My Peter Pan Lifestyle - Pt 3
My “Welcome to Swedish Soccer” moment came in the form of a crunching tackle from a blonde-haired, nearly 6-foot-tall center back. The physical style of play was one of several differences which I had to adjust to in this new environment. Coming from DIII soccer where the athleticism is generally of a lower level, I found the learning curve was a bit steep here. At 5’4", I am a little on the short side but still just about of average height. In America, that is.
In Sweden, finding myself looking at the shoulders of my opponents is a regular occurrence. Though getting laid out a few times a game will never be high on my list of favorite things, I definitely needed a toughening up on the field and now I also move the ball faster to avoid the impact of bulldozers.
Another struggle I faced soccer wise in the initial few weeks was losing — badly— and integrating myself into a team that had become accustomed to this. We were in a relegation battle to start off the second part of the season after the summer break. The bottom three in Division 1 get relegated to Division 2 and we were definitely more than flirting with that line you don’t want to drop below in the table. My first games included 5-0 and 8-1 defeats. As a competitor, and one who has been privileged enough to be on winning teams for most of her career, it was a hard reality with which to grapple and I was humbled. Our team in those first couple of games often went in with the objective of merely stopping the bleeding as much as we could and hoping to get a goal on the counter. On the bright side, my defense certainly improved.
As can be the case with sports, the team became a hugely positive factor in navigating this tough transition period with soccer and ultimately in Sweden in general. For all the differences there are across countries with regards to language and culture, some elements of humanity feel universal. In my case, this constant was this — soccer girls are soccer girls whether you are playing next to the cornfields of Iowa or the castles of Scandinavia.