Fridolina Rolfö interview: Someday comes today for Bayern’s super Swede
In her red and white junior football kit, Fridolina Rolfö let her imagination roam like so many, but the Swedish international has taken the wheel in steering distant ambitions toward reality in the time since. That was never encapsulated better for the Bayern Munich forward than in one show-stoppingly surreal moment on stage with her compatriot co-stars.
Perched on some grass on the western coast of Sweden, with no boot deal yet but a smile not at all dissimilar to that which adorns her social media pages today, Fridolina Rolfö lined up for IFK Fjärås. There is a sense of simple, starry-eyed fulfilment in how that miniature ‘Frido’ went from there to German giants Bayern Munich, though getting to clasp your hands around certain achievements and experiences sometimes only throws further fuel on the fire of personal ambition.
For the 24-year-old former Linköping star, one such moment came in late-2016, as the rangy, sure-footed attacking talent celebrated her most treasured year to date in glitzy surroundings with her peers. A league champion for the first time as Linköping swept the Damallsvenskan without even losing a game, Frido had also gone to her first major tournament with the senior national team, and what an adventure that would prove.
At Sweden’s annual Fotbollsgalan award ceremony, broadcast by TV4, the women’s national team were honoured for a summer that had seen them win silver at the Olympic tournament in Rio. The feat was new territory for the 2003 FIFA World Cup runners-up, as they took their place on the podium at the Games for the first time.
Receiving recognition in front of a packed audience at such a prestigious event on the calendar is more than enough to cherish alone, though music can crown the most significant times in a way that nothing else quite has the magic to match. It is safe to say that was exactly what happened on this November evening.
A video celebrating the team’s summer in Brazil began on the big screen, before the stage lit up to reveal the female vocalist Laleh, performing her song ‘Goliat’. With head coach Pia Sundhage leading the squad up on stage, photos of the players appeared on screen one by one, flashing back through the years to each in their football kit as a child.
As the team sang along, united in emotion and with arms linking one another just like when penalties called in the Olympics three months earlier, the song ended as nerveless midfielder Lisa Dahlkvist was sinking the winning kick against the U.S. on the screen behind them. For football and music coming together in shiver-inducing harmony, Frido has never known an experience quite like it.
“Oh, that was a great moment,” the Bayern number 14 recalled. “I get gooseflesh when I hear that song sometimes.”
“We had a great tournament and we were listening to the song a lot. To be there on the stage with the team and Laleh was a memory I will never forget.”
The song was especially fitting, with its lyrics of empowerment and togetherness, about becoming big and powerful enough to overcome adversity – to take on Goliath. It is a sentiment that hits home with the Swedish team, who last year had the names on the back of their shirts replaced with quotes from inspirational women in a collaborative initiative with the nation’s FA and Adidas which received widespread acclaim ahead of International Women’s Day.
Over the years, the Swedes have had a national team that also embodies the never-ending love story between football and music on which this site was created. Whether it is the singing skill of Lotta Schelin and Olivia Schough (and aforementioned ex-boss Pia Sundhage), the evergreen locker-room DJ and willing dancer Caroline Seger, or even Kosovare Asllani’s link to Albin Johnsén which saw the rapper record their official Euro 2017 song, their rhythmic bond never wanes.
American Authors’ ‘Best Day of My Life’ is among Frido’s favourites for game day, but in an overall sense, she classes having something to occupy the earbuds as an essential.
“I would say music is very important. I listen to it before training and games especially, but also when I’m doing stuff in the gym or when I’m out for running.
“I like different kinds of music but right now I’m pretty much listening to Imagine Dragons or Ed Sheeran etc. Swedish artists, I like Håkan Hellström, but also Zara Larsson, Laleh and Miriam Bryant.
“I think Zara is the biggest Swedish artist we have right now.”
