What's it like being a pro soccer player in Sweden? Let's ask Charlotte Brascia
Former Arizona soccer player Charlotte Brascia turned a dream into reality last spring when she signed with Swedenâs SkÃ¶vde KIK, becoming one of the first Wildcats to go pro.
Brascia started in all 20 games at Arizona last season, scoring a career-high three goals including a game-winner against Washington, which she says was one of her most fond memories at the UA. The other was reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015 as a sophomore.
Brasciaâs senior class became the first in UA history to reach the NCAA Tournament three times, and in March I talked to her about the decision to continue her career in Sweden. That story can be found here.
The Las Vegas native headed overseas in July and SkÃ¶vde KIK started their season in August. They are currently undefeated through four games, sitting in third place in their leagueâs standings. Brascia has scored twice.
I caught up with her to follow up on her move to SkÃ¶vde, a city of about 35,000 located 3.5 hours southwest of Stockholm. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q. How has the transition been to Sweden so far?
âItâs been OK. The first couple weeks were a little rough. We were exhausted from being very jet-lagged and trying to find our way around. We, the American players, were basically on our own, so it was like fend for yourself, figure it out. We didnâ t know what to expect. But now Iâm used to the time change (nine hours) and Iâm actually with my host family now which is where Iâm going to be for the next two months.â
Q. Where were you staying before that?
âThe first three or four weeks, our recruiter was on vacation so he was staying at his beach house for four weeks and they got us a rental car for us to share and we just stayed there. Me and Kellie Peay shared a room and the other girls shared a room. â¦ We basically had a house to ourselves. And then after that, they were struggling finding us host families. Thatâs why we were unsettled and freaking out. Now weâre staying with the parents of two girls on our team. They live with their boyfriends. Everyone lives with their boyfriends at a really young age here, so everyoneâs moved out of the house. Their dad is really close to our recruiter and they were happy to have us. Theyâre the best family Iâve ever met. Iâm so lucky .â
Q. How many American players are on your team?
âItâs me, Kellie (from Santa Clara), Meagan Harbison from Pepperdine and Holly Neshat from Columbia.â
Q. Whatâs your daily routine like there?
âEvery day here they do this thing called fika, which is like a coffee break and you do it with a pastry or a sandwich. I donât have anything to do in the mornings â" we donât train until night because some of the girls are still in school right now â" so basically everyday I wake up around 10. My host family does fika everyday at 10:30 and itâs on a dairy farm so itâs definitely not L.A. or Tucson, but I actually love it so much and itâs so different.
âSo we have fika and then we usually go to the gym in the middle of the day, come back, eat, relax for a little bit and then go to practice and our practice ends at like 8:30. So literally all I do is soccer. I canât work, thereâs else nothing to do. Iâve been looking at jobs to apply to when I get back home, but thatâs pretty much it. Itâs eat, breathe, soccer.â
Q. So if you live on farm, is it essentially in the middle of nowhere?
âItâs like 15 minutes from town. Itâs kinda nice because the town is busy, but itâs also kind of a hassle getting to the gym. Itâs like 15 minutes there and back. The other girls live closer to town and walk everywhere. ... But itâs honestly really cool and different. I was really open to the experience. You put me in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, what was I going to say? No? I went into it blind and now that I have my feet under me and I know where Iâm going and what itâs like and what my schedule is, I really love it.âGrid View
Q. Whatâs the style of play like over there?
âHonestly, I was shocked. When we first got here, it was very direct. The other teams like to play very direct and I was used to that. Freshman year (at Arizona) we used to play like that. I didnât mind it, but then our coach realized that Kellie and the two other Americans play midfield and I play center forward, so we can connect through the middle. We donât need to play direct. All the other teams play direct and every now and then a long ball is fine, but we do high press, we play 4-3-3 so itâs not very different. ... Some of our training sessions are similar to what Tony (Amato) would do (at Arizona), so itâs good that Iâm used to that.
âBut I wil l say itâs very aggressive. The tackles and things they get away with here, they would never get away with in America. Itâs so crazy. The first scrimmage that we played, our coach warned us that itâs a lot different. I was like âwhatever, Iâll be fine.â Then I got knocked on my butt. Some girl just came and hit me out of nowhere. I fell on my back and I was like âoh my God he wasnât kidding.â Itâs really aggressive. I donât what it is, but then when you get fouled itâs such a scene. Everyone freaks out and cries. Itâs so dramatic.â
Q. Are there older players in the league, too?
âOur centerback, sheâs from Iceland. Sheâs really good. Sheâs 32. Sheâs a mom. She has two kids. Sheâs married. Itâs crazy. But I just turned 22 two days ago, so Iâm one of the younger 20-year-olds. Everyone is like 21 and above. I think someone is like 23 or 24. And then the younger girls are like 17, 18-ish.â
Q. What âs the language barrier like?
âItâs not as bad as I thought. The most difficult thing would be when we go to grocery store, reading stuff. We went the first time and had no idea what we were getting.
