Julia Zigiotti Olme interview: Ziggy and the Swede Stardust – Melody maketh the medals for Sweden midfielder

Photo: Tore Lund

The summer spelled World Cup bronze, and with Champions League qualification and cup success at club level, 2019 goes down as a golden year in Julia Zigiotti Olme’s burgeoning career.  While the 21-year-old has happily just slipped into standby mode for now, the Sweden midfielder is one who makes sure the notes never fully fade out.

Emerging in recent years as a premier prospect at the top level of Swedish women’s football, Julia Zigiotti Olme’s first full season at Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC has brought cup glory and another runners-up finish. This year, though, will always be most remembered by the midfielder/forward for international exploits.

Of the crop of youngsters Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson had the conviction to include in his FIFA Women’s World Cup squad this summer, she was the youngest. Her participation in France included coming on in the cauldron of a semi-final, with 48,452 in attendance in Lyon for the Netherlands clash, and she would help them secure a bronze medal three days later against England.

Admittedly, one of the lesser-cited factors in their achievement was having a soundtrack built on taking a little from everyone in the ranks. As Kosovare Asllani explained: “We have a Spotify list where everyone can put in their songs, so it’s the same there (as on the field) – everyone can play their part! Not just on the pitch, it’s in the music, too. It kind of symbolises our team.”

Blågult have never been a team lacking in musical strands, from vocally-sleek forward Olivia Schough’s sisters recording the track ‘Dansa Fotboll’ for the European Championship they hosted in 2013, to the aforementioned Asllani asking Albin Johnsén to record their official tournament anthem ‘Hjärtan Av Guld’ four years later. There was also the team’s especially momentous appearance on stage with singer Laleh at the Fotbollsgalan award ceremony in 2016, as her song ‘Goliat’ accompanied big-screen images and footage of that year’s Olympic silver-winning squad.

With this year’s domestic season done and dusted, now is the time to disengage for many Swedish players , and Julia Zigiotti Olme is currently taking that very opportunity, which she will share a little more about later on. Even in the downtime, however, the rhythm never rides all the way out of town, as she describes.

“I almost always listen to music. I think it’s nice to have in the background all the time and to be able to sing to.

“It is a great way to relax but also motivate yourself before a match, which I think is cool with music. For all occasions, there is always music.”

So what was the number 16’s pick for that World Cup playlist in the changing room?

“I chose ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ – Galantis (& Throttle).”

The youngest she may have been in that squad – and the likes of Caroline Seger, Nilla Fischer and Hedvig Lindahl are particularly esteemed figures to learn from – but she has already acquired her own keen sense of perspective. Quite literally etched upon her, in a clock design on her arm, are the words ‘just because you took longer than others, it doesn’t mean you failed.’

“It is a reminder to myself that you do not have to stress about something in life if it takes time to happen,” she explains. “You do not fail because others are faster regarding different things.”

“It applies to both football and other areas.”

 

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The ink is an alternative outlet for expression from a player who has shown her talents frequently on the pitch, from Bollstanäs SK and youth national teams, to her current standing for club and country. In 2018, she was the Damallsvenskan’s fourth-highest scorer, with her season split between Hammarby and Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, and 12 league goals racked up.

The football field is where inhibitions and barriers can be dispensed with, and for an up-and-coming player cast amongst established personalities, it can let them introduce themselves in a way they may never have felt capable of in the changing room or elsewhere. While devotees of Swedish WoSo have been aware of Julia for a decent stretch of time now, millions of viewers around the globe were catching a first glimpse during the World Cup.

Seeing what someone brings to a match scenario is, however, typically very far removed from understanding what pushes them in their life, what scares them, and what ultimately brings them bliss and belonging. In that sense, who is Julia Zigiotti Olme? Has she always had confidence by her side, or have there been times when it has been clouded?

“I would describe myself as a happy person who often wants to do something. In football, I have always been confident; I know what I’m capable of and I’m not afraid to challenge myself.

“Of course, it takes time, like if you go to a new team, I’m not that confident right at the start, but I’ll grow into it. Outside of football, it’s sometimes a little bit harder, but I try to believe in myself and be confident in who I am.”

She feels her move from Hammarby to KGFC, a team that invariably has the attacking onus on them in a game, has helped her development, as has the improved access to facilities. What about when it comes to the real crunch, though?

Who would come out top in the possession stats if we were talking purely in team playlist terms?

“There are many different people who control the music. Often before the match it is me, but during the week, it is usually the first one who is in the dressing room.

“I like very different types of music, depending on my mood. The ones I listen to most right now are Frank Ocean, Dermot Kennedy and Khalid.”

Juventus, and specifically, Alessandro Del Piero, accounted for her most prominent football influences growing up. Although she came through at the aforementioned Bollstanäs SK in her native Upplands Väsby, Julia has an Italian mother and visited Italy with her family most years growing up.

