When I arrived in Sweden (two years ago almost to the day) we were a middle-of-the-table 2nd division team. We were in a small town 3 hours from Stockholm. We had a couple hundred Instagram and Twitter followers, and our stadium consisted of two sets of wooden bleachers on the side of a small turf field that opposing teams dreaded playing on.
During one game in May my first year, it was hailing (yes it hails in May in Sweden) and the bleachers held two fans, parents, probably, though it was hard to tell as they were bundled up to their eyeballs and holding their umbrellas low. It turned out to be one of the biggest games of our season. When we scored to go ahead 2-1 (taking first place in the league for the first time) I got chills everywhere unrelated to the freezing rain. It was an extraordinary moment in an otherwise ordinary(ish) setting.
When I left two years later, we’d won the second division, moved up to the highest league, and had just finished securing a spot there for the next year. There were 300 covered seats on one side of the field with plans to put in another 500 (not enough to accommodate the nearly 1500 fans who had come out to our season opener that year). There was a media tower, covered benches, and brand new turf. We had over 1000 Instagram followers and the “Governor” of our county had come to one of our games to hand us all small wooden horses (a trademark of our region). They’d even put our logo on the bus, which now included on board WiFi! Not to mention that instead of always fighting for our lives, we’d begun to play some pretty good soccer.
My roommate from Malawi went from speaking little English, no Swedish and avoiding eye contact, to making fun of us constantly and playing pranks. The Chairman of our Board, who did everything from scheduling our doctor’s appointments to installing the new turf with his bare hands, cried when we moved up to the highest league for the first time in the club’s history. A local newspaper wrote an article about my left back who had been playing at the club since she could walk, and had moved with them from the 4th division to the 1st.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows all the time. In fact it was a lot of snow and Vitamin D deficiency. But the experience taught me more about myself than maybe I’d even cared to know.
It taught me that I love soccer, don’t mind pear flavored beverages, kind of like eating deli sandwiches for breakfast, love Lingon berry…especially with Swedish pancakes, am bad at speaking Swedish, am less bad at understanding Swedish, have an interior design sense that could be drawn directly from the model rooms at IKEA, and love my teammates even when we lose.
It also taught me that I really enjoy building things.
Not literal things, though I did learn that from IKEA as well. I like the feeling of helping a team come together or a person grow up. I like the feeling of realizing that I can’t do something one day and then working at it and realizing suddenly that I can. It’s thrilling.
I recently started my first company, Duktig Brand, and while part of me is constantly looking to the future, trying to stay on top of today’s work while also looking ahead, part of me is enjoying the small (sometimes very small) successes and the process of building something piece by piece.
I also recently joined a team called IBV in Iceland. After a short two plane flights, bus ride, hotel stay over, and another very small propeller plane flight, I found myself on the most beautiful little island. I can look out the window at two volcanoes, one active, one not (ironically the active one is fatter).
It’s been a whirlwind of learning new names, new words, and how to turn on the radiators in my apartment (I haven’t actually figured this out yet but maybe this will remind me to ask someone). We took a ferry ride to our game this past weekend (I couldn’t play because of paperwork….there is always a problem with the paperwork) and I learned what sea sickness is like.
It feels a little bit like starting over – but in the good sense of the phrase. I miss my teammates back in Sweden, I miss my parents back home and I miss the sun. But I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome here and I’m more than ready to get to work.
We have a bunch of new players and some of the Icelandic girls go to school on the mainland and wont join us for a few months. So there’s a lot of building to be done before the season starts and beyond. Our coach and players have high ambitions individually and as a team. And that to me is the most exciting part – helping to build stuff.
I know some people build stuff on Rock n Roll...all I have is soccer. So i’ll take that for now.