Zara Kramzar: Roma's 'unique' record-breaking teen earning comparisons to Christine Sinclair

Zara Kramzar NXGN GFX
The first player born in 2006 to play in Serie A, Zara Kramzar is proving integral to her club's hopes of making history this season

There were 10 minutes left on the clock and Roma, chasing a first ever Serie A title for its women's team, had yet to break the deadlock against bottom club Sampdoria.

So, head coach Alessandra Spugna turned to his bench and called over Zara Kramzar, a 17-year-old midfielder from Slovenia that few had heard of before her move to Italy last summer.

Within five minutes, the substitution had paid off. Despite being on the floor in the box when Manuela Giugliano's cross got to her, such was the pressure from the opposing defender, the teenager somehow managed to direct it into the back of the net to win the game. It was her most decisive contribution to the Roma cause yet.

Slovenia may not be the first country you think of when you think of football. Its men's team has qualified for three major tournaments since becoming independent from Yugoslavia in 1991 but, having been knocked out in the group stages each time, is perhaps most famous for producing two of the best goalkeepers of recent years – Jan Oblak and Samir Handanovic.

The women's team has yet to make a big international event. In fact, of the 17 major tournaments in the women's game since 1991, it didn't even enter the qualification process for six of them.

There can be cautious optimism for the future, with Slovenia's current squad peppered with talents in their 20s who are playing in big European leagues, such as Sara Agrez, who represents two-time European champions Wolfsburg, and Lara Prasnikar, a prolific goalscorer for Eintracht Frankfurt.

But in Kramzar, Slovenia doesn't just have another great player who can play in a top team. Despite the country's lack of success on the biggest stage, it appears to have a talent who could go on to achieve whatever she desires.

  1. Where it began

    Where it began

    Only five or six years old when she started playing, Kramzar admits that her passion for the game “just came from nowhere”.

    “I started to like kicking the ball and running around the pitch, so then one day I just said to my mother, 'Mum, I want to play football,'" she recalls to GOAL.

    Soon, she’d join a local club, playing with boys’ teams all the way through her childhood, including at regional camps.

    First called up for the youth national teams at under-15 level, she had to join a women’s team when she turned 16. The young midfielder had several offers but, in the end, chose Olimpija Ljubljana. It wasn’t Slovenia’s top club and that was part of the reason – it put more emphasis on her to work hard and contribute.

    “My mum and also the whole family were so supportive through the whole journey. In between, she was like, 'Are you sure you don't want to play basketball or a more girly sport?'” she laughs. “I was like, 'No, I like football and I'll continue to play football.'"

  2. The big break
    AS Roma

    The big break

    Only a few months after joining Ljubljana, Kramzar joined AS Roma at the age of 16.

    GOAL understands she could have signed for Benfica, having spent time in Portugal to train with the club's first team. Paris Saint-Germain even showed an interest at one point, as well as a club in Germany.

    But Italy was a good first move away from home given the border it shares with Slovenia. Of course, the midfielder was impressed upon her visit to Roma, too.

    A move abroad is what Kramzar had wanted since she was around 13 years old. She was told she could pursue such opportunities at the end of ninth grade, but her January birthday would get in her way as, when that time came, she was still only 15 years old.

    “I was crying so much, like the whole week,” she remembers. “I was like, 'No, I want to go now.'

    “Then I went to the high school and I had my birthday in January, so it's half of the school year. So, I was like, 'We can go now', and I was told, 'It's hard to do it'.

    "So, then I waited half a year more and I was like, 'Now, I need to go. There's no excuses anymore!'”

  3. How it's going

    It’s Kramzar’s first full senior season in women’s football and yet, she has already impressed and made decisive contributions.

    A regular impact substitute, her late winner against Sampdoria is a stand-out moment, as is her two-goal performance in the 2-0 win over Pomigliano in the Coppa Italia.

    Kramzar was the first player born in 2006 to play in Serie A, she played in the Champions League for the first time in September and made her full senior international debut in November, scoring against Kosovo after just two minutes on the pitch.

