In July 2019 a group of 04 girls traveled to Sweden to compete against international teams, train with Swedish players, sightsee and immerse themselves in Swedish culture. This is the second time ASA had traveled to Malmo, Sweden and for the second summer in a row this trip did not disappoint. Below is an overview of the daily activities and experiences with a few photos for good measure!
The team traveled to Malmo on July 13th and got settled in with a boat cruise of the city and a casual dinner. After a good night’s sleep they were ready for their first full day in Sweden!
Sunday, July 14th:
The girls had their first training session at LB07’s beautiful facilities (ASA has partnered with this club for the past two years and they provide training equipment and field space for the team). After a solid warmup (to shake out the legs from a long day of travel) the girls had a great 90 minute session in preparation for Friday’s tournament.
Through our Swedish partnerships the team was able to secure a guest player for the week (the team needed a goalkeeper!) from a local club, Husie IF. The girls met Emelie for the first time during this first training session and were immediately impressed by her play and how well she spoke English. No one anticipated how impactful and wonderful an experience it would be to have a local Swedish player as part of the ASA team for the week (more to come on this!).
After training the group headed to Skanör Beach for a day of relaxation and fun in the sun. The water temperature was chilly (somewhere in the 60s) but the girls were not deterred! After the first full day of soccer and swimming the girls and chaperones relaxed at a beautiful dinner directly on the beach at a Badhytten restaurant.
Monday, July 15th
The girls began the day with another training session, this time with LB07’s 04/03 girls team. Coach Katie began the session by partnering each ASA girl with an LB07 player. The partners introduced themselves to each other and shared a bit of information about school, age, etc. Throughout the rest of the session each duo was on a team together for every activity. This gave the Swedish players someone to ask questions if they didn’t understand an exercise. The ASA group ultimately ran into a few of the LB07 players at various events throughout the week and the girls became friends.
After practice the team headed to a small area outside of Malmo for an orienteering challenge. Orienteering is popular sport in Sweden (and also a mandated exercise credit in their public school system). An American would describe it as a scavenger hunt wherein you must follow a map and use a compass to find each checkpoint.
We’ll just note that some of the ASA girls were better at orienteering than others! Emelie, our resident Swede, had passed orienteering challenges in school each year and she got a kick out of some of the questions the ASA girls were asking. All in all, a really fun challenge.
After orienteering the group traveled to Helsingborg, Sweden to watch a men’s division 1 match between Helsingborg and IK Sirius. The home team pulled out a close 1–0 victory and the Alexandria team was impressed with the tenacity of the supporter’s section (which they viewed safely from afar!).
Tuesday, July 16th
The girls had their final training session on Tuesday morning while the chaperones explored Malmo on foot. Malmo is a beautiful and very walkable city with a small canal/river that runs through it. After training the group headed to Västra Hamnen, a very cool waterfront area with the opportunity to swim, do a bit of sightseeing and enjoy an afternoon ice cream cone.
As an aside: each day the group visited a grocery store to purchase items for lunch. The girls enjoyed trying new things and exploring the local offerings. Emelie came in handy with helping to translate words and explain local delicacies.
After another full day of soccer and swimming the group walked back to the hotel along the water and through a large park (a beautiful 30 minute walk). The girls got ready for dinner and ate a traditional Swedish meal at Mando Steakhouse. Emelie and her mom joined the girls and chaperones for dinner—the unbelievable meal and incredible company made for a very memorable and delightful dinner.
Wednesday July 17
The day started with a lovely walk to watch an FC Rosengård training session, Malmö’s women’s division 1 team. It was very cool to watch the professional team train at a high level. The captain of the Swedish s national team (who recently played in the World Cup) was on the team as well as an American player, Hailie Mace. The ASA girls had the opportunity to talk to several players and the team’s sport director after the session.
After watching the training session the ASA group traveled to Rydebäck for a friendly scrimmage. It was great to get in a full game prior to the tournament and although they played well the ASA girls did not win. The other club was very gracious and hosted the girls and chaperones for a beach barbecue and evening swim after the match. The chaperones especially loved meeting the other team’s parents and comparing notes on their soccer parent lifestyle and schedules.
Thursday, July 18
The highlight of Thursday was an afternoon spent in Denmark (about a 20 minute drive from Sweden) at Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world. The park is is really beautiful and the girls had a blast exploring and riding rides. The group ate dinner on a pirate ship in the park.
Friday, July 19
Tournament day! The team traveled to Ystad, a small coastal town, to compete in Sandskogen Cup, a one day tournament at a beautiful seaside soccer facility. The format for the day was four, forty minute games against Swedish teams from around the region. The day was fast paced and fun and the ASA 04 girls finished third with a record of 2–2. Two players from Emelie’s Swedish team guest played with ASA and they fit right in.
The tournament had both opening and closing ceremonies which were cool to experience. It was an awesome day in a beautiful location.
After the tournament the girls and chaperones walked down the beach to a local outdoor restaurant with incredible food and a great atmosphere. After dinner the group hopped on the bus to finish the evening at Ales Stenar (also known as the Swedish Stonehenge). The stones date back to the Viking age and were erected between 500 and 1000 AD. As one of the trip’s chaperones said, “It is hard to find the words to explain how special it was to visit this site.”
Saturday, July 20 & Sunday July 21:
The final day and a half were spent sightseeing, doing a bit of last minute shopping, watching a professional women’s game and soaking up the beautiful Swedish culture. On Saturday the group said a tear filled goodbye to Emelie for the last time. It was so special to watch the girls bond with her throughout the week (she even stayed at the hotel with the team for two nights). The ASA team LOVED having her in the group and it was fun for the girls to compare music preferences, words in each other’s languages, stories and more.
We have a feeling that Emelie may be visiting us in Alexandria soon and it’s likely that an ASA player will travel back to Sweden some day to guest with her Swedish club.
While soccer is of course the premise for which these international experiences exist, it’s the relationships, experiences and personal growth that that make them special. The time spent off the field getting to know teammates, eating foreign foods and traveling to new places all teach invaluable lessons and leave lasting memories. The soccer part, that’s simply the shared love that brings us all together.