Throughout England’s run to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, center-back Jess Carter has been one of the Lionesses’ most important players on the pitch.
In order to get there in the first place, however, she had to work vigorously on her fitness and her game. Thankfully, her partner and teammate Ann-Katrin Berger was there to play a significant role in keeping her motivated.
As a recent profile by The Guardian’s Jonathan Liew revealed, Carter’s professional career got off to a rocky start a few years ago with Chelsea, with her coaches questioning her commitment to the game and her ability to stay in shape.
In response, Carter decided to put in the time to take her skills to the next level and put herself on the path to the World Cup by working with Chelsea on a personalized nutrition plan. And a big part of that was sending pictures of the healthy meals that she and Berger cooked together to the club’s Head of Performance.
Following the nutrition regimen that helped lead to a spot in the World Cup squad was one of the many positive ways that her relationship with Berger positively impacted Carter’s life. But perhaps the most important influence Berger had was helping Carter to fully embrace her sexuality.
When the two first met as teammates with Birmingham City FC in 2016, Carter was ending a relationship with her then-boyfriend and living with her parents. But as Carter confessed to The Guardian’s Lizzie Cernik, even when they decided to room together in early 2017, “As far as I knew, I was straight.”
That summer, Berger took the initiative by planning a welcome home dinner date after Carter had been away on a training road trip. Even then, Carter still wasn’t seeing that Berger’s intentions were to be anything more than platonic flatmates.
“When she used the word ‘date,’ I thought she met as friends,” Carter recalled, “Even when she paid, it didn’t click because she’s one of the most generous people I know.”
At this point in their romantic comedy meet-cute, someone had to take a major risk to spark a relationship. Fortunately, Berger decided that it was a chance worth taking.
Sharing a quiet evening at home a few days later, Berger suddenly kissed Carter. It was a nerve-racking moment and didn’t spark an immediate change in their relationship status but a few days later, they kissed again.
“I definitely sensed something was shifting but it wasn’t until we kissed that I really thought about things in a different way,” Carter asserted. Still figuring herself out, she proceeded cautiously with Berger and gradually realized that this was the romantic partner she wanted.
A little over a year after getting together, Berger was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and Carter was by her side throughout her treatment. When Berger recovered, she was there in turn to help Carter with her training regimen during the COVID-19 lockdown and kept her focused on nutrition during her struggles with Chelsea.
Now Carter is one game away from winning the most prestigious tournament in soccer. It’s one of many ways her life is better since Berger became her partner.