Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have been named the joint winners of the 2019 Booker Prize after the judges broke their rules by declaring a tie.
Atwood’s The Testaments, the Canadian writer’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, was recognised alongside Londoner Evaristo’s novel Girl, Woman, Other.
The pair will split the literary award’s £50,000 prize money equally.
The Booker rules say the prize must not be divided, but the judges insisted they “couldn’t separate” the two works.
Atwood, 79, is the oldest ever Booker winner, while Evaristo is the first black woman to win.
After their names were called, the pair stood arm-in-arm on stage and Atwood joked: “I would have thought I would have been too elderly, and I kind of don’t need the attention, so I’m very glad that you’re getting some.
“It would have been quite embarrassing for me… if I had been alone here, so I’m very pleased that you’re here too.”
The award’s rules were changed after the last tie in 1992, and organisers told this year’s judges they were not allowed to pick two winners.
But after five hours of deliberations, Peter Florence, the chair of the judges, said: “It was our decision to flout the rules.”
He told reporters: “The more we talked about them, the more we found we loved them both so much we wanted them both to win.”
Evaristo and Atwood spoke together on Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday morning.
Evaristo said winning was “a real game changer”, adding: “It means my work gets out there to a much wider audience around the world.
“There are lots of prizes which people from certain communities don’t win, certainly black people don’t win lots of literary awards. No one seems to notice, but it’s really important.
“A black woman has never won [the Booker before]. Only four black women have ever been shortlisted and there have been about 300 books shortlisted.
“Hopefully this signals a new direction for the Booker and the kind of judges they have. This year there were four women judges and one male.
“I hope more black women win this prize.”
Atwood, who is from Ottawa, said: “It’s great to be sharing with Bernardine… and I certainly hope you’ll come to Canada, bring your warm clothing!”
She told Evaristo: “What you have done is to make it possible for more black women to consider that writing is something they can do.”
Atwood ‘more urgent than ever’
It is 19 years since Atwood won the Booker for The Blind Assassin, and 33 years since she was nominated for The Handmaid’s Tale.
With the latter book enjoying newfound popularity and resonance against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s America, The Testaments picks up 15 years after the end of that novel.
Returning to the totalitarian, patriarchal Gilead, it is narrated by Aunt Lydia, one of the handmaids’ instructors, and two teenage girls.
Peter Florence said: “It does massively more than follow the single story that we had from Offred. This is beautiful in its depth and exploration of the world of Gilead.
“As [Atwood] has said, it might have looked like science fiction back in the day, although all of the extremities are rooted in fact. Now it looks more politically urgent than ever before.”
Published in September, The Testaments sold more than 100,000 copies in the UK in its first week, making it the fastest-selling hardback novel in four years.
Speaking before the ceremony, Atwood said winning would be “a double-edged sword for me, but for a younger person I think it would be great”.
Evaristo’s ‘groundbreaking’ characters
Bernardine Evaristo was born the fourth of eight children, in Woolwich, south east London, to an English mother and a Nigerian father. Her father was a welder and local Labour councillor; her mother was a schoolteacher.
She spent her teenage years at Greenwich Young People’s Theatre, which was where she first became involved in the arts..
She went on to study at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she earned her PhD in creative writing.
A career in theatre followed and she was a co-founder of the Theatre of Black Women company in 1982.
She also set up the Spread the Word writer development agency, the Complete Works mentoring scheme for poets of colour and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. She was made an MBE in 2009 for services to literature.
Girl, Woman, Other is 60-year-old Evaristo’s eighth novel. It gives a chapter each to the lives of 12 intertwining characters, who are mostly black British women.
“We black British women know that if we don’t write ourselves into literature no one else will,” the author has said.
Lesbian theatre director Amma, non-binary Morgan (formerly Megan), Barbadian bride Winsome and Northumbrian farmer Hattie are among the characters in a book that spans more than 100 years.
Peter Florence said there was “something utterly magical” about the book’s characters, whom he said “give a wonderful spectrum of black British women today”.
“There are stories there of people who haven’t been visibly represented in contemporary literature, and in that sense this book is groundbreaking, and I hope encouraging and inspiring to the rest of the publishing industry.”
In her acceptance speech, Evaristo said she hoped it would not be long before another black woman won the prize.
“It’s so incredible to share this with Margaret Atwood, who’s such a legend and so generous,” she said.