In 2016’s Fotbollsgalan, music yielded a spectacular moment that could never have been accurately envisaged when Frido pictured all that a fruitful football life might entail. As well as igniting the extraordinary, it bonds players and groups in so many other ways too, with the light-hearted examples arguably some of the best.
Before her move to Germany last January, Frido had come to the attention of many in the game for her form at Linköping, with one night of particular note. With Martin Sjögren’s side trailing 2-1 from the first leg of their last-32 tie with Liverpool in Widnes, Frido struck a memorable hat-trick on her full Champions League debut in October 2014 to deliver a 3-0 win.
Thundering one in off the bar to start the show, she strode through with a purposeful, powerful stride to hit a low skidding finish in the second half, before adding a poacher’s rebound to complete her treble. As well as the goals, she showed a packed repertoire of attributes as she committed and unsettled players with her dribbling and played smart, subtle touches to teammates.
It suggested she was an elite-level performer in the making and her time at Linköping Arena was particularly meaningful, with silverware coming in the shape of that 2016 league title and a pair of Swedish Cups, in 2014 (when she scored against Kristianstads DFF) and 2015. Perhaps even more cherished upon reflection, though, were the teammates who remain close friends today, such as Denmark skipper Pernille Harder.
Frido remembers some far-off overseas preparations the team once enjoyed, with the downtime providing a platform to shed a little more in the way of inhibitions and bring her even closer to her team – even if that was the last thing she would have been thinking at the time!
“Yeah, (singing in front of teammates) has happened a few times. I remember when I was on a training camp with Linköping and had to sing some ABBA song on a stage in Thailand; I didn’t choose the song though.
“It was a great trip; really intense but great. We got to see a lot and also played a game, so it was cool.
“The weather was great, so we could practice on normal grass, which isn’t so easy in Sweden in January.”
After turning out for local sides IFK Fjärås and Tölö IF in her more formative football years, Frido was a Damallsvenskan youngster with Jitex, joining in 2011. In July 2012, she was part of Calle Barrling’s UEFA Under-19 Championship-winning Sweden team alongside future Linköping colleagues like Jonna Andersson and Magdalena Eriksson (both now with Chelsea), as they lifted the trophy in Antalya, Turkey.
Hot on the heels of her virtuoso October 2014 display against Liverpool in Europe with Pia Sundhage in attendance, she made her full Sweden debut in a 2-1 friendly defeat to Germany in Örebro. Her involvement with the senior setup eventually led to the global stage of the Olympics, and though injury saw her participation curtailed after she left the first-half action against the U.S. in the quarter-final, she had started every game up to that point.
Sometimes it is a welcome relief to be on the other side and let somebody else perform, which is an opportunity Frido has happily taken on a few occasions with music.
“Yes, I have been to many good concerts, but one of the best ones was a festival when I was watching Sam Smith on a small stage with maybe 100 people watching, and a few months later, he was world-famous. But also Kanye West was cool, and of course Håkan Hellström, a Swedish singer and songwriter, in my hometown in front of 70,000 people.”
Back before her frequent flyer days began, Frido was growing up in her tranquil cove of Sweden, when there were no star singers for her to share the stage with on national TV! She does, however, remember the day one finally arrived, in a roundabout way at least.
“I remember my first album I got from my parents as a Christmas gift; it was a Michael Jackson CD. I wanted to have it for a long time so I was really happy.”
Since she flew the nest, Frido has returned to her native surroundings to present junior footballers with medals at events. She describes what life is like where she comes from, and it is not difficult to see why coming home has its appeal for her.
“I grew up outside Kungsbacka with my family. We were living on a smaller mountain next to a lake and the forest.
“It’s really beautiful and calm, so it’s nice to spend time there when I’m home.”
A city like Munich with around 1.4 million people is understandably quite the change from there, and even from the southern Swedish city of Linköping. It was announced in winter 2016 that Frido was to move to Bayern, and although the team have a large variety of nationalities, including players from China, USA, France, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovakia, England and Austria, Frido is presently the sole Swede.
