Estonian international and FC Flora forward Lisette Tammik has made ground-breaking history for women’s football in Estonia. At just 22-years-old, Tammik has become the first ever professional women’s footballer in the Naiste Meistriliiga, the highest league of women’s football in Estonia.
Beginnings in football
Starting her footballing journey at the tender age of four, Tammik retold the all-too familiar tale that many current women footballers can relate to. “I started playing with boys and played with them for about ten years,” she told Her Football Hub. “I would say that’s where I developed most of my skills.”
A testament to her determination and grit as a footballer, Tammik made the difficult jump from playing with boys straight to playing with women. “I didn’t play with girls at all. I played with boys, then I played with women. That’s it.”
The first taste of women’s football only arrived for Tammik 16 years on from first kicking a ball, as she signed for Estonian side FC Flora at 18 years of age. However, after a four-year spell, the forward was attracted by opportunities to develop her as a player that lay outside of Estonia.
The decision to move aboard resulted in Tammik signing for Italian side Napoli Femminile at just 20 years old. She noted the differences in playing abroad compared to the style of football played in her home country.
“Abroad, the football is more intense. It’s faster, the quality is better,” Tammik said. “Italy [and Spain] are football countries. Estonia doesn’t have a big history of football.”
When asked about her favourite memory as a footballer, Tammik was quick to recount her time spent at Napoli. “It was full of so many new experiences for me.” Winning the league and the league play-offs in 2019, it is clear to see why this time holds such fonds memories for Tammik. “It was so amazing. There was so many fans from Naples, and the game wasn’t even in Naples!”
Following two years in Italy, Tammik further went on to play for Spanish side Santa Teresa Badajoz, who play in the Primera División. However, her time in Spain was cut short due to an injury that required more care than the side could provide. As such, Tammik moved back to Estonia and re-signed for former side FC Flora to treat the injury and carry on progressing as a player.
Tammik’s domestic and foreign success inevitably saw her called receive an international call-up. Her first cap arrived at 19 years old, where she represented Estonia in the Under-19 European Championship Qualifiers. She currently has 13 senior caps to her name, with the most recent being a 2022 European Championship Qualifier match against Slovenia.
“It’s a big honour,” Tammik said. “When I was little, I could never see myself one day playing for Estonia. I’ve played many games for my age now, so I’m really happy to have had this experience.”
In returning to her home country, Tammik was unknowingly on course for making history for women’s football in Estonia. In a club statement released on April 2, FC Flora announced that Tammik was set to become “the first paid female footballer in the club’s history.” Despite still having amateur status, the club confirmed it had big targets in sight, including the aim of professionally signing up to three more players.
Whilst unsurprisingly being honoured by the news, Tammik was also unselfishly largely focused on the impact she hopes the announcement will have on other aspiring footballers in Estonia. “It’s amazing news, especially for other girls. I hope one day other women will now be able to get paid.”
“Obviously, it’s such a big help for you, being able to play football and only having to focus on football.”
“I hope I can be a role model to other women and girls in Estonia. Hopefully they can find motivation from this news.”
Tammik’s message to young girls in Estonia aspiring to make it professionally was clear. “Do what you love and believe in yourself. There will always be hard times, but if you keep your goals in sight, you will get there.”
It is hoped that this announcement will create a domino effect on the other teams in the league. “I hope it is a continuous effect, and not a one-time thing,” Tammik explained. “Hopefully the other clubs will think they now also have to step up too.”
Tammik herself has her own personal targets set. “I want to play abroad again, but I’ve had to take a step back with the injury I have at the moment.”
“Once I feel in good shape again, I will try to play abroad again.” Predictably, Italy was at the top of her shortlist.
It is evident a strong precedent has now been set in Estonia. At last, women’s football has begun to get the respect and praise it deserves. It would be a struggle to think of a more suitable role model than Lisette Tammik to be leading the way.