Honours board at a glance
- A record 425 caps for Germany (389 outdoor and 36 indoor) and 276 goals (209 outdoor and 67 indoor)
- Five Olympic Games
- Olympic gold medal 2004
- Champions Trophy gold 2006
- European Championship gold 2007
- Two World Cup gold indoor 2003, 2011
- Three European indoor championship gold 1998, 2002, 2006
- Four Champions Trophy silver 1997, 2000, 2004, 2008
- Four European Championship silver 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011
- Bronze medals: World Cup 1998, Champions Trophy 1999, European Championships 1995, 2003 and World Cup indoor 2007.
- FIH World Player of the Year 1999
When your surname is Keller there’s not much doubt that a glittering international hockey career awaits. After signing off at the 2012 London Olympic Games Natascha, or “Taschi” as she is affectionately known, retired as her country’s most capped player and Olympian. The 36-year-old striker had represented Germany in 389 internationals (and 36 indoors) playing in a record-breaking five Olympics.
To cap it all, Taschi had the honour of carrying the flag at the Opening Ceremony in London thus becoming the first hockey player honoured by Germany in this way.
Her grandfather Erwin, a silver medal-winner at the 1936 Games in Berlin, her father Carsten and brothers Andreas and Florian – all Olympic gold-medallists – must have been bursting with pride.
Keller was kept in the dark as to who the other two players in the Hall of Fame are until the official press announcement was made. “Marijke Fleuren, president of the European Hockey Federation, phoned me and told me. It is such a huge honour for me especially being named alongside two of the game’s great players. My family and all my friends are delighted” she said.
Making her debut in a 4-3 victory over the Netherlands in 1994, Keller opened her international account in her team’s 3-1 win against Spain the following year. It was to be the start of a stupendous career as one of the most feared respected goal scorers in the world as her impressive statistics reveal: 389 outdoor internationals and 209 goals. That’s some scoring ratio!
Defenders and goalkeepers alike must have come to dread the familiar thud against the backboards as she whipped in another spectacular shot on the reverse or pounced to flick the ball in from close range. Give her a centimetre at your peril and she would make you pay!
Mild-mannered and shy off the pitch, she rarely let her emotions show on it. Goals were acknowledged with the minimum of fuss or elaborate celebrations and although she was always tightly marked and provoked by defenders it simply wasn’t her style to retaliate.
Kate Walsh, the England and Great Britain captain, has played against Keller for most of her career with the defender saying she was a very tricky forward to play against. Walsh added: “She could make any situation in to a goal scoring opportunity. If Germany had the ball I was always thinking ‘where’s Natascha?!’
“She was one of the best – deceptively quick with lightning quick hands and an ability to create a shot from practically anywhere. I remember watching a video of some of her indoor skills which were awesome but she continued as though it was perfectly normal! She was technically gifted and innovative but also very humble.
“There’s no doubt she’s one of the greatest female players in the last twenty years and I feel honoured and proud to have been on the pitch with her and done battle on many occasions. I wish her all the luck in the world for whatever her future may bring.”
Natascha’s predatory instincts go back to when she was a six year-old growing up in Berlin. From the minute she first picked up a stick she was hooked on hockey. Nowadays she can be seen playing tennis which she enjoys, along with golf and no doubt she will quickly make her mark on the fairways.
And after much reflection, she has decided to step down from club hockey and the club she has represented with such distinction over three decades.
She admits it was a bitter-sweet moment when she played her final international at the 2012 London Olympics. “I was both laughing and crying and even though I carried on playing in the Bundesliga where Berlin won both the national indoor and outdoor titles, there are so many other beautiful things I want to experience.
“The golf is great fun and I play a lot of tennis – I’m not missing hockey. But I’ll be around the game and perhaps take up coaching in future. Hockey will always be a part of me but for now I’m looking to the future.”