t but I’d love to travel and see parts of the world. South Africa was such an amazing experience. I’d definitely like to go back there again. When I think about the way I like to spend down time - If I go on holiday then I like to just go to the beach or by a pool and enjoy the sun. So somewhere like Spain is always the first choice but if I was to travel, I’d like to see parts of Tokyo, Japan, Thailand and places like that. I’ve never experienced those places and I’d like to see those parts of the world.

You must have been pretty gutted about the Olympics being postponed then… you could have been there?

Yeah. I just hope next year it can happen and we can be there. I had been setting it as a target, to play at the Olympics. I’ve played in a World Cup and a European Championship but I feel like the Olympics would be a different atmosphere. I was looking forward to seeing Tokyo and to see a lot of other sports. 

jill roord soccerbible_0024_IMG_2652.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0029_IMG_2624.jpg

When you think about all the experiences you have had and at such a young age too, are there experiences that you’ve learnt most from?

I’d say living abroad has been the biggest lesson for me. It’s given me so much. Not just happy times but sad times too. It can be a bit lonely but I feel that’s it’s given me an opportunity to experience life. I live such a different life now because I’ve lived in Holland, lived in Munich and now lived in London. Who else where else I’m going to go but it has all taught me so much. In terms of events, they have been huge for me. I remember going to the World Cup in 2014 in Canada. I was 17 and we went to Canada for eight weeks. It was just such a sick experience. You’re with your teammates for eight weeks in this bubble and there’s a lot of pressure and it feels like you’re in a different world. That was a huge experience for me. It showed me a lot and showed me the top of the game.

The Dutch side have achieved so much and helped move Women’s Football forward. It feels like the game has grown so much since the European Championships in Holland. Have you felt the profile rising?

Oh yeah definitely. I’ve been with the National Team since I was 17 so in the first two years, it still felt like women’s football wasn’t all that popular. After winning the Euros, everything changed dramatically. Everyone is so popular now in the country. If we go into the city or go out in Holland, we get recognised now. Even on social media, it has grown so much and is so different now.

There’s so many characters in the squad as well. A lot of people will look at players like Shanice Van Sanden as someone pushing style. Are there others out there who you respect a lot for the way they carry themselves?

I would still say Shanice. She is someone who is a close friend of mine. I love that she is just being herself. She likes to be different. She dares to be different as well. I’ve got so much respect for her. While we’re positive about her and have a lot of love for her, she’s faced a lot of negative responses too and the way she goes about her life is so good. She is just true to herself which is really cool.

As much as it’s a cliche, you’re now a role model. Have you felt that responsibility?

It is strange but I’m proud to be considered a role model. It’s almost weird to hear those words but they mean a lot.

jill roord soccerbible_0017_000040 2.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0011_000030 3.jpg

You’ve started the season in such incredible form. Two hat-tricks. How’s it been to finally get back out there?

I’m really happy about the start. I’ve worked hard during the lockdown time. I was in Holland for it and I was working hard to stay fit and better myself. I feel like people sometimes say I’m a bit lazy - which is true - but I’ve been working hard to make sure I have a start like this. It’s satisfying to have the hard work pay off in this way.

When people say things about you, do you like to use that to your advantage and show people it’s not true or shut them up in your own way?

Yeah that’s the best feeling. There’s always a lot going on. People have said to me “oh you’re a great footballer but you don’t do enough, you don’t want to defend, you’re lazy” but for me, starting the season like this, I don’t think people expected it of me and for me to be in this shape. It was nice to prove to a lot of people that I have been working hard.

There’s a lot of big names in the Arsenal squad. Does part of you want more of the spotlight?

I wouldn’t say I’m looking for attention or the spotlight, no. I’d say that if I deserve the spotlight because of how I’m playing then I’d want it but for me I’m driven over good performances rather than looking for attention. I’m focused on playing well rather than searching for fame or anything like that.

Given all you have achieved, your start to the season and where we find ourselves now, how high do you set your standards?

[laughs] Pressure! No, I’m pretty chilled. I go game by game, week to week rather than setting goals. A lot of people set targets and that works for them but for me I just live in the moment. My focus is always on that particular game and that moment. I try not to think beyond that. I don’t like to tell myself “you need to score ten times”. I love football so much but it’s also important for me to switch off in order to perform well. I need to switch off after training so that I am mentally fresh for the next session. I basically live in the moment, game by game.

jill roord soccerbible_0010_000031.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0015_000036-2.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0018_000041.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0003_000009-2.jpg

Would you say you have a mission that you’re on with football? What dreams do you now have?

Yeah. I want to be one of the best players in the world. That’s my goal, that’s what I want to achieve.

Do you also feel that responsibility off the pitch to keep pushing the game, striving for equality and pushing forward there too?

Absolutely. In Holland, a lot of people look up to us so I do feel like I want to be a role model and show people how important it is to be whoever you want to be. It’s so important to be yourself and follow those ambitions. Regardless of what people say. In women’s football, both in Holland and in the UK, there’s a lot for us to achieve. If our performances slip and the product is poor then the game won’t be popular. So we all need to keep achieving to keep it popular. I think in England, when the national team wins something, it will be a huge moment and another turning point.

Your achievements have been incredible. Do you ever get a chance to reflect on what you’ve done in your career so far?

I feel like that comes after your career. I do think I live in the moment but sometimes I don’t take in everything that is going on around me. You’re so focused in those big occasions that sometimes looking back you wish you soaked more of it up but those feelings are more for when you finish your career. Playing in the Euros and a World Cup final, they’re huge moments. I think back now to how sick they are, just talking about them.

Those big occasions, how do you like to celebrate them and switch off?

It’s important for me to have fun. On the pitch, off the pitch and cerebrate if you win. I think that’s so important for the team as well. For the atmosphere in training and into the next game. I’m loud when it comes to celebrating. I like to be around people after a game. When you come home and you’ve won, you’ll be energetic and to go back to a quiet place with all that adrenaline going is not for me. I like to hang out with the other girls, chill and just enjoy the win.

jill roord soccerbible_0006_000028.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0005_000020-5.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0036_IMG_2592.jpg
jill roord soccerbible_0039_IMG_2581.jpg

Styling by Georgie Gray
Photography by Pete Martin and Ashraf Nsubuga

Look One:
Tracksuit - @dailypaper
Top - @Nike x Comme Des Garçons
Jacket - @dailypaper
Scarf - @palmangels
Shoes - @Nike

Look Two:
Blazer - @grayxwild
Top - @helmutlang
Trousers - @fillespapa
Bucket Hat - @burberry
Football - @twentyninthstore @offwhite
Trainer - @balenciaga

Look Three:
Shirt & shorts coord - @filespapa
Top - @helmatlang
Sunglasses - @chanel
Socks - @nike
Trainers - @nike