“A lot of people say, ‘I never thought it would happen to me’, and I will say I am the first black woman to win this prize, and I hope that honour doesn’t last too long. I hope other people come forward now.”
She has called Girl, Woman, Other “a readable experimental novel”. The experimental element mainly comes from the unorthodox punctuation, which often dispenses with quotation marks and capital letters.
Judges’ stand-off with Booker bosses
The Booker Prize rules state that the prize “may not be divided or withheld”.
The award has been shared twice before – in 1974 and 1992 – but the rules were then changed.
“The thinking was it just doesn’t work – it sort of detracts attention from both, rather than drawing attention to either,” said Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation.
So when Florence told her the five judges wanted to announce a tie, she said no. The judges got back around the table.
Again, they told Wood they wanted two winners. This time, Wood phoned Baroness Kennedy QC, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, who told her: “Absolutely not.”
The judges deliberated again. “We tried voting, it didn’t work,” Florence said.
“There’s a metaphor for our times. And equally, today of all days, when rebellion is in the air, maybe we were a little moved by that.”
The panel resolved to hold firm on their split decision. Baroness Kennedy was called again.
“She said, ‘Well, if that’s what they’ve chosen to do, there’s nothing we can do,'” Wood said.
“We had to move on.”
Florence added that both winning books “have urgent things to say”.
He told reporters: “They also happen to be wonderfully compelling, page-turning thrillers, which can speak to the most literary audience, to readers who maybe are only reading one, or in this case I hope two books a year, and can speak at different levels to all sorts of different readerships.
“So in that sense they are, I hope and believe, really valuable Booker Prize winners.”
The other nominated novels:
- Lucy Ellmann – Ducks, Newburyport
- Chigozie Obioma – An Orchestra of Minorities
- Salman Rushdie – Quichotte
- Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Extinction Rebellion protesters on the streets of London have been labelled “uncooperative crusties” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The demonstrators – who are demanding action on climate change – should abandon their “hemp-smelling bivouacs” and stop blocking roads, the PM added.
Police have already arrested more than 300 people at the start of two weeks of protests by environmental campaigners.
Mr Johnson made the comments at a book launch on Monday evening.
“I am afraid that the security people didn’t want me to come along tonight because they said the road was full of uncooperative crusties and protesters of all kinds littering the road,” he said.
“They said there was some risk that I would be egged.”
Mr Johnson added protesters could learn from former PM Margaret Thatcher, who he said had taken the issue of greenhouse gases seriously long before activists such as Greta Thunberg were born.
“I hope that when we go out from this place tonight and we are waylaid by importunate nose-ringed climate change protesters, we remind them that she was also right about greenhouse gases.”
Extinction Rebellion activists are protesting in cities around the world, including Berlin, Amsterdam and Sydney.
The Metropolitan Police said there have been 319 arrests in relation to the demonstrations since 00:01 BST on Tuesday.
Some 200 campaigners who camped overnight on streets in central London also faced arrest on Tuesday morning after being issued with warnings by police.
Under section 14 notices, which were handed out to tents at around 07:30 BST, protesters will be allowed to demonstrate in a specified location – Trafalgar Square.
Those who do not comply with the order will be arrested.
On Monday, organisers blockaded key sites in central London, in addition to demonstrating outside government departments.
Some glued and chained themselves to roads and vehicles – those who did so outside Westminster Abbey were later removed by police.
The roads behind Downing Street were blocked throughout the day by protesters, some of whom had erected tents in the street and were sitting down and singing songs together.
‘A last resort’
By Becky Morton, BBC News
Behind Parliament Square there are dozens of tents where protesters from Scotland, Cumbria and north-east England have camped overnight.
Mikaela Loach, 21, travelled from Edinburgh on Monday with a friend on a bus organised for protesters.
She says she has attended protests before but this is her first time camping out overnight.
“I was a bit worried about police coming in the middle of the night, but it was a nice atmosphere having people around you that are here for the same cause,” she said.
“I’ve spoken to my local MP, I’ve taken part in protests, I just feel like I haven’t been listened to. This is a last resort,” she said.
“I have been changing things in my lifestyle for a long time to try and be more eco-friendly, but I had a realisation that it doesn’t matter if I go vegan or zero waste if the government doesn’t do anything.
“There need to be big structural changes.”