    “[My favourite moment so far for Roma] was when I scored my first goal, against Fiorentina. Three minutes [off the bench] and I scored a goal, I was so happy," the teenager recalls.

    “Also, my debut, also against Fiorentina. I was just so excited. I was like this [shaking] before the game. I was nervous but at the end... I can't describe it in words.

    “This season, you can't imagine for 16 years old. I never knew that I would be like this. I'm so happy and thankful to all the staff, my team-mates and everything.”

  4. Biggest strengths

    Biggest strengths

    One of the things that stands out about Kramzar is her physical dominance in midfield for such a young player. Tall, strong and competitive, these traits make her a battling presence in the centre of the park.

    However, her biggest strengths are technical. The two-footed teenager is skilful and enjoys showing that off – in the right moments. It’s no surprise to learn that when she was younger, she enjoyed watching videos on YouTube to learn new skills. She’s also an excellent finisher.

    “I like to have the ball at my feet,” she says. “I like to have control. I like to do some of the easiest passes but also to do something more. I like to help the team.”

    In less tangible areas, perhaps she is more impressive. Her leadership and ability to assimilate into a top level environment wowed Roma immediately, especially given her age.

    “The leadership that she has on the pitch is astonishing,” Gianmarco Migliorati, Roma’s sporting director, tells GOAL. “At such an age, in both men and women's football, it's very rare to find someone who can play at that level at that age. It has been surprising.

    “She knows exactly what she wants. She's very mature.”

  5. Room for improvement

    Room for improvement

    Still only 17 years old, Kramzar still has so much development ahead of her. She knows it, too.

    “I think I have a lot of space to improve,” she explains. “On everything – on technique, on shooting, on running. Everything.

    “But I think, at the moment, it's to be calmer on the ball and have more trust in myself. Then, I think everything is so much easier, if you believe in yourself and you have the trust.”

    At a club like Roma, she’ll be given a great chance to improve, too, given its emphasis on aiding these young talents and its brilliant atmosphere within the team.

    In fact, when GOAL asks Kramzar what the easiest thing was about joining the club, she immediately points to how welcoming and supportive her team-mates were and have continued to be. “They accepted me really well,” she says. "This, I think, is quite nice.”

    Being around top midfielders like Brazil’s Andressa Alves and Italy’s Manuela Giugliano, both senior internationals with big experiences, will only spur her development on, too, with Migliorati picking the pair out as two that she can learn most from.

  6. The next... Great No.10?

    The next... Great No.10?

    It’s hard to compare Kramzar to anyone in the game as her skillset is so different.

    She has all the physical traits to be a dominant midfielder, almost like U.S. women’s national team star Sam Mewis, but then she has this wonderful trickery to go with it.

    It makes sense, really, to hear that the young midfielder didn’t really watch a lot of football as a young girl, she just played. There were no stars that she idolised or based her game on.

    Similarities have been floated with Christine Sinclair, the all-time leading international goal-scorer, which are certainly complimentary given the Canadian’s achievements.

    It will be interesting to see how Kramzar develops, though, as while her preferred position is in that No.10 role, she’s already shown she can bring great strengths in deeper areas, too.

    “Currently, she's a really unique case,” Migliorati adds.

  7. What comes next?

    What comes next?

    Kramzar’s next immediate step is to become a regular starter in this Roma team. She’s already shown her value from the bench, on many occasions, and it feels like only a matter of time until she gets to do that more often from the first whistle.

    When it comes to her goals, her focus is on the current season. Having already lifted the Supercoppa, she talks about wanting to win Serie A and the Coppa Italia, with Roma to play Juventus in the final.

    "For me [individually], it's just to get some more minutes and play the best that I can in these minutes," she adds.

    Longer term? GOAL asks about winning the big titles, like the Champions League, or playing regularly in the senior national team. “Of course,” she replies, with experience in other leagues an eventual desire, too.

    But she’s not too worried about all of that right now, not at 17 years old.

    “I say the sky's the limit,” she beams. “Everything that is possible, I want to achieve.”