Ulla Holthoff was born in Welver, Rhine-Westphalia in 1958. The daughter of a rail worker, she had simple beginnings. In her parents’ mind, her future was mapped out from early on: Housewife and mother. But Ulla Holthoff was an inquisitive child who wanted answers to many questions. This curiosity led her on the path to journalism. In adult education, she passed her A’levels and through hard work, managed to begin her career in the sports section at Germany’s largest regional newspaper, the “Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung”.
As a journalist, she was able to ask questions and receive answers, which were not provided when she was young. She is the first woman to commentate a football game on German television. This has lent a feminine touch to a male-dominated realm. Ulla Holthoff is a strong, experienced woman, who commands respect due to her performance and success.
Now, if you think back to your childhood. What was your greatest dream when you were maybe ten or eleven years old, what did you really want to achieve in life?
What I always wanted was to be independent. I wanted to get out of this mental narrowness in which I grew up as a child in the countryside, at that time still rather with a world view from the 19th than the 20th century. It was all so parochial to me and my dream was simply independence without a concrete goal. Get out of here and take care of myself.
What was your journey until you actually became a journalist?
I always wanted to know. So, I've always maintained my position with my curiosity. I was a very curious child. But I only ever got the answer: That's none of your business, you stay out of it, you're not in charge of that. And that just strengthened my curiosity and I knew that as a journalist I can ask anything and I usually get good answers and can experience everything I want to know first-hand and not filtered through second or third parties. That was my motivation to become a journalist.
You never acted as others expected you to, but always remained true to yourself. How did that affect your environment?
I believe that how unconventional I has always had a very strong effect on others. Because I had no idea of conventions at all, I also didn't know how out of place the way I acted might have been sometimes. And to others it seemed very bold, very clear.
So, what was it like to be the first woman to commentate a football match?
Sometimes, I have recognised a lot more in football matches than my colleagues, which of course quickly brought me a lot of recognition. Scepticism was always there, too. But amazingly, the rejection got bigger the better I got, because then I became a serious competitor to my colleagues and took jobs from them that they actually wanted to claim for themselves.
How would you describe yourself as a journalist, what kind of journalist were you?
For me it was never about confirming clichés but about unravelling situations and making the backgrounds visible. I was never someone for headlines, but for underlying knowledge as a journalist. What has really distinguished me to this day has always been my great fairness. It was never important to me to stop at nothing or expose people because of a quick headline, but to really show the people behind the story.