A winner of the European Women's Under-17 Championship with Poland in 2013, Ewa Pajor urges the players taking part in this year's final tournament in Bulgaria to seize the moment.
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Ewa Pajor was the creative spark behind Poland's surprise victory at the 2013 UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship and she has since gone on to fulfil that early promise on both the international stage and at club level with Wolfsburg. It is already seven years since the 22-year-old striker became the youngest ever player to appear in Poland's top flight with KKPK Medyk Konin, but she still clearly recalls the challenges she overcame to reach the top. Here she offers her advice to the players in Bulgaria this summer.
What is your fondest memory of that Poland triumph in 2013?
I wouldn't say I really have a favourite moment because the whole thing was a great experience. I was incredibly proud to represent my country. I enjoyed the whole tournament and the journey to get there. The first match was against Belgium. We won 3-1 and I think every member of our team had a huge amount of belief because we were up against a strong opponent. After that match we maybe showed or proved to ourselves that we were at the tournament on merit and could also win it. The final, which we won 1-0 [Ewelina Kamczyk scoring the only goal], was a very tough match for us, but we came through it.
How did you feel when you lifted the trophy?
Nobody outside of Poland believed that Poland would be the team emerging victorious at the end. We managed to break that Spanish and German dominance by lifting the trophy and that was an unbelievable feeling. At that moment, I didn't know what I was doing or what to do with the trophy! But now I can say that it was an incredible feeling and it will probably stay with me all my life.
Winning that tournament must have really helped your confidence and self-belief …
Exactly, self-confidence, belief that you can really play the game and win things, even if you are from Poland because the women's team had never been at a major tournament before. The fact we won something gave us real motivation to keep working hard, to keep playing that style of football and to keep enjoying it.
What are the biggest challenges girls in this age group face?
There will be setbacks and different things will crop up along the way, but you shouldn't give up and lose that joy for the game. If you've always wanted to play the game and enjoy going to training, then you will always learn something new in every session. Just don't give up, because the most important thing is to get enjoyment out of the game.
What's the biggest sacrifice you've made to get where you are today?
I had to make the move to Medyk Konin at a very young age and leave my family. There was a lot of sadness and I missed my family a great deal, but I really wanted to play football and going to Konin was a huge step for me in becoming a professional player.
What advice do you have for the girls playing this summer?
They have to take things step by step. You have to have fun. You have to enjoy the game at that young age and you also have to battle hard because each and every girl will want to show their quality and help their team. You have to give everything you've got to help the team because the team is always the most important thing. No team is unbeatable. Just fight, give your all and enjoy playing.
This article appears in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final tournament programme