A Swedish revival
With the international retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, assuming it is permanent, there were questions as to how the nation would progress on losing the football titan.
“It feels heavy. It feels disappointing but at the same time I enjoyed it. We had the possibility of playing in the European Championships, I represented Sweden at this tournament so at the same time I am proud,” he said after Sweden were knocked out of Euro 2016.
“This was my last game and I have many fantastic memories of the national team. “It is a nice story as where I came from, what people called the little ghetto, I made the country my country. Sweden.”
However, since the announcement, Sweden have done extremely well. A quarter-final appearance at the last World Cup has been followed up by qualification for the European Championships in 2021.
In addition, the youth coming through the side is exciting many. Instead of the focus being around a talismanic figure, the quality looks to be strengthening in all areas. Juventus’ Dejan Kulusevski (20), Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak (21), Bologna’s Mattias Svanberg (22) and Spartak Moscow winger and son of Swedish legend Henrikh Larsson, Jordan Larsson (23).
An interesting group with Spain, Poland and Slovakia will be a proving ground but should the young guns prove their might, it could be another successful tournament incoming.
Introducing: Williot Swedberg
101 had to the opportunity to speak to one of the rising stars of Swedish football, 16-year-old Hammarby talent Williot Swedberg. Son of former Sweden international, Sporting Lisbon and Hearts striker Hans Eskilsson.
Swedberg is rated highly at the club, so much so he has already spent time on loan and made his senior debut in a Hammarby friendly ahead of the new season.
How has having a footballing father led to your introduction to the sport?
“Since being young, I have always been kicking around a ball and my parents certainly played a big part in that. Me and my father are always talking about football and in my opinion it’s only positive to have parents who have played at a high level, because you can learn so much from them and their experiences.”
Talk me through your position and style. How do you want to play football and are there any players you’d say you model your game on and how?
“I’m a central midfielder with good technique and reading of the game. I would put myself as a number 8, but more of a playmaker than a box to box. I lived in Valencia for 3 years so I enjoy the Spanish way of playing football and it certainly formed me to become the sort of player I am today.”
“My agent says I’m quite similar to Kristoffer Olsson who plays in the Swedish national team and I think he’s a good player so I’m happy with that comparison.”
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You were sent on loan to Frej by Hammarby at a very young age. Does this give you confidence that the club sees a big future for you?
“Frej play in the 3rd tier of Swedish football and works kind of like a stepping stone to get young players game time at a senior level. For me personally it went really fast, I started the season at the u17 and in the summer they called me in to play with Frej.”
“It came kind of unexpected as I had just been promoted to the u19 two weeks prior but it gave me confidence that the club believes in me.”
Going on loan, how was it being in a completely new environment? What have been the main differences and how successful do you think it has been for you?
“It was honestly really fun, the guys took good care of me being the youngest, but I also had to learn to always start in the middle when playing rondo and things like that! The biggest differences between youth football and senior football is the physicality and the way you play the game.”
“It’s much more results based, for example you have to be more cautious to not lose the ball in certain areas because most often you get punished for it. I feel like it has really helped me develop to play at a senior level and I think that more young players should be looking for it.”
What’s been the biggest challenge for you whilst on loan?
“As of right now I haven’t really had a big challenge. There has been some small challenges like coming in to a new team and adapting to a higher tempo and things like that but we had a great group of players that helped me and made it easy for me.”
There are 16 year old players around the world breaking into senior sides, Youssoufa Moukoko for example. It is becoming more common. Do you feel having been on loan at such a young age it has prepared you better for when this happens?
“It does prepare you and makes the step of going from the youth team to the first team smaller. We had a young team last year and many of them have moved on to play higher in the divisions so that is proof that it is a good way to develop players and I hope that it will be the same for me.”
There is plenty of young talent coming through Sweden. Isak and Kulusevski are prime examples of this, do you think Swedish football is entering into a positive period?
“Yes! There are plenty of good Swedish players and many of them young. Last World Cup we got to the quarterfinals which is really good for quite a small country like Sweden. Zlatan has been an inspiration for everyone and what he’s doing now is just truly incredible. Hopefully he comes back for the euros, it will be interesting to see how it goes.”
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“A goal that I have is to play a World Cup/Euro, it’s such a special feeling to represent your country and I could only imagine how it would feel to play a championship and make the whole country proud and happy.”
With 2020 being such a difficult year for everyone, what are your personal targets for 2021?
“My goals for this year is to improve as much as I can and just be happy. Hopefully I can make my debut in Allsvenskan for Hammarby as it has been a dream ever since I was a little boy. I recently just made my debut in a friendly. I hope 2021 is a better year for everyone!”
It was a pleasure to speak with Williot. 101 wishes him all the best with the new season and we will be watching with intrigue to see if he does indeed get his first senior start for Hammarby.
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This article was edited by Josh Barker.
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