#Player pathways

Lara Dickenmann on becoming Switzerland's record international

FIFA, 05 Sep 2022


Lara Dickenmann, who was Switzerland's record international player until the UEFA Women's EURO 2022, talks in an interview about her extremely successful journey, which took her via the USA to Wolfsburg, Lyon and back to Switzerland.

Part 1 - Looking back
Part 2 - Getting into football as a girl
Part 3 - An international playing for a US college
Part 4 - Player profile
Part 5 - Late career and next steps

Part 1 - Looking back

Why football?
Football runs in Lara's family. Both her father and brother are footballers, and her father played professionally in Switzerland during the 1970s. Her mother was a handball player and would have loved her daughter to follow in her footsteps, but it was clear as soon as Lara first kicked a ball that football was going to be her sport.

Stand-out memories of her journey to 135 caps and 53 goals for Switzerland
Alongside her stunning international career, Lara embarked upon a journey in college and club football that would shape her into the player we know today. Making the leap from Swiss village side DFC Sursee to Ohio State University proved to be a watershed moment for her. DFC Sursee was one of Switzerland's best teams at the time, but the level of infrastructure and the American mentality she experienced during her college days left a big impression. Other standout moments included spells at Olympique Lyonnais and VfL Wolfsburg, two European heavyweights. 

Part 2 - Getting into football as a girl

Lara's experience of starting out in a boys' team

When Lara first started playing with her local club, SC Kriens, there were no girls’ teams for her to play in, so she had no option but to play alongside boys. She has mixed feelings about this experience. On the one hand, she is grateful to have played in these sides, as they positively impacted her development as a player. On the other hand, she felt at times not fully part of the team.

Should girls play in girls' teams or boys' team?

Lara believes the decision as to whether a girl should play in a girls' team or a boys' team depends on the context. There are a number of different factors to take into account, including the quality of the teams in question, whether a young player will have the opportunity to play in their preferred position, and the environment the player prefers.

Playing in a women's team at the age of 14
At just 14 years of age, Lara transitioned into the senior women's game. This period ranks as a career highlight. She recalls how her older team-mates, some of whom were in their thirties, would look after her and provide guidance.

Key aspects of the transition from youth to senior football
For Lara, there are four things that need to happen when a young girl moves into the senior game. First, they must continue their education alongside playing. Second, the mental and physical load on the young player has to be monitored. Third, there must be clear communication between the club, the young player and her parents, and, last, but not least, the young player must be given the opportunity to take part in competitive matches.

Part 3 - An international playing for a US college

Why Lara chose to play college soccer despite being a Swiss international
When Lara was 16, the women's football landscape was very different to what we see today. Opportunities to play professionally in Europe were scarce, whereas the USA had a rich women's football heritage. Lara was also determined to continue her education and to obtain a university degree. Moving to the USA was the best option for her at the time because it allowed her to develop her footballing career, further her education and develop herself as a person, all at the same time. She still recommends this path for young players.

The American sporting mentality
Lara was impressed by the importance of college sport to the American public. She remembers playing on the other side of the country from her own Ohio State University with people still cheering her on, despite the distance. To Americans, the key issue wasn't which sport you played; it was the college you represented that mattered. Lara still feels the strength of this college affiliation in the USA is unmatched anywhere else.

Part 4 - Player profile

Qualities as a player
'Versatility' is the word Lara uses to describe her qualities as a player. Her ability to use both feet meant she was asked to play in a number of different positions. Throughout her career, she proved she could also adapt to a variety of playing styles. Her versatility was helpful off the pitch too, as her career took her to different countries and challenged her to adapt to new cultures. 

What was Lara's strongest position, and why?
Lara explains that she was at her best playing on the right of midfield in a 3-5-2. She was comfortable with the versatility this role demanded, and she mastered all its key aspects, including engaging in build-up play, an attacking mindset, an eye for goal, and creating chances for her team-mates. 

Requirements for playing centrally and on the wing
Many of the attributes you need to succeed in central positions are to be found in a player's head. Good central players excel when it comes to scanning, reading the game, finding space and anticipating play. By contrast, playing on the wing comes with a lot of physical demands. Players in wide positions have to be fast, agile, determined to get back into position quickly and, ideally, two-footed. At the same time, however, players on the wings should also be tactically aware, and all players need to be able to read the game, regardless of their position.

How Lara scored goals from a variety of positions
Lara played as a Number 10 for the Swiss national team, which naturally meant she would find herself in goal-scoring positions. She frequently played in the Number 10 role at Lyon, too, but also had stints on the wing. Lara identifies the quality of the service she received from her Lyon team-mates as a key contributor to the goals she scored during this period.

A combination of talent and hard work
Lara's parents instilled in her the belief that talent alone is not enough to succeed. She was brought up to be ambitious, to apply a performance mindset, and to strive for perfection. These characteristics built solid foundations for a career in professional football but, as Lara stresses, it wasn't until she reached the USA that she realised the true meaning of hard work. It was there that pushing herself to the limit became part of the daily routine.

Part 5 - Late career and next steps

Arriving at
 Lyon in 2009
Because she was signed outside the transfer window, Lara's first six months at Lyon were difficult. Only two players signed outside the window could be part of the first-team squad. Unfortunately for Lara, Lyon had signed three of them, and she was the one to miss out; she had no option but to play for the reserves. However, that experience helped her later on, because it taught to be patient, show grit and determination, and remain focused.

Developing as a player at Lyon
Three factors stand out as positive influences on Lara's development at Lyon: the opportunity to learn from her team-mates in training, the tactical acumen she developed playing in different systems, and being asked to play in multiple positions. The last of these factors proved particularly significant, as each position Lara was asked to play in gave her an entirely new learning experience.

The end of Lara's playing career
In the twilight of her playing career, Lara made sure she continued her education, obtaining a Master's degree in February 2021. Lara's last few years as a player were particularly challenging, as lack of playing time meant she was not able to contribute as much as she would have wanted. Putting this right was a factor behind her decision to take on her current role at Grasshopper Club Zürich, one in which she can really give her all. 

My parents always said to me, "talent was not enough"

Lara Dickenmann on talent and work ethic

Rate your experience

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

The site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.