Zecira Musovic first caught the eyes of Chelsea staff five years ago, in a 2-2 pre-season friendly between the Blues and Swedish side Rosengård. In that game, the goalkeeper turned Karen Carney’s spot-kick on to the post early in the second half and with the visiting team leading. The two sides would meet in the Champions League nine months later, in November 2017, giving Emma Hayes and her goalkeeping coach, Stuart Searle, another close look at Musovic.
“We played a training game on astro somewhere, I don’t even know where it was,” remembers the Swede. “From what I have understood, that’s where the interest started from Chelsea’s side. They had been following me, without me actually knowing about it.”
After three years of observation, Musovic was a Blue, unveiled by the club in January 2020. “Who’s not happy when Chelsea contact you? Come on,” she says. “I’d heard so many good things about our goalkeeper coach Stewart from Hedvig [Lindahl, the Swedish goalkeeper who played for Chelsea in those 2017 games]. I fully understand now what she means, I think he’s the best in the world. That was what I was most excited about: to work with the best goalkeeper coach in the world and to see what he can do with my goalkeeping.”
Musovic’s journey to Cobham has had its ups and downs, but it has been a relatively linear one. However, football, for “a typical sports person that loves every sport”, was far down the preferred list when she was younger. “At first I was like: ‘Nah, I’ll not start football because I want to play table tennis.’ But then I went to practice, and I completely loved it. I was stuck. Not in goal though, I was an outfield player until I was around 12.”
Like many other goalkeepers, Musovic filled in at the back when her team’s keeper was ill and while she initially thrived off the pressure of the position, she didn’t enjoy it fully until she started to play professionally. “I thought it was boring,” she says. “I wanted to score goals. I wanted to help the team even more in the offence but somehow the coaches kept me involved and now I’m here.”
Now, she loves goalkeeping. “You learn to love the process,” she says. “Everything is in cycles, you have the same journey over and over, starting from the bottom and then building, building to reach the number one again and again. So it’s all about loving the process and enjoying it and adding layers to your goalkeeping so you can be well prepared when getting the chance, the mental part is big in the goalkeeping position.”
The 25-year-old was the only one of four children to be born in Sweden. Her family come from the Serbian town Prijepolje, near the border with Bosnia, but fled to Sweden before she was born to avoid the Bosnian war. “My mum and dad basically left everything they had in Serbia and went to a whole new country just to make life easier, hopefully, for our family,” she says, of a topic she gets “really emotional” talking about.
“It wasn’t easy, they left everything without actually knowing where they would end up. There was a lot of uncertainty. My parents are my biggest role models just because of that.”
When it came to international football, the choice of which country to represent was straightforward. “Of course it was nice to get offers to play for Serbia but I would say it was a really easy decision. I love playing for Sweden. That has always been my biggest dream to represent Sweden and give something back to the country that helped my family.”
Pulling on the shirt means a lot because she gets to show people from the Balkans, particularly young girls, that they can have a place in football. “I actually don’t fully understand that I’m a role model,” she says “but I’m trying to tell myself that’s how it is. That is something I want to do. I want to help. I want to show that it’s possible. I want even more girls and boys and everyone to just be able to do what they love. Everyone should be able to do what they love fully and regardless of their culture and background. Wearing the Sweden jersey stands for so much more than just me being a goalkeeper trying to save goals.”
Musovic, whose house is littered with the remnants of her search for a creative outlet, from sourdough bread to painting, credits the journey and perseverance of her family in integrating into Sweden with having shaped her social consciousness.
The Sweden international has a lively social media presence, a joker on the one hand but quick to comment on issues big and small inside and outside of football on the other. In and amongst banter and memes, in recent weeks there have been tweets about the US women’s national team’s equal play settlement, a “no to war” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and criticism of the French Senate for their vote to ban the hijab from sports competitions.
“I think it comes from my family,” she says. “Just to be confident enough in themselves to do that, leave everything behind, because there were people questioning them. That has formed me into someone that fights for what they want. I fight for what I think is important for me and what I believe in.”
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