Bayern’s Champions League exit to Chelsea in the last 32 in October by the finest of margins (away goals) left Frido in tears at the final whistle, but in a hugely heart-clenching moment, she was consoled by former teammate Magdalena Eriksson. Despite that, cup success is still possible by way of the DFB-Pokal, as Thomas Wörle’s team play 1. FC Saarbrücken away in the quarter-final.
Frido, who scored in a win at SV Alberweiler in the second round, will also be aiming to help fire Bayern back to the top of the Frauen-Bundesliga. Their last title came in 2016, and at present, Frido is part of a side in Doha getting set to resume their bid to wrestle the league back from VfL Wolfsburg.
Having finished runners-up last season by only two points, they went into the break in the same position, with Frido notching three league goals in the first half of the campaign. When we spoke after Sweden’s Euro 2017 group win over Russia in Deventer, Frido reflected upon her first few months at Bayern by saying she thought it was the right step, as well as that the club and playing style had been easy to adapt to.
She also stated that she is a person who likes to try something new. That has taken her from her remote part of Sweden to a major European city and under the wing of a heavyweight in global footballing institutions.
Another few months on, she concurs with her earlier assessment on the switch as she shares a little more of how she has integrated herself in Munich.
“Yes, I remember that (conversation). I like challenges and I think this was a big one.
“For me, it’s different in two ways; as a footballer but also as a human. The culture is different and you need to adapt to the new environment.
“Right now, football is pretty much everything in my life, but I like to spend time in the city or having dinner in a nice restaurant.”
After that same Russia game, Frido also spoke about how she is normally a target player rather than a runner, and that Pia Sundhage told her she could come on and work in front of Russia’s backline after Lotta Schelin and Stina Blackstenius had tired them. The plan also included Frido trying her luck with shots from range, which she describes as ‘one of my favourite things’, as well as threading passes through to teammates.
Speaking of left-footers with long-range ability, when asked which player from the history of the game she would choose to practice shooting with, a player who helped change what a full-back could be seen as was the natural answer for Frido. The Brazilian’s iconic Tournoi de France goal in 1997 also quickly entered the thoughts.
“Spontaneous, I would say Roberto Carlos, because I remember one of his free-kicks when he scored a goal which was amazing.”
In last summer’s Euros, Frido’s personal backing was substantial – she said she believed she had ten friends and family at the Russia game – and she was back in Sweden for Christmas. That vital support system will remain with her, while outside of where football takes her, she has travelled to South East Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand, and travel is just one of many aspects in her life to be excited and energised by.
On the field, she continues to become a more rounded player with increasing big experiences to her name. Now an Olympic silver medallist, a league and two-time cup winner back home, and a Bayern Munich footballer, what has she learned most since the beginning of her club career?
“To appreciate things. I really love playing football but sometimes I forget to think about how lucky I am to have it as my job.
“I know so many girls out there who would love to be professional. I have also learned that hard work pays off.”
When it came to the shirt quotes initiative for the national team last year, Frido devised her own – ‘I believe women can do anything they decide to.’ And so onward her story goes.
There is, though, some time for 5-a-side fun to finish here. This has been the regular question to end the BeatsAndRhymesFC interviews for almost as long as the site has been going, but for anyone unfamiliar, the scene is a fantasy small-sided game.
The player is asked to select any four current or former teammates (and not necessarily the outright best), who could bring the enjoyment and entertainment to this game, as well as giving their team a fighting chance of winning!
Frido’s choices took her back to Linköping, a place with culture, beauty and community. It is also said to be ‘where ideas become reality’ (‘Där idéer blir verklighet’), so let’s take that out into the action in this scenario.
Here is Frido’s all-Scandinavian ensemble.
“We were a group of people in Linköping who spent a lot of time together, so I would say these people: Magdalena Eriksson (defender), Jennie Nordin (defender), Pernille Harder (striker), Lina Ringshamre (goalkeeper).”
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