Ramona Bachmann, 25, is a striker for VfL Wolfsburg and the Swiss national team. She was elected to the 2015 World Cup all-star team and was on the short list for the world’s top female football player in 2015.
Ramona Bachmann, when were you first paid to play football?
When I was eight years old. When school let out for the summer, my father offered me a prize if I learned to juggle the ball a hundred times by the end of summer vacation. It took me five weeks.
Talented children are often pushed to succeed. Did you experience that kind of pressure?
Not at all. My parents always supported me, but they never pushed. Nor did they need to. I was extremely ambitious and spent every spare minute playing football. The motivation has to come from within, external pressure doesn’t work.
When did you realize that you might have what it takes for a professional career?
When I was accepted by the Credit Suisse Academy in Huttwil at the age of 12. I had the opportunity to spend two years training with the best players, and I made enormous progress. I also lived with a host family, which helped me learn early on how to be independent. It was the best time of my career.
When you were just 15 you got an offer from Umea IK in Sweden, at the time Europe’s top club. What was your parents’ reaction?
I didn’t ask them for permission; I simply told them I was going to accept the offer. I wanted to seize the opportunity. It wasn’t easy for my parents, and I’ll always be grateful to them for letting me go.
Do you need to have a big ego to make it to the top?
You can’t do it otherwise. Ultimately, however, football is and remains a team sport. To be a star you need the ball, and you won’t get it unless you’re also willing to sacrifice yourself for the team.
What was the hardest lesson for you to learn?
Keeping my ambition under control. In important matches, I was often so fired up that I tried to do too much. In my first international match, I was shown the red card after only 17 minutes. My only consolation is that I was in the game longer than Lionel Messi. It took only a few seconds for him to be ejected from his first international match.
What advice would you give girls who dream of a professional career?
Enjoy the game, be patient, and never forget that it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s the only way to improve.