LIF Season 3.0 Game 1

Alright folks. Here we go. Last season in Ljusdal, I didn’t write. As you can see, I wrote after every single game my first season here. That was because I made a huge splash and I’m a very proud Haitian woman and only want to portray strength and glee to all who read my stuff. BOOOOOOO! This season, I’m going to write the good, the bad, the weird, the fun, the sad, you name it. I’m going to write it. I’m doing this because I believe that you all deserve that. And it’s always good to write down experiences honestly so that you can experience them twice!

So, our first league game in 2019! I’m going to tell you the short version. I arrived on Thursday April 11th. Surprisingly not jet lagged. Ready to take on the season. I also genuinely thought that I would come Thursday, train Friday and MAYBE play a few minutes on Saturday in our first league match. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I started and played 77ish minutes! On 4 hours of sleep!

This game meant a lot to me actually. I’ve played against Bollstanäs almost every year that I’ve played in Sweden. It’s my best friend’s club and I have a lot of respect for them. I wanted to be in this game, I just didn’t anticipate that my coaches would play me! But so so so so glad they did! First half was shaky. We got scored on very early and I think it rocked us. But only a little. We had chances. We made some weird decisions in the final third and a few of us weren’t playing like the bad asses we are. I’m one of them.

MATILDA WENNBERG

Second half though. We were stronger. Plain and simple, we were stronger. This team won the whole league last season. But we were knocking at the door. And Matilda, yes, the Matilda who I spoke about constantly in the 2017 posts, did the damn thing. She is brilliant beyond words in tight spaces. Top of the box, she wiggle, she danced, she broke ankles, she scored! Ten minutes into the second half! That’s when we reallllllyyyy started going at them. Ten more minites ish pass, My Ellika, the gal who was the batman to my robin my first season, shoots and scores! And IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL! I’m so proud of my girls!

ELLIKA PERSSON

Ten minutes after that… I cramped. So I came off. Ten minutes after that, in the 87th minute. They got a goal. The score ended 2-2. Crazy though. We could’ve given up. They scored 6 minutes in. Plenty of reason to feel defeated and worried. But that ain’t us. We are fighters. We will always be. Can’t wait to show this community that WE ARE BACK!!!!!!!!!!

Sam’s Journey to Ljusdal

Teammates<3

Let me start by saying that I love this game that I have gotten to play for the last 27 years. I have traveled the world playing and couldn’t be more lucky. I love this game, but that’s what it is, a game. The true beauty of playing for this long is all of the experiences and the people it has brought into my life.
Now it has brought me to Ljusdal, where I have met some of the best friends I’ve ever had, a team who has changed history, my future husband and a supportive community. People constantly ask me how I ended up in the tiny town of Ljusdal. “Why Ljusdal?” I wish it was a fun and exciting answer, but it was simply by chance. I had taken some time off from soccer to be with my family back in 2016. When I was thinking about coming back overseas, I contacted my old coach from Tierp where I last played in Sweden. He reached out to a few teams and one of them was Ljusdals IF. The club was small but there was so much support from the community and it just sounded like a great fit for me. So I took a chance, packed my bags and headed to this town that would change my life.
You see, I wasn’t going to play anymore after a huge life event happened and a really big injury. I was done mentally and physically. I was tired and I thought I would just stay home and start a job in the “real world.” But life had other plans for me. Sending that email to my old coach was something I did in the middle of the night just to get the itch of playing out of my system. But once I heard of Ljusdals IF and their huge impressive tent and amazing fans, the soccer player in me just couldn’t resist.
My journey in Ljusdal has been full of really high highs and some pretty low lows. From scoring 3 goals in my first game from the start in yellow, to sitting out a whole game last season because the coaches thought someone else was better. I’ve cried tears of joy in that yellow jersey as well as tears of disappointment. But that’s soccer. That’s life. Like soccer, life is unexpected and the highs can be out of this world, and the lows can feel unbearable. Fortunately for me, one of those really high highs in Ljusdal was that I met the man I’m going to marry. I met him right here in the tiny town of Ljusdal. I also met friends who treat me like family and leaders who treat me like their own daughter. Life in Ljusdal has had many more highs than lows.
Ljusdal is special to me. It’s my home now. This team has done things that no one can take away from us. And we aren’t done yet. I can’t wait to see what we can do this season. And obviously I can’t wait to get married!

The Future Husband

Who We Are

The SOUL Roc Foundation was started by Samantha Brand in 2015. Sam plays for the Haitian Women’s National Soccer Team, but was born in the United States. She knows while playing for Haiti, she was born into many privileges that some of her teammates never experienced. She wants to do something with those.

