From Refugee to World Champion
A Documentary Film about Germany's Fatmire 'Lira' Bajramaj in 3 parts (This is part two)
A film by Nick Golueke
Fully translated by Jenny Jenkins of LiveJournal.
CLICK HERE for Part One.
CLICK HERE for Part Three.
...Continued from Part One...
Feminine. Easy to identity with. Women's football has come of age.
Ganimet: "Always acting up!"
Lira: "No, I don't think so." (they laugh)
Ganimet: "No, no - always very nice - but acting up too!"
Lira: "Stubborn, I think."
Ganimet: "Yes, stubborn!"
Lira: "If I wanted something..."
Gamimet: "...she'd get it."
In Kosovo, the tea is sweet. Men have absolutely no place in the kitchen. Not before and not now. The men wait, the women serve it up. A classic role-play. Bajramaj plays out this traditional role. Human warmth, togetherness - those are things that they really live in Kosovo.
Ismet: "Lira was always in the first class - always ahead of everyone - and she had a huge talent for dancing and singing. And we always said to ourselves - she could go on and do something like that - be a dancer or a singer."
The homeland of today's ballerina...
Lira: "I can remember standing below there when we played as children, and calling out to my mother that I needed clothing - my clothing was dirty. And what would she do? She'd throw down dresses! And I would throw them back - 'I don't want dresses! I want to wear shorts!'"
And old dream for a proud father. But a princess with a stuffed Dumbo under her arm and in football shoes - that just didn't work.
Lira: "Of course he dreamed of having a princess because he had two sons already. So he said to himself 'What's this? Another one who wants to play football! A daughter who plays football and doesn't want to wear pretty clothing and wears the things her brothers wear!' Naja - he wanted a little princess, but I always did as I liked."
Ganimet: "She's a princess now." (they laugh).
The princess worked in secret. On the pitch in Giesenkirchen (a suburb of M'Gladbach) it's not for ballerinas - instead, difficult one on ones with her brothers and the older boys. And Papa is not to know!
Lira: "Yes. When they asked 'where are you going' I'd say 'Oh Papa, I'm going to track and field.'
'Oh that's wonderful, you're doing track and field?' 'Oh yes Papa, I run and jump around a bit.' I did that for quite a long time!"
The brothers hide her secret passion, the class-room teacher is supportive of her seven year old pupil and tries to reason with the father. Nothing helps. Papa remains stubborn and the little devil has to look for other leagues.
Lira: "Whenever we had tournaments or competitions between the schools, or when our class travelled around, you needed your parents signature of course. We did it ourselves. I think the teachers figured it out because it was written in elementary school handwriting, but they said 'Okay, fine' - and I did that every year.
The day of discovery. Papa comes to watch his small son at football. On the left plays Lira's brother. On the right plays...his daughter Lira!
Lira: "My brother played for Giesenkirchen back then too, but with the little ones, and I always had to watch out - when does he play, when do I play? Are we playing at home or are we playing away? And one day I didn't think to ask and we ended up playing on the same day and at the same time."
Ismet: I was really angry. It wasn't supposed to be like that.
Lira: "My father yelled at me: 'Lira, come here!' And it was right after the first half and I'd scored 4 goals already. I looked up at him and he said: 'What are you doing? What do you have on?' 'Papa - they're football shoes and it's a jersey - I'm playing with the boys.' 'This can't be. Pack your things at once! Go straight to the car!' I waited in the car and cried and cried and cried. And then my father came..."
Ismet: "...and Lira was sitting deeper and deeper in the seat so I couldn't see her in the car mirror and I said to her..." (Ismet makes a gesture, as though he is adjusting the car mirror)
Lira: (Lira makes the same gesture) "'...don't you hide from me! Look at me!' and I looked at him. 'Why did you lie to me?' and I had to explain and, and, and...and I cried and we got home. I went straight up to my room but he called me back down and he said: 'Okay. I didn't realize you were such a good player. You shot four really beautiful goals, Lira.' And I said 'Really Papa?' and he said: 'But why didn't you tell me you could play so well?' 'Well Papa, the whole school was there! The coaches were there. Everyone was there - everyone was telling you what a good player I was! How can you even ask?' 'Well, I suppose I've changed my mind.'"
"The next day after work he came to get me and he said 'come on, we're going to buy cleats now.' And I was allowed to have a Borussia M'Gladbach jersey too!"
Freed from the prejudices of her father - today, they're all proud of their princess in cleats. In Germany, and in Kosovo, game-days for the Bajramajs are festive days.
Power-outage! Just like every other day - for three hours. An uncle gets things going again. The storm generator works. The day is saved! The game can start!
Lira: "Yes, the National Hymn - I didn't know it right away. I was standing in a row and everyone started to sing. I looked to the left and right. I just sort of made noises. The girls next to me squeezed my hand and told me to concentrate. I kept making mistakes with the singing."
The way to the top starts here - Gladbach - in Giesenkirchen.
Lira: "This was where we would play. My big brother, my little brother and me. Our neighbours had something to say about it because it was really loud and the ball would bounce off the walls and windows. And then - well, it was verboten! (She walks into the house) 'Hey Mummy!'
"And this was my first bedroom. I don't live here anymore, but when I visit I still sleep here because I love it and it's really comfortable. [There are framed certificates on the wall reading 'Best Player of the Year'] You can see here the angels that look out for me. And here below are my angel figurines. And here I've got a Certificate from the ex-President after the Olympic games in Peking (Beijing) in 2008. Every player received the Silver Laurel. You can see my Mum cut everything out."
The girl has grown up. Memories from the photo-albums. Lira and her brothers.
Ismet: "You can see the success now, and reflect on it - what it was like when she played for M'Gladbach. What it was like when she played here for two years. We get together, and remember, and the tears start to flow."
The other memories - of their previous homeland, Kosovo. The Serbian police-station from earlier times. A place of oppression for many Albanian Kosovars. Also for Lira's father, Ismet.
Ismet: "They came out. We had to line up against the wall, with our hands up so far apart, and our feet a metre from the wall - and that's how we'd stand our heads against the wall.
Torture and fear - it was part of every day life for Albanian Kosovars at the end of the 1980s. A small Serbian minority gets the majority of rights - language, identity. The police are an instrument of oppression. The police station is a place of fear.
Lira: "As children we were very aware - and we knew 'here is something...not right.'"
Serbian is the official language. Albanian schools are closed down, burned to the ground. Secretly, behind locked doors, the teaching goes on. Also on the Bajramaj farm - 20 children between the machinery and the cow-sheds.
Continued in Part Three...