As the elite competitor she has become known as, Magdalena Eriksson will say she thrives on looking at the ‘what next?’ of her profession. While you won’t find the Chelsea captain getting lost in the nostalgia of medals or memorabilia just yet, a step through the door into her music world leads straight to Sentiment City for the super Swede.
“I think music has always been my go-to – for anything really,” the 62-cap, six-goal Sweden defender begins. “Any emotions that I have – if I’m happy, if I’m sad, if I’m studying – I always just put on music in the background.”
“It’s almost like a hobby of mine to find new songs to put in my playlist. I really like cherish my Spotify playlist; I’ve been building it for like ten years now.
“I really enjoy just finding different music, from different genres, and of course listening as well. My favourite artist I would say is Lana Del Rey; her first album, I love every song on that album, and I still listen to them on a daily basis.
“I like Fleetwood Mac as well. So many different genres; I really like soul from the 60s, and then things like Red Hot Chili Peppers, so there is so much!”
A sonic safety net for a 26-year-old who has reached new heights in football in recent years while emerging too as a strong proponent of positive social change. Returning from last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, where she was a mainstay at left-back on Sweden’s way to winning bronze in France, Magda was named as Chelsea’s new captain ahead of her third season at the club.
Leadership is multi-dimensional, with no instruction manual, but in the former Linköping player, the Blues have not just an accomplished and tenacious defender wearing the armband, but perhaps one of the game’s broadest thinkers. The tables have turned somewhat since the Stockholm native first arrived at the top level, so much so that she can now, like an increasing number of her contemporaries, pursue studies more out of interest than immediate necessity.
The topics of feminist theory, intersectional power analysis and political science captured Magda’s imagination, with around one more year of her degree now remaining.
“I think I’ve always been interested in societal issues and politics and how things work. Like in football, I wanna know as much as possible; it also applies to the environment that I live in.
“I wanna know as much of the history of a country or the world, and how things are in society and how things work. I think it just comes from my curiosity to know as much as possible.
“I don’t know if I wanna work in that kind of field, but it was more just my interest and what I enjoy learning.”
That desire to expand the skill set and knowledge base, together with more than a song or two in her heart, led the 2016 Olympic silver medallist to teach herself to play guitar as a teenager. Unlike such teammates as Sofia Jakobsson, or her former national team coach Pia Sundhage, a public performance may be a little while coming, but Magda recalls a time when it was just as much string-strumming as it was striker-stopping on her agenda.
“I’ve just always been into music and especially older music. I’ve also always loved learning new things, so learning to play an instrument felt like a cool challenge.
“I taught myself through YouTube videos and it was loads of different artists and songs, but I remember wanting to learn ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by The Beatles, just because I love the guitar riff in that song. After a lot of practice, I managed to learn to play that song and I still to this day remember it, although I don’t play that much guitar now.”
Not so much of a pastime today, but rock and roll never forgets! Neither does early-2000s pop.
So, on a completely unrelated point…does two-time FA Women’s Super League champion Magda remember the first music she ever had or bought?
“Yeah, I do – I think it was Atomic Kitten! I have a video of me singing karaoke.
“‘The Tide is High’ (covered by the group in 2002), I think it was called.”
A league champion with Linköping in her final full season, Magda’s debut campaign in England was one of double-winning glory. Chelsea anthems ‘Blue is the Colour’ and ‘One Step Beyond’ rang out at Wembley following their Women’s FA Cup final win over Arsenal in May 2018, and the latter especially has accompanied some other notable wins during Magda’s time at the club.
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Couldn’t be more proud of receiving the honor to captain the team this season 💙 We have a team packed full of amazing people, leaders and football players and together we will do everything we can to make this season as successful as possible! It all starts on Sunday in our big season opener at Stamford Bridge. Can’t wait to see all of you there! 😍💙
In the sanctity of the Blues dressing room, though, who serves the tracks up when a match day comes around?
“It’s mostly Beth England, but it’s also a little bit Millie Bright. So they mix it up, but I think it’s mostly been Beth lately.”
Nothing quite lights the atmospheric blue touch paper like it, especially after a win, but Magda explains why a matchday playlist is generally a more personal affair for her before kick-off.
“I’m basically always nervous before every game I play, so I don’t need to get worked up; it’s more that I need to get calmed down, just to get into myself and really find my focus before a game. I think that’s what works best for me, but then I also enjoy a motivational speech, and I think that’s actually one of Emma (Hayes)’s biggest strengths, her ability to motivate players and to make every game feel like it’s really important.
“I always try to listen to my own music at some point before a game. We obviously have speakers in the locker rooms, with upbeat music, but I like to listen to quite slow, quite calm music.
“That’s what gets me in the zone and gets me ready, so I have my playlist that I really enjoy listening to; it makes me feel kind of safe. There’s loads of different ones (on the playlist): I love Simon and Garfunkel, I like Johnny Cash, The 1975.