Extinction Rebellion claims protests in the capital will be five times bigger than similar events in April.
The protests are calling for urgent action on global climate and wildlife emergencies.
What is Extinction Rebellion?
2025group’s aims for zero carbon emissions
298,000followers on Facebook
1,130people arrested over April’s London protests
2018year the group was founded
Source: BBC Research
Extinction Rebellion (XR for short) wants governments to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and take immediate action to address climate change.
It describes itself as an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement”.
Extinction Rebellion was launched in 2018 and organisers say it now has groups willing to take action in dozens of countries.
In April, the group held a large demonstration in London that brought major routes in the city to a standstill.
The Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern art gallery in London has been home to temporary exhibits, large and small, since its opening in 2000.
Installations have ranged from a giant sun to more than 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds.
Now it’s the turn of American artist Kara Walker, known for her exploration of slavery and racism through paper silhouettes and sculptures.
Her 13-metre-high piece Fons Americana “explores the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe… using water as a key theme”.
BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz went along to take a look at the exhibition, which is open until April 2020.
Boris Johnson is to call for the release of jailed British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe when he meets Iran’s president later.
The prime minister will meet Hassan Rouhani at a UN summit in New York, hours after blaming Iran for attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
It comes amid calls for him to take a tougher line with Tehran over its detention of dual nationals.
Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016.
The 40-year-old was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying, which she denies.
On his flight to New York on Sunday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region, but also the need to release not just Nazanin but others who in our view are being illegally and unfairly held in Tehran.”
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested Mr Johnson should form a new coalition of allies at the UN to call out Iran for its “diplomatic hostage taking”.
And Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the prime minister must tell his Iranian counterpart “enough is enough” and secure his wife’s release.
“I don’t mind how he does that, but this has gone on long enough,” he said.
“Nazanin is at the end of her tether. We have to be clear with Iran that it’s not OK to conduct hostage diplomacy.”
Mr Hunt is supporting Mr Ratcliffe’s move to launch a new campaign group made up of other families of different nationalities with loved ones held in Tehran.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it should be a priority to ensure the price of taking hostages is “too high” for Iran.
“Iran is one of the few countries in the world that seeks to settle disputes by taking hostages,” he said.
He said it is thought other countries’ citizens have been taken hostage in Iran and only by working together can countries find a solution.
“When Europe and the US go separate ways on Iran it doesn’t work,” he said.
Mr Ratcliffe said efforts by Mr Johnson to get his wife released could make amends for comments he made as foreign secretary in 2017, when he said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalism.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family has always insisted she was on holiday in Iran when she was arrested – and the UK government later clarified it had “no doubt” this was the case.
A number of people with dual Iranian and foreign nationality have been detained in Iran in recent years.
In August, a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said a British-Iranian dual national, Anousheh Ashouri, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Tehran after being convicted of spying for Israel.
British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East politics specialist at Melbourne University, is being held on charges that remain unclear, according to the Australian government.
Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King, who also holds a UK passport – are also being detained in Iran.
Earlier this year, the UK foreign office warned all dual nationals against travelling to Iran because of the risk of arbitrary detention.
Tensions between the UK and Iran have worsened in recent months following a row over the seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf.
The meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Rouhani comes after the UK, France and Germany agreed on Monday that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities last weekend.
Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of carrying out the 14 September attacks, in which 18 drones and seven cruise missiles hit an oil field and processing facility.
However, Iran has denied responsibility, accusing the UK, France and Germany of “parroting absurd US claims”.
BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said slowly and cautiously, some diplomatic pressure was being applied on Iran.
But he added there was little sign Iran was ready to make any diplomatic concessions, not least while Europe and the US appeared uncertain over how to respond to the Saudi attacks.
Thomas Cook is to hold crisis talks in a final bid to secure a rescue deal.
The meeting with its biggest shareholder and creditors is understood to be scheduled for Sunday morning at City law firm Slaughter & May.
The tour operator could fall into administration within days unless it finds £200m in extra funds.
It comes as holidaymakers staying at a hotel in Tunisia owed money by Thomas Cook were reportedly prevented from leaving the resort until it was paid.
Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said the hotel was refusing to let them leave because of concerns about Thomas Cook’s future.
Customers have reported that the hotel is asking visitors to pay extra money amid fears it will not be paid what it is owed by the tour operator for bookings.
