Category Archives: Ljusdals IF

LIF 2017 Game 4

The last game was a weird one. Long drive yet again. We have to figure out our away game routine and fast. It was also the first game of the season on grass. We’ve been spoiled with our amazing home pitch.

As I look at that first paragraph of this here blog, I realize it already sounds like excuse after excuse. That’s not what I should be writing. At this point in my career, I should realize that all of those external factors are SO MUCH less important than the heart and soul you bring to the game. So, I’m that case, we did not bring quite as much of that as we should have. Whatever the reasons behind that.

First five minutes, my teammate Karin works some magic with her magic feet and takes a shot. It hit the cross bar and fell right in front of me and the keeper. Time slowed down. It was at an awkward height so I lunged into it with my head. I couldn’t have been more than 8 yards from the goal line. I throw myself towards the ball and it connects with my head. Will it happen again? Will I score the opening goal in the opening seconds of the game giving us the momentum to bring it to this team? No. Not I wouldn’t. I hit it directly to the keeper.

Again, this is where I should, as a veteran playing with 25 years of experience in this magnificent game, brush it off. But I couldn’t. It replayed in my head over and over and I kept getting more and more in my head as the match went on.

As the game went on, we played hard, fought hard, but just weren’t playing together as one unit like the games before this one. Then, a turn over in the middle lead to a ball out wide and a slow near post shot that snuck passed our keeper. We were, for the second time in the season, trailing 1-0. But this time we weren’t bouncing back. We weren’t coming with vengeance every time we got the ball. We were struggling.

Then, my trusty little big sister, Matilda, yes….her again…takes a ball and dribbles straight down the middle and takes on both center backs simultaneously and one of them takes her down. Whistle blows. Free kick right outside the box. Matilda consults me about near or far post options. I say near post over the wall. She hits it. We’re back in the game 1-1.  The score stayed like that and it was our first “non win.”

I was disappointed in myself from that first opportunity and let it stay with me long after the game was over. Then I watched the game film. I was actually marked, had no angle and the keeper did an awesome job. What I remember as an open net with no defender marking me and a blatant miss, was actually a much tougher goal to score than I gave myself credit for.

It goes to show, sometimes in life, we beat ourselves up for simply doing our best. I’m not sure why. What is supposed to happen always happens and I’ve learned I’ll either find a lesson or a victory in it.

LIF 2017 Crazy Game 6

It’s crazy…soccer I mean. We were stepping into this next game with the mindset of warriors. We knew it was going to be a battle until the last whistle, but we would not have imagined how it would actually turn out.

The whistle blew and we started so strong. It was an exciting first 10 minutes. We fought for every 50/50 ball and were asserting ourselves against another first place worthy team. They wanted blood. They wanted to dethrone us and get back to the top of the table where we were proudly sitting. We wanted to remind people that we ain’t going anywhere. The ball goes up in the air, Matilda wins it and charges towards the back line. This girl can read my mind so I started my run diagonal behind the back line and she read it like a book. She sent me a ball between the outside back and center back and it sped towards the keeper. I didn’t let that stop me and barely got a touch around the keeper to the left and passed her and slid to try and get my foot around the ball and shoot. I fell as the ball rolled to the goal. A defender tried to meet it before it passed the goal line but failed. We went up 1-0 against one of the best teams in the league 10 minutes in!

We were stoked and kept pushing for another goal. And then, a perfect ball over the top to one of our most talented players, Karin, was sent. She took off to catch it and we all knew she would get there first. Then we heard it. She let out a horrible scream and grabbed her leg. Her and I both came into this game with muscles on the verge of a tear and this moment was what both of us feared. Her with her hamstring and me with my groin muscle. She felt her hamstring tear, a big tear. My heart sank. I’ve been there. In the game ready to rock one moment and feeling like you got shot in the back of the leg in the next.