âThe girls on the team mostly speak English. Our coach is from Iceland so he talks very slowly in English. Itâs very hard for him to gather his thoughts and say what he needs to say, but he does get his point across. And now that weâve been here for a month, heâll say things in Swedish and I can understand it.
âKellie and I were told that our host family didnât speak very good English, so we were like âweâre screwed.â We understand them, but Google Translate is definitely a big part of my life now.â
Q. Other than the grocery store incident, when did you have that âIâm in Swedenâ moment?
âAt our first day of practice they were like, âdo you want to go to the lake after?âI was like, what do you mean? Itâs going to be 8:30 at night.
âBut it was still light out and we walked so far into the woods and jumped in the lake and it hit me that Iâm in Sweden right now, swimming in a lake after soccer practice. I was in shock. It was a few days in, but that was the moment I was like âwake up, youâre not at home.ââ
Q. What is SkÃ¶vde like?
âItâs pretty small. Rush-hour traffic is nothing like L.A. or even Tucson. But everyone knows everyone. Everyone goes to the same shopping center, the same stores. Itâs really conservative. People are really respectful and nice. When I start speaking English, everyoneâs like âoh youâre Americanâ and ask you what youâre doing here in this sm all town in Sweden. But thereâs a little downtown area where you can walk around and shop. Thereâs tons of coffee shops. Fika is a huge thing. I love it because I have like five cups of coffee a day. Iâm going to be screwed when I come back to America.â
Q. So when you tell people around town that youâre a professional soccer player, whatâs their reaction?
âThey think itâs cool. They understand because the menâs team plays at the field we play at. And itâs an event. If thereâs a handball game or a hockey game, thereâs a lot of people that go. In the papers after the game, they have a spread about if we won, how the game went, so itâs cool.â
Note: SkÃ¶vde KIK plays at SÃ¶dermalms IP, a stadium near the city center that has a capacity of 4,646. âItâs nice!â Brascia later said in a text. âHas a shade over the seating and also away seating.â
Q. On your off days (usually Wednesday and Sunda ys) you travel to different places. Where have you been so far?
âWe went to SmÃ¶gen, which is on the coast. Itâs beautiful. We heard there was great fish and it was small so we walked around and there was a beach area. Itâs definitely not a California beach, but itâs pretty rocky and the ocean was so clear.
âAnd then we went to Hjo and itâs almost like a lake. Itâs pretty. Also really small. They have small towns everywhere that you can go to. And then this past Wednesday we went to Gothenburg which is a bigger city. Thereâs so much to do. And then Saturday, we are going to Stockholm after our game.â
Q. Looking back at your time at Arizona, what was the most important thing you learned as a student-athlete?
âProbably the resources that I had there. I am so grateful that I had everything that I did. The one thing that I learned is to not take that for granted. Here, we have a clubhouse and itâs not that different, but I donât have a (team trainer) that I can go to and get all the treatment I want or go to (Arizona strength and conditioning coach) Jim (Krumpos) and say âcan you give me a good workout?â Itâs not the same at all, so Iâm very appreciative for what I had at Arizona.â
Q. Is it still hard to process that youâre a pro player?
âItâs so natural when you start playing again, but it still feels like I really accomplished something. I feel like now that Iâve been here for a month Iâm starting to love it, and I know this was the right decision and Iâm so happy I decided to come. It does feel really good to say that I came and played professionally overseas. Even if I donât decide to play after, it will be a great experience overall.â
Q. Yeah, so what is next after this season? Are you going to keep playing? (Brascia is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Oct. 22)
âWe do three months, like a tourist visa. If I decide to play after, our coaches and recruiter have some connections. â¦ I think there are higher divisions that you can play in in Sweden. I actually know a few girls that are playing closer to Stockholm. But I have no idea. So much could change in the next two months.
âIâm always going to keep my options open to soccer. Now that Iâve adjusted to it and Iâm starting to love it and love traveling and my life being soccer again, itâs definitely a possibility. Thereâs also sometimes after I play or practice that Iâm so sore and my body hates me no matter what I do. So I donât know whatâs going to happen in the next few months. I could get injured. But Iâm always willing to play especially when Iâm young. If someone called me up and asked if I want to play, Iâd be like âyeah, tell me when and where.ââGrid View