‘Being held hostage’
Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, told BBC Radio 5 Live the hotel demanded all guests who were due to leave go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.
Security guards closed the hotel’s gates as guests refused to pay the extra fee, Mr Farmer claims.
He told the Stephen Nolan show: “I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage.”
The government has been urged to step in to bail out the company amid fears its collapse could leave about 150,000 British tourists stranded.
Concerned customers have been reminded on social media that they have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – “in the event that Thomas Cook goes into administration”.
The travel firm also reassured customers on Saturday night that flights continue to operate as normal.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union, which represents staff at the struggling travel company, has called on Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to save Thomas Cook “no matter what”.
Government sources suggest ministers are reluctant to help the firm.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes told Mrs Leadsom it was up to the government to save thousands of jobs and to allow Thomas Cook to “flourish”.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said “all viable options” for saving the travel giant should be explored.
She added that “the government must consider stepping in and taking an equity stake to avoid this crisis”.
BBC business editor Simon Jack reported on Saturday that government sources had questioned the financial wisdom of stepping in to save the company.
He said the government did not see its options as being between spending £200m to help Thomas Cook with its cash shortfall or £600m to repatriate its British customers abroad.
Currently there are 600,000 Thomas Cook customers on holiday, of which 150,000 to 160,000 are British.
One of the world’s largest travel companies, Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 to operate temperance day trips, and now has annual sales of £9bn.
It employs 22,000 staff, 9,000 of whom are in the UK, and serves 19 million customers a year in 16 different countries.
Chloe Hardy from Leicestershire is due to get married in Zante in October and booked the wedding package with Thomas Cook back in June 2018.
Chloe and her fiance will also have 33 family members flying out, with their trips costing more than £33,000 in total.
With the big day looming, Chloe is frustrated by Thomas Cook’s handling of their booking.
“I have emailed the wedding concierge and co-ordinator, neither has got back to me. We are unsure if we will be able to fly. Although it’s Atol-protected I have booked three weeks’ leave from work and there’s no guarantee that I will be able to get time off if I had to rebook.”
“We’ve had constant questions from our family that we are unable to answer,” she added. “This is causing great concern, worry and stress to all of us involved.”
Thomas Cook’s financial difficulties have mounted over the past year, culminating with the agreement in August of a rescue deal led by its biggest shareholder Fosun.
In July, Thomas Cook produced a business plan saying that it needed £900m in refinancing, up from a previous estimate of £150m. The £900m would come from Fosun, the group of creditors and some other investors.
The group of lenders then commissioned an independent investigation. Its financial advisers said Thomas Cook would require an additional £200m on top of the £900m already required, which would bring the total refinancing needed up to £1.1bn.
Thomas Cook succeeded in finding a backer to provide the additional £200m, but the BBC understands it has since pulled out.
The firm has blamed a series of problems for its profit warnings, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.
What are your rights?
If you are on a package holiday you are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (Atol).
The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment.
Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating.
If you have holiday booked in the future you will also be refunded by the scheme.
If you have booked a flight-only deal you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund.
When Monarch Airlines collapsed in 2017, the government organised to bring home all the stranded passengers, whether they were covered by Atol or not.
Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:
It was a night when “dreams came true” for two emerging English talents.
Manchester United and Arsenal struggled for large parts of their respective Europa League openers, but by the end two teenagers announced themselves on the senior stage.
First, 18-year-old academy graduate Bukayo Saka scored his first senior goal, and set-up Arsenal’s other two, to help the Gunners beat Eintracht Frankfurt.
Then, 17-year-old Mason Greenwood, who has come through the United youth ranks, rescued Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side from a frustrating draw against Astana with his first goal for the club.
So who are they? What records have they broken and what are people saying about their futures?
‘Greenwood will be a United starter for years to come’
Manchester United are keen to tie Greenwood down to a new contract.
Greenwood signed a professional contract last year but celebrates his 18th birthday on 1 October and United are hopeful of being able to mark the occasion with a lucrative new deal.
“We are always in talks with the boys about how we see the future. Mason is one we want to keep with us,” said Solskjaer.
There are few better places for a Manchester United academy graduate to score their first goal than in front of the Stretford End.
United had been kept out by Kazakh side Astana for 73 minutes on Thursday before Greenwood cleverly cut on to his right foot and finished through the goalkeeper’s legs.