She went off and one of my favorite youngins came in, Leneli. She had a huge job ahead of her and worked her little tail off. We went into half time 1-0 up and the tension to hold that win was intense! Second half and I was in more and more pain in my groin than I could handle, so I came out. Watching my team fight in the last moments of the game was incredible. We faced more than a comfortable amount of corner kicks against us and our keeper, Linnea, was literally a super hero in the goal. Then it happened. Sanna won a ball and played a long pass to little Leneli. She charged after it, went around the keeper and scored!!!’ This girl is 15 years old!! Her, the youngest and me, the oldest, book ended this crazy game with goals.

But yet, people still say we didn’t deserve it. They say we weren’t the better team. And in a lot of moments in that game, we may not have been. But the crazy soccer thing I was talking about earlier shows us that heart and will power play a HUGE part in this beautiful game. And we are overflowing with them. Proud of this team. Proud to be a part of it.

Oh and I almost forgot to add that one of my dearest friends from college got to witness this whole game. And we celebrated by going to a Bruno Mars concert. All in all a fantastic weekend.

LIF 2017 Game 3: Girl on Fire

Your name. In so many cases, we hardly ever think about our name. It may be something so important to us, but how often do we really think about it? My name, my last name rather, has become something very special to me. Brand. It reminds me I belong to a family so great that I may never want to change that name.
Here in Sweden, that name takes on a whole new level of awesome. I remember when I first played here in 2011 and read an article with me in it. Well, I actually translated an article because I can’t read Swedish. My name changed. Instead of Samantha Brand, the article translated it to Samantha Fire. Then I started paying more attention and there were “Brand” exits, fireman were called “Brandman” and you would use a “Brand” extinguisher. Dude, my last name means FIRE in Swedish!! How cool is that?
So before every match here in Ljusdal, we write down a word that we want to embody. Something we strive to be in the next match. Aggressive, driven…stuff like that. I simply wrote “fire.” I wanted to be on fire, to be fire. To me, that means running after every ball sent to me. Challenging my opponent and being dangerous at every second.
We played against Täby. A team I have met before. They were a tough opponent last time and I know they would be again. It was the third minute of the game and Joline (Jolly) sent an absolute beautiful cross into the box. I jumped, probably closed my eyes and felt the ball connect to my head. I opened my eyes, heard cheering and looked down to see the ball in the back of the net!!! I freaked out. It’s hard to explain the feeling of winning head balls at my size. Kinda feels like it defies science or something. 1-0 us.
It would be about 15 minutes until we hear the roar of the crowd again when Karin (future wife of Zlatan) and Ellika made some magic happen in the box. Some Barcelona passing by Ellika lead to a little slot ball to Karin and with her magic feet she cut around the last defender and played an unsavable ball into the side netting! It was Zlatan like and he would be very proud. Then a moment of worry just a few minutes later as Täby got a pk. They scored it and we all know that 2-1 is a dangerous score. But remember how I wanted to be on fire? Five minutes later, my teammate Malin went on a seriously impressive run, taking on two or three players down the left side and just when you thought the ball was out of bounds, she slid and sent across a worm burner right in front of the net! It was coming so fast I had no choice but to slide to connect with it! GOAL! Just like that 3-1 and I had two goals. Like what??
If that wasn’t crazy enough, two minutes later Jolly sent yet another brilliant ball into the box, there was a scuffle and the ball was bouncing around in the box and boom. I jumped up and won another science defying header for a third goal. Like seriously, what??? We went into half up 4-1. We were, I was…shocked.
Our last goal to finish 5-1 was my favorite though. Ellika is one of those players who just never quits. She’s our lone forward and I’ve played with many, even played that position, but not like her. She can post up with pressure on her back, she can outrun players, even when we send her impossible balls over the top. And her engine just never stops! But that position, is what I call one of an unsung hero. You often make those long runs only to send the ball to someone else so they can score. You make a beautiful run that takes a defender away so that the person with the ball has a clear path to score. You work and you work and it feels like everyone around you benefits just a tad more than you do. But Ellika, even with all that stacked against her, she keeps working. At every training, every game and even extra training in the gym. And on top of ALL that amazingness, she’s a nurse!! She leaves practice to go save lives! Like, regularly. Insane. So, when she had her Messi like goal, it was so well deserved and I was so excited!!!!!
Fire. That’s what I wanted to be. That’s what I was. But fire cannot start on its own. It needs someone or something to start it. My team was my match. The crowd my fuel. My coaches were the oxygen needed to sustain that fire. Thank you all.

