Week 1: Välkommen till Sverige
February 2nd, 2018: It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was playing in 100 degree weather during the middle of summer in Australia. Now, here I am in big snowboots and a heavy jacket standing next to our field that has had the snow shoveled off of it. Times, they are a changing.
But can you tell by that snow…? I made it to Sweden! The trip was actually pretty easy, despite not sleeping at all on either flight. There is really no good way to do it, so I just stuck it out, watched several hours of mediocre airline TV and tried to find the most comfortable positions. Several cups of coffee later, we landed in Stockholm.
I arrived in Uppsala on Monday, and while there was a part of me that wanted to jump right into the training, I knew it would be smart to give my body at least one day to acclimate, so instead I watched. To me, watching on the sidelines is like torture. All I wanted to do was get started, but instead I patiently waited. Did you all watch my Instagram takeover? I took some clips of the team. You’ve gotta follow our page!
From what I can tell, football in Sweden is pretty advanced. Every player on my team (and I mean every one of them) is a good player. Great speed of play, the proper weight of the pass, comfortable on the ball, etc. It is like a dream come true! Mostly because I am not so technical, so I can rely on them to make up for my errors – right?! Kidding, kidding. As a center back, my favorite thing is players around me who really want the ball. I love to make tackles, win 50/50 balls, that sort of thing, and when I win the ball, I want to get it to a teammate who can then really do something with it. I used to be a bit embarrassed that I wasn’t the playmaker on my team, but it is a role I have absolutely grown into and adore. Not everyone needs to be the leading scorer – it is okay to have your own talent.
One of the things I sometimes struggle with whenever I join a team is self doubt. Like I said, I am not (nor have I ever been) the most technical player out there. When I was younger, my dad always used to beg me to work on my footskills, and I couldn't be bothered to do it. Everyone who knows me has heard this story, but I still love to tell it. When I was probably ten, my dad took old wine bottles and shoved them into the ground for me to dribble around – no, we didn’t go out and buy fancy equipment, and he was definitely no football trainer – but it worked. While I would go out and begrudgingly dribble in between the bottles of merlot and pinot noir, I was, inevitably, getting better.
It doesn't always have to be pretty - you just need to get it done.
But, what I would do now to get that time back! Yes, there is always room for learning, even at 30, but so many skills can become second nature if you're doing them from the very start. It's so important when you are learning that you take every opportunity you can to grow your individual game as much as you can. Believe me, when you are older, you will be thankful that you did!
Tomorrow, our team travels to Finland to play a friendly match on the Åland Islands, and apprently it's quite a trip. We will drive an hour and a half to a ferry, which will take us two hours to the island. We will be playing a team in the top league in Finland, so it should be a good test for us.
I’ll be sure to update on how that goes. This week, I was really just getting acclimated, so there is much more to share in the time to come. In short, here is what I've learned about Sweden/Swedish people:
1. They hate making eye contact when you walk past them - they will definitely look at the ground, in the sky, anywhere but your eyes.
2. They are always dressed nicely. As my teammate put it "no yoga pants here." This will be tough for me.
3. YOU MUST READ LABELS before you pour what you think is milk, and what is actually sour cream, into your eggs/coffee/tea, etc. I learned the hard way.
4. Always bring mittens. For the love of God, bring mittens.
5. You better know how to ride a bike - because if not, you're in big trouble.
Okay, that's all for now. My only other international teammate just arrived, and we need to show her around. Until next week, hej då (bye!).