The SOUL Roc Foundation aims to connect youth soccer players who are fortunate with those in Haiti who are not. This could mean sending soccer equipment to them, hosting a clinic and donating the proceeds to youth organizations, or simply supporting youth teams in Haiti with love and kindness.

If you have soccer equipment you no longer need, or are a youth soccer organization with uniforms you no longer need, contact us! We would be happy to take them off of your hands and give them to some kiddos in Haiti who need them!!

LIF 2017 FINAL KVAL MATCH

How can I describe something I can barely believe happened. Let me start with the crowd. Now, we have had some amazing crowds before, but we had this crowd that day. And the team. The coaches seemed to be in it with us, so excited, even dancing in our pre-game. And my girls. We had never thought we would be sitting at the top of the table at the end of the season, undefeated in league, won 2-0 away at our first qualifying game and could even LOSE this game 1-0 and still move up to Elitettan. Like…….dream right??

Well, walking into the tent where we played out last game was nothing short of a dream.
The newspaper had printed a two page sign that you could tear out and bring to the game. When we walking in, the whole entire crowd was holding up these bright yellow signs. It was breathtaking, inspiring and gave me the feeling that this was gonna be a great day.

And it was! We scored in the first half! We scored two more in the second half. Hagel scored off of a corner and Sanna, yes Sanna again, scored two more goals to end us 5-0 overall in Kval! We were ecstatic. Flabergasted. Overjoyed. Uncontrollably excited. Just plain happy. The whistle blew at the end of the match, I cried, the crowd rushed the field. It was the most magical feeling I’ve had in my club career. We did it.

 

Not just we, but I had set a goal for myself at the start of last year. I had a huge injury at the start of the 2016 season and on my way back onto the pitch, I decided that I wanted to be playing in Elitettan or higher in 2018. Well, I did that. Not alone of course, but I know now that I worked hard enough to reach a goal. Nothing is impossible. Dreams are made of wishes and hopes until you put them into action. Dream big my friends!!!!!

LIF 2017 First Leg of Kval

Kval means qualifications. We started this journey hoping we would have a great season. Midway through, we realized it was going to be an amazing season. But none of us could’ve dreamed it was gonna be a spectacular, fabulous, unbelievably extraordinary season. And it has been. Today was no exception. We traveled all the way up north, further north than most of these players have ever been. We stayed at a hotel. We ate breakfast together. Got pumped together and headed to the first qualifying game.
We were warned about the field that it would be horrible. We were warned about the weather that it was colder than a witches nipple. We were warned about the length of the trip that it would be hard on our bodies. We used none of the above as excuses as we stepped onto that pitch. We are always up for challenges. We are always up to quiet the haters. And we were ready to conquer all those odds and have the time of our lives. And why not? None of us could imagine coming into this game undefeated in league and feeling this good. Bonus game is what it felt like. No pressure, just excitement and anticipation.
The match had a rough start for us. They came out strong and I was worried at times in the first 15 minutes. But we settled into the game and the other team started to get really annoyed with the refs. This was our ticket into their psyche. We said nothing to the ref and let them make their bed. And when their coach got way out of hand, he had to lie in it. And by that I mean he was kicked out and sent off. Wow right? This doesn’t happen often and when it did, we took full advantage of the shift in momentum in our favor.
From that moment, we kept the momentum going. It was 0-0 at half time and we were ready to battle it out for 45 more minutes. We hit harder. Passed better. Shot harder. Tackled better. We took control of the game and I can’t tell you how pumped you can get from watching your teammates kicking butt and taking names. With about 70 minutes gone, I get the ball and we set out to counter attack. I pass it up to Sanna and she takes off toward the back line. She looks up. The keeper is off her line. She takes a chance and shoots. It’s sailing up and over and GOAL!!!!!!!! We all freak the heck out because when you score in kval in an away match, the goals equal two. So we just scored TWO goals in one! So so so exciting and we were just elated.
Time starts to tick in slow motion now. 80. 81. 82. Please for the love of all that is football. 90. We were getting closer. The ref says we have 3 minutes of stoppage time. 91. A ball goes back towards our back line and Jonah gets there first and sends a perfect ball over their back line. Who gets on the end of it? Sanna does. She takes a great touch forward, shoots with her left foot and I swear time stopped for a second as the ball went zipping passed their keeper! What?!? Did Sanna who just came back from an injury….who has had to watch us from the side lines selflessly cheering us on…..did she just score again?!? Yes. Yes she did.
We freaked out! I fell to the ground before joining the dog pile on top of Sanna. We were now 2-0 up which technically meant we were 4-0 up because both goals counted for two. It felt insane. It still feels insane. It still feels like I’m gonna wake up on the plane to Sweden and start my stay here. I can’t believe this season. How lucky I’ve been to land in the middle of nowhere in Sweden with the most inspiring and hardworking players I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with.
Blessed. Lucky. Call it what you may, but I’m just so so ecstatic that I’m here. Woo! One more game and we are qualified for the higher league. This. Is. Insane.

