Larnaca, CYPRUS – As the sun beats down on the Swiss team hotel, new Chelsea striker Ramona Bachmann could be forgiven for not expecting the same kind of luxury when she returns to London to prepare for her first season in English football.
The 2015 FA Women’s Super League champions announced the signing of Bachmann before Christmas on a contract that will keep her in London until 2019 and the hotshot striker appears to have already settled nicely in the capital.
“I can’t really complain about the weather, that’s just how it is,” she laughs. “London is a beautiful city – I just love it!”
Where Bachmann spent her childhood years couldn’t be more different from the vast surroundings of London’s skyscrapers, the small town of Malters sits bang in the middle of Switzerland and plays host to less than 7,000 people.
There was never any denying the 26-year-old’s ambition to be a footballer, she joined local youth side FC Malters before she was even ten and spent almost a decade honing her skills before she started attracting interest from the best clubs in women’s football.
“I was playing in my hometown for quite a long time,” says Bachmann. “Scouts from the national teams come and look at the best players from every area in Switzerland, we had a tournament and they were there watching. I must have been around 12 and got a letter home with an invite to a training camp at a soccer school.
“It was the first Switzerland, there were me and 60 others who got that opportunity – I was one year younger than everyone else! It was the first time I was away from my parents, I was living with another family and going to another school but I made it to the first group of 12 players.”
Soon it was clear Bachmann was going to be a star, the teenager was attracting interest from clubs in Germany and the USA but it was Umea IK of Sweden who provided the most attractive option. Umea were the dominant side in Sweden at the time and also two-time Women’s Champions League winners.
By the time 2007 came around, Umea had once again reached the final and would face Vic Akers’ Arsenal side – Bachmann would come on as a substitute in both games at the age of just 16.
They had to settle for second best after Alex Scott’s late strike ensured Arsenal walked away with the honours but the Swiss superstar was living the dream, playing alongside Swedish sensation Hanna Ljungberg and the world’s best player – Marta.
“Marta played a big role in my career, I looked up to her and I still do because she’s phenomenal.”
Bachmann adds, “It was interesting for me to come into training every day and compare myself. It was part of what motivated me – to try and be better than her every day, trying to beat her and nothing motivates you more to try and become the best.
“She really helped my career and she was also a really nice person, she talked to me a lot because she understood my situation, she moved to Sweden when she was 18 and she was there for a lot.”
It’s clear at this stage in our talk that Bachmann’s motivation is clear – to become the best player in world football. Leaving home and everything you’re used to at 16 would be a tough decision for most people but Bachmann makes it sound like destiny rather than choice.
“Many people get scared and don’t end up going abroad and following their dreams but I knew I was going to do it,” she says.
“It was a great opportunity to play for one of the best teams in Europe and with the best player in the world. For me, it was clear that I wanted to join Umea because it was such a big chance, it’s still the best thing that’s happened to me.
“It just happened, the coach of my soccer school made a training camp together with Umea who were looking for young players and she told the coach about me. But I was really young, I was really skinny and I needed some time to develop.”
But Bachmann wasn’t given time, such was her talent it meant Umea boss Andree Jeglertz was keen to add Bachmann to his first team almost immediately.
“When the camp was done I was 16 and I got the call from Umea, I was really surprised because I’d played one Under 20 Championship. They flew me to Sweden for 10 days and I learned later that they just wanted to look at me and sign me when I was 18.
“But after two days they wanted to sit down with me and they told me they wanted to sign me now! I was like, “Yeah, I want to sign that contract” but I couldn’t because I was 16 – they had to fly in my dad to sign it for me!”
From that moment, Bachmann’s career went the way most who knew of her talent expected it to. The goals were flying in but after three years the attraction of America became too much to resist and Bachmann joined Atlanta Beat.
But the move didn’t really work out – nor did the league. A persistent injury hindered the striker and 12 months later she returned to Umea. It didn’t take her long to settle back in Sweden, a superb 2011 saw her join LdB Malmo (now FC Rosengard) where she would eventually be reunited with Marta.
Bachmann had reached the top, Rosengard were the new dominant side in Europe and at 24 everyone knew who the Swiss striker was. Her goal record for the national team was as impressive as it was for the Swedish champions but Bachmann says the only pressure she ever felt was from herself.