The first music she ever owned escapes her, though she does recall some sounds of her motherland playing a part in her childhood.

“My mom put on Italian music at home when my brother and I were little; a lot of Eros Ramazzotti.”

As she has emerged in football, she has been able to progress alongside some long-time companions. Julia was part of Sweden’s UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship success in Israel in 2015, as were Nathalie Björn and Filippa Angeldahl.

She set up a goal for FC Rosengård defender Björn in Sweden’s 7-0 Euro 2021 qualifying win at home to Slovakia last month, while midfielder Angeldahl will be joining her in Gothenburg next season from Linköping. They have been a significant duo along her way so far, so who better to join her if she was to ever record a song cover with current or former teammates?

“Really difficult question really – none of my friends are so musical! But it would have to be Nathalie Björn and Filippa Angeldahl, and we would probably choose ‘Crazy in Love’ – Beyoncé.”

Leaving it to the pros, Julia shares who she has seen perform live, and the artist she would choose to watch, from all-time, if she had her golden ticket.

“I have been to quite a lot of concerts, but the best I’ve been to is Beyoncé! One that I really want to go and see is Khalid; I love his music.”

Prior to winning promotion with Hammarby in 2016, Julia had already sampled the top flight with AIK, though relegation was a cruel lesson. Alongside her goals, add energy, enthusiasm and technical proficiency and it’s not too difficult to see why KGFC wanted her, and why Peter Gerhardsson believed she may well belong in senior international football.

First place is the natural aim for a Göteborg side that are still pursuing the club’s first championship, but 2nd ensures they are amongst Europe’s elite for another season, via the Champions League. There was also the confetti of a 2-1 Svenska Cupen win over Kristianstads DFF to roll in at the start of May, in what transpired to be Marcus Lantz’ last season in charge at Valhalla.

The following month brought Julia’s first major tournament with Sweden, and with it, undoubtedly the realisation of a dream. Of her 13 caps to date, the three she won in the World Cup will remain among the most significant even if she surpasses 100 one day.

You can train for specific in-game situations, you can visualise your actions, and listen intently to those who have experienced it all before, but there is nothing more authentic than the very moment you live it in full colour. Game three in France was when that arrived for Julia, as she played the entirety of the 2-0 group loss to holders USA in Le Havre.

Although both sides were already qualified for the knockout phase, and there was a far more critical game she would play in 13 days later, the stature of the encounter against their familiar foes was not lost on Julia in the slightest.

“I was really nervous before the USA game. I just tried to stay focused on what I was supposed to do, but it was the biggest game I had ever played, so the nerves were kicking in.

“It was better against Netherlands, as I had a little bit of confidence because I had played before in the World Cup.”

Against the Dutch, she was thrown into a semi-final that was high on tension and rather less so on rhythm and entertainment. Introduced on 79 minutes in Lyon, the game was settled nine minutes into extra-time by the Netherlands’ Jackie Groenen, and the hurt was considerable.

From Wednesday night dejection, to a Saturday to celebrate; the Swedes’ 2-0 victory over England to win bronze could not wash all the pain away, but it was a glittering way to soothe it. The achievement was savoured by the team and their public, with swarms of support there to greet them back home.

Julia recently faced the United States again, this time in the November chill of Columbus, and despite a late Anna Anvegård-inspired rally, the world champions held on to win the friendly 3-2. Julia rounded off an unforgettable international year with 64 minutes in the action.

The time has now arrived for her to take it all down a few notches – or up, depending on how she is choosing to approach her holiday!

“It has been a fantastic football season; cup gold with KGFC, bronze in the World Cup, coming 2nd in the league series, and I got to make my Champions League debut. After all the training is over in November, me and some friends will be going to Thailand for a well-deserved holiday for two weeks!”

Set to celebrate her 22nd birthday on Christmas Eve, she says she largely prefers to keep it low-key when she is not in the thick of training and matches: “Be with friends and find something fun, just hang out and take it easy.”

Keeping it mellow is not so inevitable in a small-sided game, however! With the competitive spice brewing, it can make for a storm in a teacup, but as this is just a fantasy version for the final question here, we should be safe enough.

In this regular closer, the interviewee is asked for four examples of current or former teammates they might choose to play alongside. The focus is primarily on who would make it enjoyable, though given the thirst for winning that players share, those without ability likely need not apply!

Five or ten years from now, Julia’s selection could vary dramatically, but for now, here are the ones who would rock this particular show with her.

“Of course Filippa Angeldahl, Nathalie Björn and (KIF Örebro midfielder) Sejde Abrahamsson would be included. They are my three best friends and three sick football players.

“A goalkeeper who would have to be involved is (recent Linköping player) Emma Holmgren. An incredibly good goalkeeper and so much fun outside football!”

To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes

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