Knee injury says goodbye after seven years of ADO Women: ‘My career isn’t over’

Sharona Tillman vs. PEC Zwolle © Orange Pictures

THE HAGUE – After 106 games, last summer’s employment of Sharona Tillman with the women of Addo Den Haag ended. After suffering serious knee injuries for the second time, the Zeeland defender has to leave ADO. Yet she is still combative: “I feel like my football career is definitely not over yet. I want to get back in shape as soon as possible and find the fun I’ve been missing out on in recent years.

With a mother who plays soccer, the sport was taught from an early age until 26-year-old Sharona and her twin sister Silvana. Watching training sessions or matches and playing football on the arenas confirmed the sisters’ registration at the age of eleven at the village club VV Vogelwaarde from Terneuzen. In this club they played among the boys. “At that time, there were no girls’ teams near us.”

Sharona’s talent did not go unnoticed, she has been a part of the national youth teams from an early age. “I was advised in Zeeland to play football at a higher level and to train a lot.” With this tip in his pocket, Tillman decided to look for a new challenge. She has received offers from CTO Amsterdam (Top Sport and Education Center that works closely with KNVB) and FC Twente. I trained with FC Twente for a week. “The level was too high, but Enschede is too far and I’ll go to Twente alone.”

From Ajax to ADO The Hague

At CTO Amsterdam, her twin sister was also allowed to take the test. “Then we heard we could both stay, and that made the choice easy for me.” Therefore, at the age of sixteen, Tillmann left the quiet Zeeuws-Vlaanderen behind to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional soccer player.

“At CTO, life, study, and playing football were in harmony with each other,” Sharona says. “We trained once or twice a day.” The teenage dream of becoming a professional in the capital came close to the sisters because they were allowed to train once a week with Ajax Women at De Toekomst Sports Park. Then we put on Ajax clothes. It was a really great experience.

Cup final win

Sharona developed so well in Amsterdam that she was allowed to join ADO Den Haag when she was eighteen years old. ADO was looking for a left footed player who could occupy the left back and left wing position. At the time they were leading women’s football in the Netherlands with Sarina Wegmann as coach.

ADO women's with the KNVB Cup, third from Tillman right
ADO women’s with the KNVB Cup, third from Tillman right © Socrates Pictures

In the first season that Tillman played in ADO, the team played in the Benny League, a competition with Belgian and Dutch clubs. This led to several meetings with her twin sister Silvana, who turned Flemish KAA Gent. In total, Tillman played for ADO for seven years. Sharona’s highlight was winning the cup final against Ajax in the 2015-16 season. “ADO has always felt like home, I was in the right place at the club.”

Zeeland women’s beach soccer

But despite her presence as a semi-pro and her work caring for the disabled, she had time to spare. That’s why she and her sister helped create the Zeeland Ladies beach soccer. In 2018, the first competition in heavy football game started. At the end of the season, the top four teams can advance to the final weekend, which takes place at The Hague Beach in Scheveningen. The winner may go to the final tournament in Portugal.

In The Hague, Sharona became a national champion with the Zeeland Ladies beach soccer. I got an award Most Valuable Player In the beach soccer premier league. That was, of course, very cool. Unfortunately, she missed the final tournament in Portugal due to injuries.

I don’t think my football career is over yet

Like icing on the cake, Sharona was invited to the Dutch beach soccer team that year. However, this cannot be combined with playing football in one of the Premier League clubs. “What I love about beach soccer is that it is unpredictable, situations that you don’t see often on the field come up. I hope more people will see how fun this sport is.”

knee injuries

In the summer of 2019, I missed a visit to PEC Zwolle for Sharona. In that competition, she tore her ACL and damaged her meniscus. “I’ve never had a serious injury before, but I immediately sensed that it wasn’t right and that this injury could go on for a long time.”

Unfortunately, she was right, she was able to return in competition with the young ADO only after sixteen months of rehabilitation. “Everything could go wrong during rehab, it went wrong. I was in so much pain and had to have an additional operation because the meniscus was not stitched properly. Even in the long run I thought this wouldn’t work again.”

Tillman bidding farewell to ADO The Hague
Tillman bidding farewell to ADO The Hague © Women of The Hague

Things went differently. Minutes into the match at Jong ADO, she was allowed to spend minutes in the first team again. “I didn’t feel like I’m back to my old level yet, I really felt like I had to find myself again.” This research has been nipped in the bud. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her other knee after a strange movement during exercise. “I could have walked off the field this time, but I already knew that wasn’t true again.”

Far away in ADO The Hague

Due to her knee injuries, Tillman had to leave ADO and is now not rehabilitating her at a football club. However, the recovery is going well and there are no complications. “This makes this rehab so much better than the previous one, I can look forward and do more and more.”

I don’t think I’m back after my first knee injury. Because my knee is now in good shape, I have confidence again and I want to play football. I don’t think my football career is over yet. I want to end my career with pleasure and not with injuries. I am now in contact with many clubs in Holland and Belgium and my ambition is to return to the highest level. I also want to continue beach soccer and maybe now play for the Dutch national team.”

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