Swedish football star fighting for more rights for women

Swedish football star fighting for more rights for women


Career or family?

That was the question for Elin Rubensson.

Just 18 months after giving birth to her son Frans, the football star is “shocked” to be heading to England with the Sweden squad at the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championships. So shocked in fact, that she couldn’t even bring herself to pay attention to the squad announcement earlier this month.

“I was so nervous. I could not watch,” she told Sportbladet.

Instead of tuning into head coach Peter Gerhardsson’s The long-awaited announcement, she instead sat on her sofa and switched on Swedish children’s television series Bolibompa – presumably to the delight of son Frans.

“It feels absolutely fantastic [to be picked for the squad]. It’s something I have fought very hard for all the time really, especially since pregnancy. It has been my big goal, so it’s great fun.”

Frans, football and fitness

Rubensson and husband Filip decided in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic that, with elite sport on pause, it was a better time than any to try for a child.

“We’ve always wanted to have children relatively early, so I haven’t wanted to wait until after my career. There’s been (international) championships every year and at the same time I felt that football can’t completely steer everything,” she told Reuters.

“We felt ready, and then COVID-19 came and the Olympics were postponed, the league was pushed forward, everything was very unclear and we felt ready, so we took the opportunity.”

Often, the pressure is on professionals to return to full match fitness as quickly as possible after giving birth – despite the strain that pregnancy can put on one’s body.

As husband Filip stayed on paternity leave, Elin was able to return to training with BK Häcken in February 2021 – just two months after giving birth to baby Frans.

And with the help of her club, she felt her fitness was better than ever post-maternity.

“I feel that I’m almost visually better than what I was before the pregnancy. I’m beating records on the running tests and I recorded a new top speed when we played Bayern Munich away,” she said.

How to stop Sweden

Having finished second in Tokyo last year as and runners-up at the 2019 World Cup – it would be almost foolish to underestimate Sweden heading into this year’s competition.

And if there’s one thing this side isn’t lacking in, it’s confidence.

Rubensson’s national team sent waves across the continent earlier this year when they teamed up with their shirt sponsor to release a comprehensive 34-page guide on how to stop them.

It’s within this manual that indicates Rubensson’s imperative inclusion to the squad.

From her ability to play in the middle and at right-back, to her passes and runs per game – Sweden offers a word of advice to their opponents, recommending that they find ways to limit Rubensson’s length and direction of passes whilst covering any of her deep runs into the final third.

Championing change

Knowing that she wanted children, Rubensson was plagued with an ultimatum that too many female professionals find familiar: Career or family.

“There is a risk that one sacrifices one’s career, in part because there’s no security and also because you don’t know how you will physically react after a pregnancy,” she said last year.

“When I became pregnant there was no pregnancy policy. I have a relatively long contract with two years left so I wasn’t that worried, but if I had a contract that was running down I would have been worried, because you don’t know what is going to happen.”

Having received just 10% of her club salary during her pregnant months, the 29 year-old is using lessons learned through her own experiences to push for change in her home country and calling for greater support and safety of players considering starting a family.

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