In doing so, the striker became United’s youngest scorer in Europe and the first player born in the 2000s to score for the club.
Greenwood made his United debut in last season’s Champions League last-16 tie against Paris St-Germain, featured heavily in pre-season and came off the bench in the Reds’ first four Premier League games this season.
Last season, he scored 26 goals in 30 games across United’s youth, reserve and senior teams and made his England Under-21 debut earlier this month.
After Greenwood’s match-winning performance against Astana, former Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen told BT Sport: “I really like Mason Greenwood and not just because of tonight.
“I’ve seen him many times in the youth team and he is a proper, proper player. He could be a Man Utd starter for years to come. I think he will be.”
‘He looked better than Pepe’
Saka was making just his fifth senior start as part of an inexperienced Arsenal forward line, alongside fellow academy graduates Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock and striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, but was the Gunners’ most impressive player in a tough game in Germany.
The winger set up Willock for the Arsenal’s opening goal, smashed in the second in the 85th minute, and teed up Aubameyang two minutes later.
He was a threat throughout with his pace and trickery on the left flank and the teenager’s goal made him Arsenal’s youngest scorer in Europe since Aaron Ramsey in October 2008.
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown said Saka looked more impressive than the Gunners’ record signing Nicholas Pepe who joined this summer for £72m.
“They toiled away trying to get young players in and they have found one in Saka,” Keown said on BT Sport.
“You think of the way Pepe is playing at the moment and they paid £72m for him, and this kid looks better than him tonight.”
Saka, born in London in 2001, was given his senior debut in last season’s Europa League and scored five times and made eight assists in 20 games for the reserve side last season.
He has made eight appearances for England’s Under-19s and has scored three times and set up another two.
‘A dream come true’ – what they said
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka: “I’m so happy to score for Arsenal, it’s a dream come true – I have been dreaming of this moment since I was a kid.
“I just want to keep working hard to make sure I can feel this feeling again.”
Shades of Van Persie – what you said on #bbcfootball
Richard Berry: The way Greenwood moves reminds me a lot of Van Persie.
Stuart Mitchell: Greenwood is the best striker to come through the united academy in years, he will have a better goal scoring career than Rashford.
Emil, Stroud: I’ve been watching Mason Greenwood play for the youth team for years. The kids got bags of talent, a real star for the future.
Adam Salter: Saka has grown and grown and grown in this game. Looked nervous at the beginning, but that goal caps a brilliant performance. Easily the Man of the Match.
Fred, Hampshire: Two assists and a goal, looks like Saka may be knocking at the door after all.
About 30 residents have been evacuated and part of a building has been destroyed following a suspected explosion.
London Fire Brigade said it was called to a fire after the suspected blast on High Street in Hampton Hill, south-west London, on Tuesday night.
On social media, one witness described hearing a “boom” before the blaze. No was injured.
Road closures remain in place at the scene, Richmond Council said.
A fourth teenager has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a boy at a chicken shop in central London.
Josiph Beker, 17, was stabbed to death outside Edgware Road KFC, Westminster, at about 14:00 BST on 10 September.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder. He remains in custody.
Two 16-year-old boys were charged with murder on Saturday. An 18-year-old arrested over the murder has been bailed pending further inquiries.
Police have arrested 18 people believed to be involved in a climate change protest at Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow Pause activists threatened to fly drones in the exclusion zone, but no flight disruption has been reported.
The 18 arrested people have all been held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.
Heathrow Pause said one of the arrested – Roger Hallam, an Extinction Rebellion co-founder – was still planning to fly a drone on Saturday.
The group said Mr Hallam was released from custody at about 22:00 BST on Friday and that he would be flying the drone at midday “near Heathrow” with the location “to be announced nearer the time”.
The Metropolitan Police said that, out of those arrested, five remained in custody on Friday night. The others have been bailed.
Police say those arrested range in age from 19 to 69.
Heathrow Pause had previously said it intended to fly drones within the 5km exclusion zone around the airport on Friday morning, but the group claimed the airport was using “signal jamming to frustrate” their efforts.
Both the airport and police refused to comment on “security matters”.
The Met Police said a dispersal order at the airport would be effective until early on Sunday morning.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We are really clear that [flying drones] is unlawful, it is a criminal offence, and anybody who turns up expecting to fly drones in that exclusion zone will be arrested.”