LIF 2017 FINAL LEAGE MATCH

Dude. I’m in shock. What a day! What a game! I joked with all my teammates that I came here back to Sweden for one thing and one thing only. A gold hat. This is some sort of celebratory tradition in sports teams where they all wear gold hats when they win things. I’ve seen pictures. I’ve seen videos. I wanted that gold hat and I would stop at nothing to have it.
The game started and us being pumped is the understatement of the century. We were almost too excited to play! We had more than 6 chances right in the first 15 minutes of the match. We “almost” scored multiple times right out of the gate. But close only counts with hand grenades and horse shoes. But we were on the hunt for goals and I was on the hunt for that gold hat. But halfway through the first half stuff just started not working. It became really frustrating and really stressful. We ended the first half in a bit of a huff.
We sorted it out at half time and came back out a whole new team. Partway through the second half, the coaches changed us to a three front and it was awesome. We attacked and attacked and I could feel the energy growing. Did I mention we were back in the legendary tent with over 550 fans screaming and chanting for us? Yeah. It was legit.
We started feeling the momentum and the other team started feeling it too. We were knocking and knocking. A throw in. A flick. A goal. That’s how fast it happened. That’s all it took to WIN THE LEAGUE!!!!!! After that we did what we do best and made a team feel so much pressure that they shut down. Not one single goal scoring opportunity. Yeah, that’s how we do.
The final whistle blew and it was like a scene from a famous Sports movie! The crowd ran down and flooded the field as we cried and laughed and jumped and sang!!! I was overjoyed. I was elated. I was in disbelieve. We just solidified a season long undefeated streak and were heading into qualifications for a higher league. Words can’t describe that feeling. It was pure joy.
Next week, we could make history for this community. We could make history for ourselves. We could be one step closer to changing our Soccer careers. What happens next you ask? Well. We play a Home and away match against the norther team who won their league for a spot in the Ellitetan. The second highest league in Sweden. So stoked. We travel 8 hours to meet them and fight for that spot. CAN NOT WAIT.

LIF 2017 Game 21: Close Call

So when you come into a game you know you need points from, it can be quite a whirlwind of emotions. I had been a little injured in training and woke up worried about my knee. Not a fun feeling on GAMEDAY. But I knew we needed points. I knew we needed to step up and fight. And boy was it a battle.
The whistle blew and we were off. We started with the ball and we played it back and my

Matilda!

outside back played a lofted ball toward me. I got a touch on it and it went straight into the path of Vicke. In that moment, I knew I was gonna have a good game. I was a forward all alone but I felt like I always had players fighting with me. It was the kind of game that everyone on the pitch needed to show up to. And we did. But then they got a free kick pretty damn close to the goal. We’ve told this girl on the other team was a “free kick specialist.” Unfortunately, the rumors were true. She hit the ball so hard and so accurately that I almost clapped when it went in. And it did go in. Leaving ya down a goal once again.

This might have been the first time that we went into half time down a goal all season. Like, never happened in the 20 games prior. That’s crazy. But it’s also a tough time to test those waters. But we had so much faith that we would comeback it was surprising. We always say at half time that the time works for us. It’s such a necessary view point and one that has served us well. We are patient. We are confident that we can score in the final moments of games. We trust each other.
And that’s just what happened. A throw in from Vicke to me, I turned my player and sent a blind cross toward the goal in hopes someone was there. And who better to be there than my surrogate little sister Matilda. She got a baby toe on it and scored! Comeback kids at it again. The game ended 1-1. Meaning that we were now only ONE point ahead of the team right under us with one very important game left.
Everyone kept saying that our fate was in our own hands. And it couldn’t have been more true. We set ourselves up for a tougher match than necessary, but we were so excited for the challenge. How awesome of a feeling to be a part of a team who gets excited about a challenge. We do not back away. We do not take any moment for granted and we do NOT give up. I can’t wait for the game. I want to play it now!

