Three Lions Crusading in Carlstad
With the Britball nation shut down due to the covid pandemic three enterprising members of the GB Women’s team took the opportunity to fly out to Sweden to get some game time in this summer. Utilising connections they made at the Women’s European Championships held in Leeds in 2019, Bo Steward, Sydney Green and Gaby Knops signed for the Carlstad Crusaders and by seasons end, they had Championship medals to bring home!
Sydney explained how the opportunity came about. “It actually started with Bo and I joking during Euros 2019 that if one of us went abroad we would take the other and thankfully for me exactly that happened! Bo put me in touch with the OC at Carlstad and after a few conversations with him I knew I wanted to play football for the Crusaders. I think the general level of football in Sweden is higher than the UK, purely because they're playing 11s so it's more competitive than our season here. You can see why it's becoming more popular for female British players to go abroad now. I think a lot of the Arlanda team we faced this year we're the same as when the Lions travelled there last spring. But also I got to play alongside some of the Swedish national team players - and what an incredible opportunity that was! Although most people kept apologising for not speaking very good English, I didn't feel any language barriers as they spoke English very well. And sometimes I felt like I could understand Swedish if it was in a football context, because if you have an idea of what should be said it worked. The next stop on my football journey is my Letter Of Intent that I signed for the Phoenix Redtails, Arizona - Alongside Gaby, and a handful of London Warriors. That should be a very interesting opportunity”.
Bo detailed how she engineered the opportunity to be playing in Sweden. “So I messaged Linda Johansson (one of Carlstad’s and Sweden’s leading players) back in February, I've always wanted to play abroad and after seeing how impressive and genuinely nice they were at the euros I thought I’d try my luck. I've played both ways for every team I’ve played for. At Leeds Chargers I've started at both TE and MLB and during the Euros I spelled at FB and my 1st position of MLB. So playing both ways in Sweden was great as well. However special teams killed me off that’s for sure! There were no real language barriers, the teams were amazing at speaking English and they never made me feel isolated. Going forward I'm staying on home turf. Going back to the Leeds Chargers this season and coaching the Gryphons linebackers at the University of Leeds in their 1st season back in the Prem North. They’re two programmes I've loved being a part of”.
Sydney and Bo are both back in the UK now, but the third Lion, Gaby Knops, has chosen to stay in Sweden. “I got the opportunity to play in Karlstad as Robyn had to come back due to corona and she and Sydney had put in a good word with the OC out here. With my experience playing abroad they thought I would be a good fit. The standard of play is definitely higher due to being able to play 11 a side. The organisation of the Crusaders was amazing. There were 3 teams in the top league out here! The Crusaders are huge in Karlstad, most people have heard of them and there is massive support for both the men’s and the women’s teams, and its continuing to grow. I have signed a letter of intent with the Phoenix Redtails with Syd in the WFLA, but due to corona we do not know when that start date is yet. If not, I would love to stay and play for the Crusaders again!!
Images courtesy of Hans Cullberg