The old saying might say “Like father, like son,” but in the case of Maren Mjelde, it is more a case of “Like father and mother, like son and daughter,” as football is in the Norwegian international’s blood.
“My parents play football. When I was little my brother [Erik Mjelde, who currently plays in Norway’s top flight] always brought me to his football training and I played alongside him,” Mjelde explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “When I was six my father founded a football team for boys my age. I had to compete with the boys because no girls were playing. That’s where it all started. Everybody was playing football, so I didn’t have a choice.”
It is therefore no surprise to learn that the 24-year-old speaks regularly with her brother and father and takes their opinions seriously. “My brother calls me whenever I have a game, and if he’s playing, I call him. I tell him what I think about his performance and he does the same with me – negative and positive. Our father is the same; he always calls us because he watches every game he can.”
Presumably, much of this feedback has been positive in recent months. The Gresshoppene reached the final of the UEFA Women’s European Championship in Sweden last summer and have since made a successful start to their FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ qualifying campaign.
With success comes expectation
“First of all, we did so well at the EUROs. Nobody expected that from us and to be honest we didn’t expect that from ourselves either,” said Mjelde, who plays in Germany for Women’s Bundesliga side Turbine Potsdam. “Now when I look back, I am really disappointed because of the final. We had some great chances to win the game. Everybody in the team believed that we could win the final against Germany. But then – you know – the two penalties. Nadine Angerer is a great goalkeeper; she has been for many years. That was good for Germany and bad for us. But when I think about the whole tournament; I am really excited about what we did and how strong we were.”
On the one hand, the team’s recent success has increased expectations, but it has also raised the profile of women’s football in Norway even further, something the midfielder welcomes. “I think it’s great that people care more about women’s football. Of course we feel more pressure, but we have to live with that. We can see what we have achieved at the qualifiers, where we had a good start and won against good teams like the Netherlands and Belgium. I hope we continue that way.”
Norway have already laid the foundation for a successful qualifying campaign, leading Group 5 after four wins. “We have one foot in the World Cup right now,” Mjelde said confidently. “We have seven games left, but I think we are strong enough to win them all. We should go to the World Cup.”
Time for revenge
“I have played at the EUROs twice now and that is a really great experience and a big tournament, but the World Cup is even bigger,” explains Mjelde. “We didn’t do that well last time in Germany. The Norwegian team want revenge and my dream is to play in a really good World Cup.”
But before the Women’s World Cup gets underway on 6 June 2015, the Bergen native has her sights set on success with her club.
“I want to make to make it to the Champions League Final with Potsdam,” said Mjelde. “I have never played in the Champions League before; this is my first time. We beat Lyon, which was really cool. If we could play like we did against Lyon, we could go all the way. Anything can happen. My goal is to win something big with Potsdam,” she concluded.