As a young Kosovan Albanian refugee in Germany she was taunted and teased by other children. Now Lira Bajramaj has won one World Cup for her country and is gearing up to defend the title as the Fifa Women’s World Cup kicks off in June.
With her varnished nails, dark eyeliner and long, curly hair, she is a picture of femininity. Fatmire “Lira” Bajramaj’s glamorous looks have thrust her into the German media spotlight and earned her the sort of attention usually reserved for pop singers and actresses.
In fact, this 23-year-old is one of the star players on Germany’s highly successful national women’s football team. Next month she will play before a cheering crowd of some 70,000 spectators when the Fifa Women’s World Cup kicks off in Berlin.
Lira’s ascent to the top level of her sport is, of course, the result of talent and determination. But it is all the more extraordinary given the story of her childhood.
When she was five years old, Lira and her family fled their home in war-torn Kosovo and arrived as refugees in Germany. Her love of the beautiful game began the following year when she started playing football with her elder brother, Fatos, who let her kick about with him.
The Lira chronology
APRIL 1, 1988 Born in Gjurakovc, Kosovo, to Kosovan Albanian parents Ismet and Ganimet.
1993 Five-year-old Lira flees the conflict in Kosovo with her parents, elder brother Fatos and younger brother Flakron.
1994 German authorities grant the Bajramaj family asylum.
2001 The Bajramaj family receive their first German passports.
2004 Lira joins the German women’s football club FCR Duisburg.
2005 Debuts for the German national women’s football team in a match against Scotland.
2007 Plays for the winning German team in the Fifa Women’s World Cup held in China.
2008 Finishes as bronze medallist with the German national team in the Beijing Olympics.
2009 Switches clubs to play for Turbine Potsdam; publishes her autobiography, My Goal in Life: From Refugee to World Champion.
2011 Turbine Potsdam win the women’s first league in Germany; Lira’s transfer from to rival club FFC Frankfurt announced effective July.
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