“I think more British players should look for opportunities to play abroad. There's a lot to gain with working with both players and coaches from all over the world.”
Name: Anita Asante
Previous clubs: Arsenal Ladies, Chelsea Ladies, New Jersey Sky Blue, St Louis Athletica, Chicago Red Stars, Washington Freedom, Kopparberg Göteborg FC
Current club: FC Rosengård
Location: Malmo is the 3rd largest city in Sweden, with a population of approximately 318,000. Within the city is the Øresund Bridge, which crosses into Copenhagen in Denmark. Around 43% of the people living in Malmo have a foreign background, with Iraqi being the most common nationality amongst the people to move to the area. Malmö FF are the largest sports team in the area playing with the football club playing the in the men’s top flight; Allsvenskan. They are the most successful team in Sweden and reached the European Cup final in 1979 but lost to Nottingham Forest 1-0, with Trevor Francis scoring the solitary goal.
In women’s football it is not unusual to see home grown players move abroad for new opportunities due to the high standards across the globe. USA has an array of top clubs whilst many European countries also take the sport very seriously. England international Anita Asante has spent half her career playing abroad plying her trade in USA and Sweden. After playing for four different clubs in America, Asante has now established herself in Sweden, first with Kopparberg Göteborg before moving to one of the top clubs in Europe; FC Rosengård.
“After two good seasons at Kopparberg/Gothenburg FC I was ready for a new challenge and fortunately FCR scouted me for the position of Centre Back and defensive midfield. They were very informative about the club's long-term ambitions and I got to take a trip and meet some players, see the club and how it runs. From there it was an easy decision. I saw FCR as a very professional club with really talented and world class players and I wanted to continue to push myself and play in one of the best clubs In Europe.”
FC Rosengård certainly are one of the best clubs in Europe , having won 10 Damallsvenskan titles (women’s top flight in Sweden) including the last three. The club merged with LdB FC Malmö in 2013. One of the world’s best players Marta who has scored 100 international goals for Brazil is a teammate of Asante’s.
When Asante first arrived in Sweden, she was very impressed with the professional attitudes of the clubs, something English clubs were lacking in at the time with regards to how often they were training etc.
“Compared with when I used to play in England and train twice a week with my club, here I train with my team six days a week and therefore, have a very challenging and professional environment to develop in. Of course that is no longer the case in England and huge strides have been made to have more full-time professional players and that is a great sign of the direction women's football is going in England.”
Obviously Asante had to adapt to a different climate in Sweden, but now feels comfortable in her surroundings and even though the majority of people speak fluent English, she has been improving her Swedish vocabulary.
“I think the biggest difference playing in Sweden compared to England is training outside in the winter temperatures! But, also the following behind football in the UK is unmatched by most countries in Europe, because of the popularity of the EPL and the intrinsic tradition of football in our culture.”
“The environment was very welcoming and they are brilliant at speaking English so my level of communication with players both on and off the pitch helped that transition develop faster. However, now my Swedish has developed a lot and that real sense of inclusiveness and understanding is even further improved.”
What made Asante’s transition even smoother was the type of football incorporated at both her Swedish clubs. Having been brought through the ranks at Arsenal Ladies, a particular type of football had been bred into her.
“I didn't have any major difficulties adapting to Swedish football since both clubs I have played for since being here, seek to play effective possession oriented football and having developed in my early years at a club like Arsenal that's like the basic bread and butter of general team play!”
When asked about the standard at her current club compared to the English leagues, Asante was very proud of her current club’s achievements and believe they can go on to be even more successful.
“Well as it stands I don't believe there is an English side ranked higher than us in Europe. We got knocked out of the quarter finals of the Champions League last year on aggregate and this year on penalties. I believe we as a team have definitely proven we are strong contenders in Europe and our Damallsvenskan record speaks for itself. Our performances on both occasions in CL first against Wolfsburg and then against Frankfurt showed that we are a team that can develop fast and be astute in our game ideology as well as making it tough for our opposition.”
Whilst Asante is more than happy in Sweden she hasn’t ruled out returning to England and playing in front of familiar faces once again.
“My favourite thing about Sweden is probably how relaxed it feels. At least in Malmö. It has a small city feel with access to Copenhagen a much larger city, as well as the combination of theatre, the beaches, cafe culture, and culture events almost year round.
Obviously I miss England though, especially custard creams! No but really, well along with my family and friends who know me better than anyone. But, the luxury of living here is that it’s not difficult to fly to and from to see them. I suppose London itself and the feeling you can always see and explore something new, evolving, and changing all the time. The huge football culture we have too!”
“One day I may return to my country and play in front of old and new supporters, family and friends once again and end my career feeling I have come full circle of a journey with those who have supported it from the beginning to the end.”
Asante has 70 international caps for England but has struggled to get in the squad of late under Mark Sampson. However she doesn’t believe that playing in Sweden would have much of an effect on this. Other players such as Rachel Daly and Lianne Sanderson play in USA but have still managed to receive call-ups.
“Playing abroad never hindered my chances before, at least when I played in the US. Since playing in Sweden especially most recently, it has been challenging to understand perhaps why I haven't been able to get more chances to be seen. But, I guess if the national team is interested in seeing me play then all they have to do is watch online or take a visit to my club.”
The defender emphasises a move abroad is definitely something to be considered for British based players.
“I do think more British players should look for opportunities to play abroad. There's a lot to gain with working with both players and coaches from all over the world. There’s a lot to learn; attitudes and approaches to developing individually and collectively. Most of my good friends and ex-team mates speak very positively when they have had the opportunity to play with foreign players in England. Often expressing how they add a work ethic and positive attitude to the team.”
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