“I have a lot of Swedish ones; I like a girl call Miriam Bryant.”
Lana Del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ ranks as probably her favourite song from the US singer, and there was more than a tinge of that for the Sweden team just over a year ago. The heartbreak of their 1-0 extra-time loss to the Netherlands in Parc Olympique Lyonnais came only after a highly impressive World Cup run, with Canada and old foes Germany beaten along the way, and the euphoria was back again only three days after their last-four defeat. England were seen off by two goals to one in Nice, meaning the bronze medal for Peter Gerhardsson’s Blågult.
It was Gerhardsson’s first major tournament at the helm, and when it comes to the football and music crossover, few recognise and utilise it quite as much as the former forward. He featured on this site in May, telling how he will sometimes show the Sweden players music videos he found on YouTube, though the football-related message he is trying to convey to them can get lost in the process!
Magda laughs at the mention of that particular habit of the popular coach.
“Yeah, he does that a lot! He finds the weirdest music videos you can ever think of.
“I think I have quite similar taste in music to Peter, but the ones that he shows to the team, they’re weird even for me! He wants to motivate us, but I think everyone is mostly sitting there thinking ‘what does he mean by showing this?’!
“He’s a funny character. He’s a special guy.”
It has been a progressive three-year tenure for Gerhardsson so far, and while Magda’s club career in that time has seen her push to new levels, having a national team she genuinely looks forward to linking back up with has been huge.
“I think first of all, he has a really good understanding of the game and he has a really clear idea on how he wants us to play. He’s also put together a really good team of people around him; good people in the staff who all strive towards the same goal.
“Those are what I think his biggest strengths are, but then also similar in my philosophy in how to treat people; he’s very much about letting everybody be themselves, accepting people’s differences and just getting the best out of every player in the team. That has been a massive thing for us.
“Now everyone loves being with the national team, loves seeing each other and being in that environment, because we all feel safe and secure, and feel like we can express ourselves.”
A love for live music is something else Magda has in common with Gerhardsson. In partner Pernille Harder’s interview on here late last year, the Denmark captain spoke of her and Magda getting to see Roxette in one of the band’s final shows.
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Asked of any other concerts or festivals that especially stand out as favourites she has witnessed, Magda brings up a singer whose track ‘Du Fria’ Pernille captured her belting out last year (and duly shared on social media!).
“Yeah, a Swede, his name is Håkan Hellström. He always has amazing shows, in front of like 70,000 people.
“I went to one of his shows once and thinking about it almost gives me goosebumps, it was so amazing. He has so many good songs, and you were just hearing the crowd singing along to every song, basically.”
That warm glow of unity is something that goes together with personal meaning to make seeing a musician or group you love an experience to cherish. At Gothenburg’s Götaplatsen public square last summer, it was Magda and her Sweden team who were the rock stars, as swarms of people came out to welcome them home from the World Cup and celebrate their medal win.
Although she was won league titles and cup competitions in both England and Sweden, as well as that aforementioned Olympic silver in Rio, would it be fair to suggest that bronze in 2019 actually ranks as the most special feeling Magda has had in football?
“I think so, because when you win for your country, you really have the whole country behind you. For me, I’ve never felt the amount of support that we had last summer, I’ve never felt that in my life.
“When we came home after winning the bronze medal, there was 30,000 people meeting us on a stage, and you really felt appreciated in a way that I’ve never felt as a women’s football player. I think absolutely, at this moment in time, winning the bronze for my country has been the most incredible experience I’ve ever had.
“I’m so proud and so happy that we managed to get out of that World Cup with a medal, although we all wanted to reach that final.”
Three years earlier, the team’s silver success in Brazil under Pia Sundhage was memorably marked at Sweden’s annual Fotbollsgalan award ceremony. Female vocalist Laleh appeared on stage performing her song ‘Goliat’ as photos of the players appeared individually on the big screen, flashing back through the years to each in their football kit as a child.
That was certainly another live performance Magda won’t forget in a hurry, but what if she could have her pick from all-time of any artist or group to see in concert?
“I would like to see Queen live. When I was younger, I used to watch YouTube clips of Queen performing at Live Aid.
“I always thought Freddie Mercury was really cool, and it would have been amazing to see him perform live.”
Brought about by number nine Kosovare Asllani’s friendship with vocalist Albin Johnsén, the Sweden team had the song ‘Hjärtan av guld’ (hearts of gold) made for them ahead of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 in the Netherlands. If Magda was in charge of recording a song cover, with one or more teammates from her career to collaborate with, who might be getting a call to join her?
“Oh, this is a hard question. It would be fun to do one with the whole Chelsea team.
“I don’t know if anyone can actually sing at Chelsea; I know Erin Cuthbert cannot sing! It would be cool, though, to do a song with the whole team.”
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That is not to say, though, that she hasn’t already had to put her vocals to the test since her arrival in England, and nothing to do with captain’s instructions on the pitch.
