No-one doubts that the women’s game of today has become faster, more attractive and increasingly popular. Qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ has already begun in Asia, but a host of exceptionally talented hopefuls are steadily emerging all over the globe. That has prompted FIFA.com to launch a new monthly series dedicated to the rising stars of the women’s game.
We begin with the current FIFA Women’s World Cup holders, turning the spotlight on one of Germany’s most promising youngsters. Still only 19 years of age, defensive gem Bianca Schmidt can already proudly point to a hugely impressive head-to-head display against the best player in the world, all witnessed by a 45,000 crowd. A much less well-known fact is that the pupil at a sports academy in Potsdam boasts a remarkable track record of success in a second sports discipline.
Mastering Marta’s magic
Despite her youth, Bianca is already a cool customer. "It’s not often you can’t hear yourself think on a football pitch," she deadpanned to reporters in the Mixed Zone at the Frankfurt Arena following Germany’s creditable 1-1 draw with Brazil. What did it feel like, the dozen or so curious pressmen demanded to know, neutralising the threat posed by FIFA World Player of the Year Marta in front of a European record crowd for a women’s international? "It’s indescribable."
In all likelihood, Schmidt will have to learn to live with a high degree of media attention in the future. The Turbine Potsdam defender, who actually spent most of her youth as a striker, seems destined to assume a leading role in the new German generation slowly but surely succeeding Birgit Prinz and Co on the international stage. Slotting in comfortably at right-back, where she spent the 90 minutes against Brazil providing convincing answers to Marta’s wizardry, the world appears to be Schmidt’s oyster.
However, she is not letting any of her new-found fame go to her head. Speaking to FIFA.com on the evening after the game in Frankfurt, she rapidly dismissed the heady emotions stirred by the match and resumed her down-to-earth demeanour: "I’ve got to go home now and study for my school leaving certificate. I have a written exam in maths – and it’s not easy!"
Football is a much less complex business for Schmidt thanks to her astonishing composure, powerful physique and positive body language, all considerably in advance of what might count as normal for her age. She has shot to prominence on the right side of the Potsdam defence. "In terms of athleticism and pace, she’s international standard," is the view of Turbine coach Bernd Schroder. For all that, the player still rates as a raw diamond. "Bianca is one for the future," says Germany head coach Silvia Neid, a statement surely designed to protect the youngster from over-inflated expectations.
Rapid ascent, lofty targets
A native of Gera in Thuringia, this model academic pupil looks back on a stellar footballing ascent. Back in November 2006, she made a first appearance in the Germany senior women’s squad at the age of just 16, although she did not appear in a 6-3 victory over Japan. At the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2008 in Chile, she made a significant contribution to Germany’s third-place finish. And at this year’s Algarve Cup, Neid was treated to a close-up demonstration of the player’s talent. Bianca’s trademark is bountiful stamina, although that attribute is no accident.
Alongside football, her sports included athletics, swimming and triathlon. She finished runner-up in the German national cross-country championships in 2002, and was central Germany's 2,000m champion in 2004. However, Bianca came to regard football as her best chance of long-term success. "It drives me on," she says. "My goal now is to become an established defender for Germany." Few doubt the likelihood of Schmidt winning trophies in the world’s favourite game, perhaps even at the global showdown on home soil in 2011. "Whatever, I’ll give it everything I’ve got," she declares.
Schmidt might one of the most common names in the German-speaking world, but in combination with Bianca, it is a rare and memorable commodity.