LIF 2017 Game 20: Comeback Kids

It’s bitter sweet when you play against a former teammate and friend. It’s even harder when that teammate is a baller goalkeeper who has the game of their life and their success means your shortcomings. Or visa versa. But this game ended in a dear friends’ favor and kinda hurt my team a little bit.
We came into this game knowing this team we were facing can score and has scored on us. We knew it would be a battle and winning meant we kept our decent lead in the table. But when we started the match, so much went wrong for us. So much could have been better. So much was going right for that good friend of mine. She just happened to be the keeper for the other team. And she’s a baller.
We had a few spectacular chances and the beginning that she just shut down completely. Then, the thing that doesn’t really happen much to us happened. We got scored on. So early it was a shock to us and our fans. The whole half seemed to be flying by after that. We weren’t supposed to lose this game. It was so surreal. Then, we got a corner. It shot across the goal and came to me. I took a touch and shot hard with my left foot. It was going in and then boom. A defender stops it. But then it bounced right to one of my players and GOAL!!! 1-1 from the comeback kids.
Second half was also unlucky for us in so many ways. My keeper friend was unbelievable. She stopped things like a pro and I was proud and annoyed with her all at the same time. Then it happened again. That thing that hardly ever happens to us. Especially never happens twice in one game! They scored. Again! Like whaaaaaat? Why? Who? When? How? I couldn’t believe it. The time was ticking away and it felt like our season was as well. I couldn’t help thinking this couldn’t be how our season undefeated streak ends. And then. Corner for us. Ball goes to the middle. We score. We go crazy! Comeback kids at it again! And within minutes we get another opportunity. Sanna shoots, keeper friend saves it, our little one follows and hits in it!! We go wild and so does the crowd! But wait, we hear the whistle and they call that goal back because they think she was offsides. Ugh.
But a point instead of no points was enough for the day. Coming back from goals is no easy task. It’s like walking up hill…with weights on your ankles…in the snow….with a 10 pound backpack on. Just to give a little perspective. But we did it. We are still undefeated and proud as ever of our comeback point. Now onto another opponent who was a pain in our back sides last time as well.

LIF 2017 Game 19 What A Battle

Well, I’m stoked to say that my sisters were in town, got to travel on our bus and watch this match. Such a blessing to share my lala land world with them. And boy was it a lot of Brand girl energy. The team thought just one of me was a lot, then they saw the three of us. Together.
We brought that energy with us onto the pitch against Gideosnbergs IF. Our warm up was insanely good. We were passing and moving and defending super hard. After it, I thought there was no way we would leave without three points. The game started the same way. Passing yo feet, gray movement and chances galore. But we just weren’t getting them into the net. But it was one of the most fluid attacking halves we have ever played. We were switching the ball and creating chances, like our first goal. A ball from the left to Anna in the center and out to Amanda. She took a big touch, looked up and saw me making a run. She sent a ball flying towards me and I held my breath as it came. Faster and faster….but suddenly, it took a turn and sailed straight into the back of the net! It was beautiful! My sisters went crazy. And so did we.
We went on like this for a little while longer while we pushed for more goals. More great passing and more great soccer. Another switch of the ball towards Vicke, she looks up and sees me and Ellika running like hell against the back line. She sends a ball and it sails over Ellika as she thought, “Oh no, it’s too deep.” Just then, she turns and sees me collecting that perfect ball. I take a long touch, almost too long, and the keeper comes rushing out. Without even thinking, I poke that ball with my trusty toe and it slides right under the keeper into the corner. And again, and even louder, my sisters went CRAZY!
I was so happy to be able to score in front of them. It was such a pleasure to even have them at my game, let alone get them a goal. The second half was weird. But we came away with the three points we set out for. And I think I might have made my sisters proud too.

LIF 2017 Game 18 Kinda Weird

We just came off of a huge match where our season could’ve changed for the worst. We came out big and didn’t let that happen. In our next match, the expectations were to come and crush this team. Always dangerous expectations. We played against Ornäs and if you have read how our game against them went last time, you can see why we were expected to win in a big way.
So when we arrived at the pitch, we were stoked. After two games where us winning was just a hope, we wanted to take this game and run with it. But it just didn’t happen that way. We actually scored fairly early in the match. Great run by Vicke and a pass from me, boom. Goal. Then a great run from Ellika and a ball from Vicke and boom. Two goals. But then we just kinda didn’t do much after that.
Well, let me be more clear. We had a gazillion opportunities. Thirteen on goal to be exact. I mean, that’s crazy! And they were brilliant chances too. But we just couldn’t find the back of the net after that. Our runs were great, our passes clean, just no more goals after that. We ended the game 2-0 and we were disappointed. You may be wondering why. And so were the coaches. But we as a team hold ourselves to a standard. We want to perform with passion and be proud of every game we play. This attitude can be amazing to some extent, but we forgot to be grateful for the win. Because we did win. We are still undefeated and we are still in first.
Thus is life. Be grateful for the good. Stop worrying about the somewhat almost bad things. Love the moments you live.
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