“Yeah, for initiation at Chelsea, I think it was me, Jonna (Andersson), Adelina (Engman) and Anita Asante. We performed an ABBA song together.”
Whether that quartet would be ready for international stardom, we may never get to find out. Chelsea, however, have most certainly been hunting down success on the continent in recent years.
The last remaining unbeaten team before the 2019/20 FA WSL season was halted, the Blues were crowned title winners in June by virtue of their points-per-game record, meaning they will get their chance to return to Champions League action next season. While Lyon have won the last four editions of the tournament, with the possibility of a fifth should they triumph against Paris Saint-Germain and go on to win the final this month, Chelsea were only beaten 3-2 on aggregate by the French side last April in their semi-final.
It was the second semi-final in succession for Emma Hayes’ team, and having been knocking on the door of European glory, the likes of Australia star Sam Kerr, Norwegian maestro Guro Reiten, Canada’s Jessie Fleming and Germany midfielder Melanie Leupolz arriving since surely only strengthens their case. It was reported that Lyon wanted to sign Magda last summer; although flattered, she wanted to continue with Chelsea, citing her belief that they had something good going.
Her decision to join three years ago has proved such a good call that it is difficult to imagine her playing for another club team now, but before she became synonymous with Chelsea, how much of a jump into the unknown did it feel – in both football and life?
“Yeah, I think it was definitely the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life, looking back on it. I kind of took a leap of faith and I wanted to take some kind of risk in my career, because everything I’d done so far to that point had been quite safe.
“I felt like I was at a stage of my career where I really needed to go out of my comfort zone, and when Chelsea had the interest, and a move to London, it felt like the perfect step for me. When I first came, I was overwhelmed with how everything was different, how amazing the facilities were, and how nice everyone was to me, so I think it didn’t take that long before I felt comfortable again.
“It’s always going to be different but I never actually felt homesick, which I think helped me to be able to perform right from the start.”
The team’s Continental Cup final win over Arsenal back in February (yes, that did happen only this year…) felt at the time like an appetiser for a potentially glorious end to the season for Chelsea. Still in the FA Cup before the footballing shutdown, they were in a strong position in one of the most exciting WSL title races we have ever had, having done the double over champions Arsenal and taken four points from Manchester City.
While it was ‘hard to see the joy’ in the manner of their subsequent title win, with no natural conclusion to the season and no rush of elation to revel in with teammates and staff, Magda feels she can reflect now with more pride on their achievement. She was also proud to see the club donate their £100,000 prize money to the charity Refuge, which offers support against domestic violence.
During lockdown, Magda went from initial relief at being able to properly recover from the strain she had been feeling after little respite from club and international football over many months, to having her resolve tested when both the domestic season and this year’s Olympics were gone from the calendar. She was, though, able to savour the unexpected family time that players so seldom get to enjoy for long.
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With the 2020/21 campaign around the corner, the return to team training has been extremely welcome for Magda, who identifies as studious in the extreme when it comes to seeking information about her opponents. While there will likely come a day when she stops to treasure the material reminders of her career, for the foreseeable future, the mentality is ‘road ahead’ rather than ‘rear-view mirror’.
“I’m actually not at all sentimental,” she explains when asked about memorabilia from her career. “I wish I was more, because I’ve experienced so many good things, but I’m so good at just going ‘okay, that’s it,’ and then just moving on and focusing on my next goal.”
“So I’m always a bit ahead of myself. I just have (my medals) in a drawer somewhere!
“I think I should get better at taking them out and looking at them, but I think I work best when I have goals ahead of me. I’m at that stage of my career where I just wanna keep going and keep going.”
Chelsea’s captain is one who wants every player to feel free to express themselves as individuals, recognising the vast range of backgrounds they have in the ranks. She says she can be ‘quite strict’ and ‘a very direct leader’ on the pitch, but off it, she believes her job is to listen to her teammates and take in what they are feeling.
In the regular closing question, Magda certainly gets the deciding vote – four times, in fact. Through the years, each interviewee has been asked to picture a 5-a-side game and to suggest four teammates from their career as examples of those they would enjoy having alongside them.
A small-sided game is actually the first recollection Magda has of playing football. Safe to say her game understanding and positional awareness might be a touch sharper in this one! Ahead of her picks, she is reminded that Pernille chose her for her line-up…
“Yeah, well of course (I choose) Pernille, for obvious reasons. I really enjoyed having Ali Riley at Chelsea; she was an amazing character and also an amazing team player.
“My roomie in the national team is Fridolina Rolfö, who plays for Wolfsburg. I played with her at Linköping and I think she’s an amazing football player, and also an amazing person.
“So that’s three, and then one more. Ann-Katrin Berger has really good technique for a goalkeeper.
“Both goalies (at Chelsea) really, Ann and Carly (Telford), are really technical; almost more technical than me! They could probably easily play outfield as well, if they’re up for the running!”
There is even more from this interview in the latest issue of She Kicks magazine, for which Magda is the cover star – to buy
To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes
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