Genessee Daughetee Puntigam, the world-traveling American in Europe, LGBTQ+ rights ambassador and star left back for the mighty FC Köln, joined Footwork for an in-depth discussion about sport for all and her path abroad.
Every week, Dylan and Sean at Footwork Podcast bring you original interviews from players and coaches making their own path around the world. Below we have a short excerpt of their latest podcast guest Genessee Daughetee Puntigam. You can find the full interview on your preferred streaming platform here (Footwork Podcast)
Confidence, representation, judgment, fear: words that seem like complete antonyms and yet have all been a part of Genessee’s life and football career.
Fear of the pushback, of judgment and of the hurtful reactions to who she is. A lesbian footballer.
Gen, an Orange County, CA native, has long talked about the necessity of confidence and support in sport and in life. At UC Berkeley, an open and inclusive environment allowed her to feel comfortable and supported enough to come out to those around her.
This was exactly what she needed. And frankly what anyone should feel in their own life.
Her confidence, comfort, and safety spilled into her game on the field, which ultimately led to opportunities abroad. Through help from her former college teammate Alex Morgan, Gen was presented with options in Germany, France and Japan, before ultimately deciding to take the long step to France.
As any Yank Abroad will tell you, the language hurdle is daunting and can leave you feeling like a guest in a new country. What is even more daunting is having your identity put under a spotlight and labeled as distraction.
What was simply a close platonic relationship with a teammate, was flipped as a potential scandal, a hurtful image for the club and one that could send an unsound message to fans.
Genessee has said that women’s players have always created a safe place. Always. The issue comes from off the field, from representatives, from agents, and from fans.
Confidence and representation quickly turned into judgment and fear. Nervousness overshadowed happiness and that reflected in her love for the game and her performances on the pitch.
“Immediately my confidence dipped” admits the left-back, “any athlete will tell you, if you’re playing with no confidence, then you’re basically playing with one leg cut off.”
After years in France and a stint in Sweden, Gen ultimately took a mental health pause. A multitude of factors contributed to this decision, one that was warned as “career suicide.”
But it was important to her. As a human and player who has felt unknowing amounts of pressure, she knew that it was her choice to make and a necessary one.
Gen married Sarah Puntigam, also a professional baller and member of the Austrian national team, in June of 2022, not long before the pair signed contracts for Bundesliga giant FC Köln in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga. The two shared the field for the first time on the same side after a few matchups against each other in France.
After Gen’s break from football and marrying the love of her life, it was essential to play for and represent a club who promoted confidence and representation; one that created safe-spaces instead of taking them away.
FC Köln is just that.
“I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to hide myself.” Genessee couldn’t be more sure. “I don’t want the guilt, I don’t want the shame. I want to be able to play openly and freely”.
Gen should never have to be one thing. Her identity should never be placed into a box as just a footballer. Her identity is what makes her unique, it’s also what makes her the baller that she is.
As an ambassador for ‘Athlete Ally’ Genessee hopes to continue the conversations needed to create these safe-spaces she’s felt in UC Berkeley and Köln.
And to help those feel the pride that she feels right now. With confidence and representation.
Find the full podcast episode here:
Or Watch A Youtube Highlight Version Here: HIGHLIGHT SHOW with Genessee Daughetee Puntigam of FC Köln