The force made seven pre-emptive arrests on Thursday, including that of Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam.
Heathrow Airport said it was committed to addressing climate change, but this was best tackled through “constructive engagement and working together to address the issue”.
Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema is the Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer, has won three league titles in two countries and holds the record for most Women’s Super League goals in a season. She is also just 23.
Fresh from playing in this summer’s World Cup final, Miedema sat down with BBC Sport to discuss her Dutch roots, football chats with Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk and her childhood fascination with Robin van Persie.
Family, Feyenoord and Van Persie
Growing up in Hoogeveen, a town in the north-east of the Netherlands, Miedema would join her father and younger brother Lars in making the 120-mile trip to Rotterdam to watch Feyenoord play.
And when asked about the influence of her family on her playing career, Miedema jokes she “never really had a choice” but to pursue football as a profession.
“My dad used to play football, my granddad used to play football and my little brother is playing now too,” she tells BBC Sport, referring to Lars’ contract with FC Den Bosch, the club where Ruud van Nistelrooy began his career.
“We just loved it and there was nothing else for me. I am four years older than my brother but I used to play football with him and it’s made me a better player and I think him too.”
The Miedema family were all big Feyenoord fans and between 1996 and 2004 were able to watch as ex-Manchester United and Arsenal striker Van Persie developed on his way to becoming one of the best strikers in Europe.
Reflecting on that time, she says: “If you are a young girl now it might be a bit different because there are lots of female players to look up to but I used to be a fan of the Feyenoord players. I used to buy the little kits of Robin van Persie and watch every single game.
“They were the only games I was allowed to stay up late for during the week. We used to go to some of their games. Sometimes, as a birthday present, I would go to a fan day or an open training session.
“I met van Persie once – I can’t really remember it because I was so young. But [at Feyenoord] you got to meet some of the players and go on the pitch with them. It was amazing.”
Celebrating Dutch success with Virgil van Dijk
Like Van Persie, Miedema has become one of the most prolific strikers in the game.
She scored 22 goals and picked up 10 assists in 19 league appearances last season in helping Arsenal win their first WSL title in seven years, her performances leading to being named the PFA Player of the Year. Compatriot Van Dijk picked up the men’s prize.
“It was quite a big thing back home – two Dutch players winning it made it even bigger than it probably was for me and for him,” says Miedema.
“It was nice to get the awards after the year we both had but we are both quite down to earth and the day after the focus was on the football again.”
For Miedema, focussing on football meant the then-upcoming World Cup. Liverpool defender Van Dijk was supporting Miedema and her Dutch team-mates this summer, wishing them luck before their defeat in the final by champions the USA.
“I spoke with him [Van Dijk] at the PFA awards and he is a nice guy,” says Miedema. “Obviously we had some football chat – I went to the Liverpool v Barcelona Champions League semi-final as well.
“It was just nice. We see them [the men’s internationals] when we are away with the national team as well. We watch their games and they watch ours and he was watching the World Cup final. It’s nice to have that contact and respect each other.”
Breeding confidence at Arsenal
Dutch players have enjoyed success in the English game, with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edwin van der Sar and Arjen Robben among players to have enhanced their reputations in the Premier League.
In 2018-19, there were four Dutch players in Arsenal Women’s title-winning squad and all four started the World Cup final. This summer, midfielder Jill Roord joined from Bayern Munich.
“The English league is one of the most attractive leagues to go to right now,” Miedema says.
“The step from Holland to England is small, it’s not like going to Spain where you don’t understand a word and it’s a different life. In England, it is quite similar to how we live and that makes it a lot easier.”
Miedema, who has scored 63 goals in 83 appearances for her country, adds that success on the international stage breeds confidence with team-mates back at Arsenal.
“Nobody expected us to win the Euros or do well at the World Cup but we did it, again,” she says. “I played my part in that and it was good to get back into it recently for the start of the Euro qualifiers.”
After becoming the first player to surpass 16 goals in a single WSL season in 2018-19, there are higher expectations of Miedema and her team-mates to defend their title.
“I am lucky because I have been in this situation when I was at Bayern Munich [winning back-to-back league titles in 2015 and 2016]. I have that experience,” she says.
“It is something that’s extra special because obviously every team comes for you and has nothing to lose. They want to get a point off you and work a bit harder against you than other teams.
“That’s just extra motivation to get better every single week and play better football than we did last year.”