5 July ~ For many of those among the astonishing 15 million German TV viewers of the opening game of the Women's World Cup, the tournament was seen as being largely about two players. It was to be the pinnacle of a glorious career for Birgit Prinz, the three times world player of the year and scorer of 128 international goals. It seemed to be preordained that she would be lifting the trophy on July 17 as national team captain in her home city of Frankfurt.

Then there is the current face of the German women’s game, Fatmire “Lira“ Bajramaj. As an eloquent and outrageously skilled Muslim woman, Lira represents for many a symbol of a new Germany that has taken an unprecedented level of interest in the tournament. To say that that it hasn't gone to plan for either player would be an understatement.

Prinz's angry words after her early substitution in the hosts' 1-0 win over Nigeria were telling. She hasn't scored in 343 minutes for the national side, but chose to blame the other players. “The passing hasn't been good, we win too few balls in the midfield,” was her take on the their scratchy 1-0 victory against Nigeria which, nevertheless, saw them through to the next round.

Bajramaj, meanwhile, has barely made it off the bench. She was criticised for her selfish attitude in her 19 minutes against Canada when it seemed as if she was playing for herself, for the glory and for the glamour and not (in Germany, the greatest crime of all) for the team.

Since the announcement of her impending move to 1. FFC Frankfurt from league winners Turbine Potsdam rumours have abounded about her lack of effort and bad attitude. She was disappointing in the Champions League final loss against Lyon and questions were rife as to whether she spent too much time selling trainers and fizzy drinks as opposed to getting her mind and body ready for what should have been the crowning achievement of her still young career.

In her bestselling autobiography, My Goal in Life, Bajramaj talks movingly about her life as an immigrant having fled Bosnia as a child. She has been forced to deal with huge obstacles in her life, but has always felt able to forget them as soon as she stepped out onto the pitch. But she now has another obstacle to deal with in that another young striker, Celia Okoyini da Mbabi, has moved ahead of her in the pecking order.

As for Prinz, there is never a question that she will give up but her lack of form is startling. Germany face an impressively free-scoring France side today to decide the winners of Group A, but there will be as much attention on the bench as on the pitch. For two women at differing stages in their careers, there is more than a third consecutive World Cup win at stake over the next fortnight. Jacob Sweetman Exberliner

Comments (10)
Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-07-05 17:07:49

It was actually Kosovo that Bajmaraj left as a child. She is an ethnic Albanian. I wouldn't be too critical of her performance
in the Champions' League Final, the Turbine performance was generally flat and her striking partner Anja Mittag was in the middle of a slump in form and confidence that saw her left out of the World Cup squad altogether. I do agree that her position as the glamour girl of the women's game has possibly been a distraction from the matter of doing it on the field. Her move to Frankfurt did not go down well with Turbine coach Bernd Schroder who basically accused her of being the tool of her agent and relations between the two remained frosty until her departure from Potsdam. I did admire the courage of the German TV reporter who, not beating about the bush, asked Prinz straight after the game if her international career was over. I wouldn't have dared!

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-07-05 22:09:21

Just watched the game on German TV, 4-2 to Germany who for 50 minutes or so looked in total control before allowing France back into it. Overall a deserved win although they revealed a weakness at defending setpieces that was for want of a better word, Baggyesque and will not have gone unnoticed. I think though that England have done well to avoid them in the Quarter Finals. France were disappointing and their defence was even more Baggyesque than Germany's. England can surely beat them on Saturday. Lira Bajramaj played 90 minutes but flattered to deceive and Germany's striker problem remains unresolved.

Comment by FCKarl 2011-07-06 00:57:29

It is terribly interesting to note that amongst many differences between the men's game and the women's game, one thing stands commonplace: Players' unrelenting egos. Exhibit A: German forward Birgit Prinz.

Her petulance is absurd. She's the senior don (donette?) of the women's game. Not just for Germany. She possesses an unprecedented number of caps (214). Has scored goals galore (128). Has titles in her resume. Can't she take a subbing out or fewer playing minutes with some grace? After all, one can easily see she's not the player of 5-6 years ago.