LIF 2017 Game: One

So, I’ve been extremely impressed by this new team. I am now back in Sweden and playing for a team called Ljusdals IF. Yes, it sounds different than it looks and no, you won’t guess how to say it. Unlike the difficulty I found pronouncing this new team’s name, the transition to it has

Karin the Baller

been very easy going. 

I got here and we had a game about a week later. I was stoked. We played against a team who derailed my season the last time I was here and was intrigued about getting a little revenge. We played IFK Huge, and no, that’s not pronounced like it looks either. But this team and I have some history. 

Onto the good stuff. The game starts and we are an immediate threat. We have chance after chance and just can’t find that first goal. My team played with such composure, I want to use our game film to teach my players at home. We controlled the flow of the game and the tempo. But we were still on the hunt for our first goal well into the second half. 

Then it happened. A beautiful through ball by Ellika to Sanna, a touch around the keeper, a scramble in the box, a shot, a rebound, another shot, a slide and a GOAL by Karin!!!!!! Celebrations all around! But wait, the sideline ref has a different story. He pleads that the first pass was offsides. No goal. But the team felt the momentum and knew we were on the cusp. 

Again, we controlled the tempo and were beyond patient in the attack. Pulling them into a false sense of security. And then Karin takes on a player, and another comes to help but she beats them both! Then another, and as the ball is heading toward the end line she slides and gets a cross off. It heads towards our midfielder, Matilda. She thinks to shoot, turns around and takes another touch before blasting it into the goal past the keeper! No offsides, just a genuine hustle goal coming off of the back of some magic from Karin. 

Matilda!

There’s a sense of relief that settles into the team. And then, the coach calls me over and it’s time for me to go in. Coming off the bench is a delicate science and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. But I had no choice. I came in on a corner and that corner was cleared out for a throw in for us. Ellika and I make a switching run but the defenders don’t budge. So I check in front of one of them and then I hear it. Matilda calls my name from behind me and before I know it, I’m back heeling the ball to her off of the bounce of that throw in. She reacts, she actually seems like the only one to react and shoots it with her first touch and left foot! It feels like the ball is in the air for 20 minutes before it hits the back of the net!!! Matilda with the second goal of the match and me with the unlikeliest of assists! The back of my back heel? With my first touch of the match? Who would’ve thunk it!? 

Needless to say, that first game will go down in history as one of my favorites I’ve ever played. And I think I played a total of 7 minutes! 

Take chances. Be an influence. Make a difference. Do it with flare 🙂 

Ljusdals IF 2017

I’ve just had my first week in Ljusdal, Sweden with my new team. It’s hard to explain, but I do feel that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. That’s saying a lot because it has been a while since that feeling has been this strong in my life. There have been so many things that have lead to this feeling, and most of them were not all that pleasant.
Last year was insanely trying for me. I should say that it was actually trying for my whole family. There have been rough times for my family, but last year was something very different. Our values were tested. Our faith was tested. Our bond was tested. The best part about last year was seeing how far my family can bend without breaking.
For me, my whole life collapsed last year. At times, my heart felt broken. I didn’t think that I would ever feel normal again. I didn’t think I would want to play the game that has been a part of my life for 25 years. My identity and personality was gone. Then I did something I was not very used to. I leaned into my family and trusted they would be there. And boy were they. So how does this relate to my new adventure in Sweden? I’ll tell ya. Right now, I wake up happy. I am able to play. I have a team who has been so welcoming I feel sometimes it isn’t real. And I don’t feel I deserve all of this. I know that I worked hard, I know that good times come after as much bad as I had last year, but yet, I’m still in disbelief that I’m here.
Sweden has always been my safe place. It’s been a place where I feel healthy and happy. I knew I needed to be in this place after last year. But to hope and pray for something and it happen, and happen in such a way that is happening right now, is beyond fulfilling.
So I encourage you to not just dream big, but to have the confidence to ask and go after the exact thing you want. Drive is a powerful tool. Use it.
It’s 2017, there are no limits.
Check out Game One