“Most of it [pressure] just comes from myself because I always had this in me,” she says. “Going to school didn’t really make me happy, as soon as I came home I’d go out and play football. My mum wasn’t always happy because she’d want me to do my homework!
“It made me happy, even when I was young and didn’t know about women’s football, I just had this dream to become a professional. I had the dream to become one of the best in the world, I was working hard for it and I was training a lot by myself. I had no pressure from family or friends at that time, the only pressure came from me – I put it on.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, a persistent back problem cut short her stay in America and kept her out of a vital play-off against Denmark for a spot at the 2011 Women’s World Cup that Switzerland would lose.
“It wasn’t really an injury, I’ve had problems with my back for 10 years now and at that time it was hard to get it under control.”
She adds, “I do a lot of exercises and stretching, I know my body a lot more now so I listen to my body and I know how to react.”
Before their defeat to Denmark, Switzerland went through an initial play-off match against England – then managed by Hope Powell – for an automatic spot at the World Cup.
It was a tie that would place Bachmann in the headlines for all the wrong reasons after she got England goalkeeper Rachel Brown sent off in the second leg. The Swiss had been trailing 4-0 on aggregate before Bachmann pulled a goal back before the break before theatrics from the striker saw Brown dismissed.
It was a decision that was soon overturned post-match and Bachmann admits she learned a lot from the incident.
“I’m not proud of what I did and the situation but I had to accept that it happened,” she says. “I was really sorry for it but all the players who play football know it’s about emotions. I really had a big problem when I was younger, sometimes I was too motivated and stuff like that just happened when I wasn’t in balance.
“I’ve worked hard with sports psychologists for many years now, you can never say it won’t happen again but I’ve got really strong in my head now and I’ve worked on stopping those situations. I know some players still try to provoke me but I’m used to it – I’ve learned a lot from it.”
Bachmann will have the chance to right some wrongs when the two sides meet again on June 10th in Biel and to come up against some of her new Chelsea team-mates, specifically Fran Kirby, Karen Carney and Millie Bright.
I think it’s always interesting to meet some teammates,” says Bachmann, smiling. “It’s always special to play against them and England for me is definitely a favourite for the Euro’s, it’s one of the best teams so of course, we want to play against them and get a good result.”
Despite some issues, Bachmann’s stock continued to rise and she joined Bundesliga giants Wolfsburg after three years with Rosengard. But Wolfsburg’s incredible pool of strikers saw Bachmann’s chances limited and she was once again on the end of a Champions League final defeat last season when her side lost to Lyon on penalties.
Her move to Germany came off the back of a successful debut World Cup campaign which saw Switzerland progress through the group stage – including a staggering 10-1 win against Ecuador where Bachmann bagged herself a hat-trick.
The Swiss side are now preparing for a Euro 2017 campaign which could see Bachmann come up against some of her Chelsea team-mates in the quarter-finals and the striker credits their rise up the rankings to their current boss.
“A big change happened when Martina [Voss-Tecklenburg] took over the team at the start of 2012. Something happened then because she came with a lot of confidence and players had missed that. A lot of players played in Switzerland and maybe didn’t feel good enough when we came up against the top nations but that attitude changed.
“Soon players were going to Germany or to Scandinavia and it’s good for us that so many players were seen as good enough to move abroad – I think that’s the point where it changed for us.”
Switzerland’s World Cup campaign gained the attention of national media and all eyes will be on them when they kick off their Euro 2017 campaign against Austria in a group which will also see them come up against France.
“I think it will be really sick if we go through the groups, we’re talking about even the last four because we have that quality and the confidence in the team. I do think it’s really possible with the team we have but we’ll see.
“At the World Cup, it was the first time the media really started to focus on us, they started to pay attention to what we were doing and show some of our games. People started getting interested because they saw us on TV, I think people were proud of us and there was a big change back home after the World Cup.”
Before that, Bachmann now has a brief Spring Series campaign to begin her spell with Chelsea and will return from the Euro’s to start her first full campaign in England and knowing Bachmann, she’ll be hoping she returns with a medal around her neck…
By Rich Laverty, IBWM Senior Writer. Follow him on Twitter here.