Time is not kind to any athlete; no one can defeat aging. She should be grateful to be in the squad.

When will players learn. Accept the manager's decisions. It's a bit like accepting (without rancor & fuss) a referee's decisions. If the slow-motion replays show you to be in the "right," the fans and media will note it. Likewise for interaction with your trainer in a very short, intense tournament.

Does Prinz really think the German squad won't make it to the semi-finals? (with or without her) Just be ready. Someone gets injured. Someone falls ill. Your moment will come; you'll be called upon (they only have 20 players nominated).

And if you are in a scoring drought as a striker, what manager in the world hasn't the right to give you some bench time?

A very immature display from the oldest of players, Prinz, in this (no matter what) her last chapter with the national squad. Perhaps she can "mend" her ways in this last week of the tournament.

The women are indeed just like the men, eh?

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-07-06 12:10:24

Perhaps Prinz's reaction is exactly what Silvia Neid wanted? Not unlike Scolari pulling off Luis Figo in the semi-final of Euro 2004. Make them angry and desperate to prove you wrong.

Comment by jameswba 2011-07-06 13:33:55

@FCKarl, good points about Prinz but to me she seems to be fairly atypical. What other examples do you have of women players with such big egos? I did note Kelly Smith's little display of petulance on being subbed last night but she was on the pitch celebrating with her team-mates at the end of the game, suggesting that her reaction was just a thing of the moment.

Overall, I'm enjoying the spirit of these games - and the overall lack of ego and petulance on display. Perhaps it helps not to read much of the press coverage.

Comment by sweetman 2011-07-07 10:42:44

@Pater_Bateman. Thanks for the comments, sorry its taken so long to respond, been waiting for log in authoristation! Anyway, yeah, of course it wasnt Bosnia. That was stupid of me getting that one wrong. I'll leave it in though, no revisionism here mate. About the champs league final, I just have seen Lira pull her socks up and drag a game by the scruff of its neck so many times before, but she looked listless and a bit disinterested. Sure, the whole team was flat, as you say, but they relied on Bajramaj as much as they did Mittag. On Tuesday Lira again spent far too much time pissing around trying for the hollywood move. Lucky theyve got grings who was simply awesome in my book.
@FCKarl, yeah she was shitty, but i agree with @Jameswba that has been gladly absent, mostly, in this world cup so far.

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-07-09 11:36:04

Jacob, don't know if you saw the listing of players' earnings published in Bild Zeitung last week. Lira will apparently pick up 132,000 Euros per annum at frankfurt and a further 80,000 Euros from endorsements. She also received 40,000 Euros as a signing on fee at Frankfurt. Nice money but in total less than Wayne Rooney gets in a week!

Comment by sweetman 2011-07-10 10:50:21

Cheers Peter, I hadn't seen that. Sure, its not as much as most men, but a nice little earner for watching rfom the bench, eh? I wonder if Neid was seriously pissed off with her, actually, when the team celebrated the win against France as one in a huddle in front of the crowds, while Lira was in the stand with her new boyfriend? And you were spot on about the striking problem. Grings was immense against France, but anonymous yesterday.... good call mate.

Comment by Peter_Bateman 2011-07-11 12:00:09

Jacob, there's some more interesting reading for you. The website of Focus has an interesting interview with Bernd Schroder who had some pertinent things to say about the Birgit Prinz affair while the Markische Allgemeine Zeitung has a piece about the reasons for Germany's failure and really lays into Silvia Neid and her 1. FFC Frankfurt "teachers's pets". As an ex-Berlin resident you will of course know that the MAZ is the media voice of Turbine Potsdam so unlikely ever to say anything good about Frankfurt but it's still an interesting read.

Comment by Jean Williams 2011-07-14 19:23:49

I found the comments about earnings very interesting as I am doing a project on semi-pro and professional earnings of women players at the moment. Are the Bild Zeitung figures likely to be accurate as it seems notoriously difficult to get earnings for female players? Any other information in this regard gratefully received.

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