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Ewa Pajor's dedication sums up Wolfsburg's success

February 2, 2023

EXCLUSIVE: For the past decade, Wolfsburg have ruled women's football in Germany and this Bundesliga season is no different. Financial clout helps, but as star striker Ewa Pajor tells DW, success is in the club's DNA.

Goal celebration 4 1 by Ewa Pajor VfL Wolfsburg Football, Women, Season 2022 2023
Mentality monster: Wolfsburg's Ewa PajorImage: Susanne Hübner/IMAGO

There's no room for half-hearted attitudes at a club like Wolfsburg. Mentality trumps everything and it's a big reason they've dominated German football since 2013.

And in a team full of relentless, driven beasts, it says something that Ewa Pajor stands above the rest when it comes to her approach to football.

"I rarely see a player who gives as much as Ewa in every single training session," Wolfsburg coach Tommy Stroot told DW in a press conference this week. "The bar is already high for us, so for anyone to exceed that, is unbelievable."

Ewa Pajor's goals this season have propelled Wolfsburg to lofty heights. In a year where Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt threatened to topple their Bundesliga title monopoly, they've simply raised their game, and 11 wins from 11 sees them command an eight-point buffer at the top.

For Pajor, it's simply the Wolfsburg way.

"Our motto is 'always hungry'. Wolfsburg always want to win and I love this mentality. We want to win every title every year," she tells DW. "Here you have to give everything in every department. In training, in games ... it doesn't matter who we play."

On Saturday's first game after the winter break, Wolfsburg comfortably dispatched of Freiburg. Unsurprisingly, Pajor was on the scoresheet, taking her tally to a league-topping nine goals.

Pajor's rise to club icon

Pajor's dedication to Wolfsburg started almost immediately when she arrived as a slight 18-year-old from Poland in 2015. She took time to settle, but she quickly bought into the club's ethos.

Surrounded by established world-class talent, such as Pernille Harder and Caroline Graham Hansen, Pajor elevated her game to match her teammates. She exploded in the 2018-19 season, finishing top scorer with 24 goals in just 19 league matches.

"When I arrived here I met some really strong personalities, such as Alexandra Popp, Anna Blässe, Nilla Fischer. I learned from them," she says. "And now I want to pass on that knowledge."

Eight years later, she is now one of Wolfsburg's longest-serving players and she's thriving off her responsibility as a role model for the team, on and off the pitch.

With 108 goals in 152 games, she's currently joint-fourth in Wolfsburg's all-time list of top scorers, and the top scorer in both the Bundesliga and Champions League this season, too. A further 51 goals in 70 international appearances for Poland show she firmly belongs in the conversation about the world's best strikers.

Ewa Pajor tussles for the ball with Leonarda Balog.
Ewa Pajor's game is more than just about goalsImage: Walter Luger/GEPA pictures/IMAGO

A complete striker

While her natural instinct in front of goal is Pajor's deadliest weapon, the 26-year-old's talents extend far beyond her goalscoring ability.

She boasts it all, so much so that Stroot described her as the "perfect overall package." She presses opposition ferociously, her pace is lethal on the counter attack and her dribbling from deep creates openings for teammates. Even her modest height hasn't stopped her being a handful in the air. The mere mention that she's a complete player, however, is enough to get her animated.

"No, no, no, there are still so many things I can still improve," she insists. "I think in every year, every training session, every game, you can always do everything even better. My philosophy is that I still have to improve. I still have to be more precise, more … everything.

"We have to give 100%, always. If [newly promoted] Meppen comes here then no one can think we can play 50%. No, it's always 100%. That's how it is."

Constant hunger for success

For the past decade, this mentality, as well as financial muscle from backers Volkswagen, has kept Wolfsburg at the top of German football with 16 trophies in 10 years.

And as women's football in Germany attracts more invesment and interest, new competition has emerged in the shape of Bayern and Eintracht. Instead of a 'big one,' the next few years promise the development of a 'big three.'

Neither team has managed to keep pace with Wolfsburg this season, but Pajor has welcomed with the league's progression.

Ewa Pajor in a Wolfsburg shirt makes a love heart sign with her hands.
Pajor's dedication has helped inspire Wolfsburg's high standardsImage: Domenico Cippitelli/ZUMA Press/IMAGO

"The Bundesliga is still developing and there is room for improvement," she says.

"We can be stronger as an entire league and that's what we aim for. There is still a lot of potential left in the Bundesliga but we can be the best league in the world. I think we already are but we still want to improve."

Yet despite Wolfsburg's domestic dominance, there is still something missing from Pajor's trophy haul, and that's the Champions League. She's been through three missed opportunities, losing to Lyon each time in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 finals.

"They all hurt. But afterwards you have the experience. And our goal is to be there in Eindhoven and win the final [this year]," she says. "We'll focus on ourselves, work hard, and take that step towards our goal."

On the cusp of international recognition

At the moment, Pajor isn't a household name outside Germany, however with injuries behind her the next year or two should see her profile rise alongside the likes of Sam Kerr and Ada Hegerberg. Success in the Champions League would certainly help, too.

And despite big clubs in England and Spain, backed by financial power, aiming to take control of the competition, Pajor doesn't seem interested in finding success and recognition elsewhere.

"From the very start I felt at home at Wolfsburg. This is the best place for me, it's the best team in the world. And I'm excited about our new goals. I'm so proud to be able to play here," she says.

Ewa Pajor pumps her first on the sideline as Tommy Stroot issues instructions.
Wolfsburg and Ewa Pajor share reciprocal gratitudeImage: Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/IMAGO

It's a sentiment reciprocated by her coach. "Ewa simply has an incredible attitude and brings it every day. We're extremely happy to have her."

Pajor's obsessive fixation on improvement and success is the perfect fit for Wolfsburg. And if the club is to rise back to the top of European football, and stave off the emerging Bundesliga threats, Pajor will be the one leading the way.

Wolfsburg aim to defend Bundesliga title

Janek Speight Sports reporter and editor