Often hailed as the glamour girl of German football, Fatmire ‘Lira’ Bajramaj discovered her love of the beautiful game at a very early age. After fleeing Kosovo with her family as a four-year-old, she began playing football in her first year at school. First secretly, against her father's wishes, but later with his full support.
Bajramaj made her international debut on 20 October 2005 in a match against Scotland and became a world champion at her first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in China just two years later. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, the 22-year-old speaks about the upcoming 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in her homeland, her own footballing philosophy and why the women's game in Germany is going from strength to strength.
FIFA.com: You’ve enjoyed a great start to 2011, being nominated alongside Birgit Prinz and Marta for the FIFA World Player award. How important is this year going to be?
Fatmire Bajramaj: This year is going to be the most important of my career to date, simply because of the World Cup in Germany.
You’ve already played at one FIFA Women’s World Cup. How much of that experience will you be able to take into the upcoming tournament on home turf?
Of course we’ll be taking all the experience we gathered at China 2007 into this year’s tournament, but it’s going to be very different to four years ago. We’re not going to be able to go the whole tournament without conceding or thrashing all our opponents. It’s going to be very exciting.
How intense is the weight of expectation from outside? Germany delivered a near-perfect tournament in 2007. Surely that can’t be repeated.
I think you need a bit of pressure to do well, but you have to be able to deal with it and we certainly can. We put most of the pressure on ourselves because we’ll be playing here in Germany, our home.
What does it mean to you to take part in a FIFA Women’s World Cup in your homeland?
There’s nothing better for a footballer than to play in a World Cup in your own country. Aside from winning it of course!
What are your expectations ahead of the tournament? Which teams do you think will be challenging for the title?
I think there are going to be a lot of surprises this year. The usual suspects like Sweden, USA, Brazil and England will all be among the favourites for the title. There are other teams who are always good for a surprise too, though.
I’d say Nigeria, even if we beat them by a surprisingly large scoreline last year.
What are you expecting from the finals personally? What role do you hope to play within the German team?
I'm expecting packed stadiums and a great atmosphere, just like at the men’s World Cup in 2006. My aim is to take on more of a leadership role within the team and to motivate and inspire the younger players.
How would you describe your own footballing philosophy?
It’s pretty easy to explain. Just stay calm during the match, try not to be rushed or under pressure. Just enjoy yourself, that’s my philosophy. Enjoy it and have fun.
You’re still very young and many are expecting you to become one of the world’s top players in the not-too-distant future. Which area of your game would you say has developed most over the past few years?
My development as a footballer has a lot to do with my move to 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam. I've developed there both as a person and as a player. I think I’m coming to terms with my presence in the media quite well. In fact I enjoy the attention.
Germany have long been among the strongest nations in women’s football. What do you put that down to?
In Germany we have one of the strongest leagues and we train very intensively. That’s why women's football has progressed so much here.
Are Germany preparing themselves for a three-way battle with the USA and Brazil for the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy this year?
Absolutely. Obviously you think about who you might be up against in the semis or the final. USA and Brazil are definitely among the strongest teams.
How important do you think it will be to get off to a good start against Canada in the opener?
The first game is always the most important. I remember when we beat Argentina 11-0 in our first match in 2007. It’s hugely important for your confidence. Also the other teams think, ‘Wow, they won 11-0’.
How are you preparing for that opening game at the Berlin Olympiastadion? How will you deal with the nerves?
I’m always very chilled and relaxed, even before big matches. I run around, chat, have a laugh and look forward to the great atmosphere in the stadium.
How important will home advantage be?
Very, very important. The fans will be right behind us, the whole stadium will be on our side.
What is your chief aim? To defend the title?
That’s a funny question [laughs]. Of course we want to lift the trophy again. Our goal is to win the World Cup.