Beats & Rhymes FC

Simone Boye interview: Strength in every stride – Denmark defender keeps it true to the track

Photo courtesy of Brøndby IF

Photo courtesy of Brøndby IF

 

When the way ahead didn’t always seem so clear, Brøndby IF defender Simone Boye Sørensen kept faith in her guiding rhythm, and with even brighter times now on the horizon for the Danish international, she certainly hasn’t stepped out of sync.

The surge of relief and joy that comes with a hard-fought win, the rush of being the one to score for your team, the unparalleled magic of winning a trophy. Those capsules of elation are the times we remember with lasting affection as football lovers and it is those moments that any player strives for.

It is, however, true to suggest that the glory is merely a highlight reel compared to what largely fills the whole film. There are many intervals during which the energy and motivation drops, when nothing seems to be going as intended and you almost have to step aside to remind yourself of why it’s all worth it.

It is something all players have had, and when the advantages appear relatively miniscule, it takes a special level of dedication to push on through. Simone Boye may now be one of her country’s most promising and valued players, but the Denmark defender has had to miss out on a lot to stay on course with her career, and throughout plenty of years when the game’s bigger rewards were not immediately visible to her.

The 2014 Danish Women’s Player of the Year kept making steps on her way, and with a spell in U.S. college soccer and substantial UEFA Champions League experience to her name, the 24-year-old is a key current contributor to a changing time for women’s football in her country. Making the Denmark squad for her first major tournament as the European Championship comes around in the summer is a motivator of considerable magnitude, while a fuel of a different kind helps keep the fire burning for her no matter the season.

“Music motivates me a lot, especially in the locker room before the game,” the Brøndby centre-back explained. “We as a team have some songs which are always playing before we play a game, but I also use music myself, especially in the winter and summer break where we have to run to stay in shape.”

“Music motivates me to go on, even though it’s hard, and I give it all I have.”

Winning their first title in 2003, Brøndby have been champions of the top-level Elitedivisionen ten times, with Fortuna Hjørring taking the other five in the last 15 years. As the league’s regular season concluded with Brøndby at the top, Per Nielsen’s side will resume in early 2017 in pole position at the six-team championship round.

A team that never goes too long without the winning feeling, it is a group that revels in the kind of celebratory self-expression that a victory instigates, with the players almost rushing to see who can pull out the dance moves first. Social media is the key that opens the door to the world getting to see that vibe in full flow and Simone pinpoints one of her teammates, a midfielder with the national team, who encapsulates that when she steps up with the team tunes.

“Julie Trustrup (Jensen) does that a lot. She plays a lot of mixed music but has a thing for old music and some weird music nobody knows.

“We all love sing-along music and ‘When You’re Looking Like That’ by Westlife is special for the team. It’s the same on the national team where Julie Trustrup is in charge of the music.”

Converted from a midfielder, Simone has become a notable presence in the Denmark backline and helping to lead wherever she can, as well as just being a part of the team on and off the field is generally her mandate for both club and country. In the frequent times spent together away from the pitch, music is a subtle but highly effective bonding tool for Simone’s teams, but how about her own personal preferences?

“I love to listen to the Danish artist MØ and I can’t wait for her new album to come out. Right now, I listen to The Weeknd’s new song (featuring Daft Punk) ‘Starboy’, which I find very good.”

 

Photo: Anders Henrikson

Photo: Anders Henrikson

 

Regstrup-raised, Simone has been making her name as a Brøndby player, although she also had a season playing the game on the other side of the Atlantic. Back in 2012, she could be found all the way over in America’s south, as she represented the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

While with the Roadrunners she was surrounded by a mix of nationalities, with all kinds of teammates from different continents. That was a first-hand experience of football’s universal quality and how it throws together and breaks through so many separate languages and cultures, which is a power that music also holds.

Back when Simone had her first tastes of track listening, it was a girl group with a global reach that stood out above any other.

“Actually, I don’t know (my first), but my guess will be a Spice Girls CD. I think every little girl had a Spice Girls CD and I wanted to be one of the members; I wanted to be Sporty Spice.”

Bringing it forward a couple of decades, it is now one of Simone’s fellow Danes leading the way when it comes to her live show favourites: Karen Marie Ørsted, who has started to enjoy some success internationally, collaborating with Major Lazer, DJ Snake and Iggy Azalea in recent times.

“I have been to two MØ concerts and I loved it! I love her energy on the scene and her connection with the audience.

“I have also seen Queen B, Beyonce, this summer. That was a big experience to see her sing, but also performing on the stage by dancing.

“She is amazing.”

Notching the next five league titles after their first in 2003, Brøndby have been regulars in the Champions League and reached the semi-final in 2004 and 2007 while the competition was under its previous guise of the UEFA Women’s Cup. They reached the final four again in 2015 but were heavily beaten by the season’s eventual champions Frankfurt.

Last month, they proved stubborn opponents in the last 16 for FA Women’s Super League champions Manchester City. After a 1-0 loss in the first leg in Manchester, it was a 1-1 draw in the return game, with Toni Duggan’s stunning opener cancelled out on the night by Nanna Christiansen – the first goal to be scored against City in their short European history to date.

Although they might be constantly chasing success back at home and working to make an increased impact in Europe, there is still the opportunity for the Brøndby players to bring it all back to the fun side. There is a 23-year-old homegrown forward in the team who adds a lighter edge to the atmosphere, and it was her Simone thought of when asked about her teammates who aren’t afraid to put their own take on songs out there for the world to see!

“Here I have to choose my teammate Fatima (Ali Abu Alful) from Brøndby; she loves to sing. Her singing skills are not so good, but she always brings a smile to our faces when she is singing in the locker room and on the bus!”

In March 2015, Brøndby booked a place in their first Champions League semi-final in eight years when they followed up a 1-1 first-leg draw in Sweden with a 1-0 home success over Linköping. Taking place at Brøndby Stadium with over 3,000 in the crowd, the second game was settled by a forward who scored in every round for the team up until the semi.

Also shown on TV by Danish station DR, the clash gave Simone and her teammates more volume than they are usually used to. As Simone was asked which career teammate she would choose if she was ever to record a song cover, she went for the goalscorer from that day as her choice to bring her own noise!

“I think I would sing a song from MØ called ‘Pilgrim’ with my old teammate and close friend Emma Madsen.”

Sporty Spice may have been the one Simone wanted to be back in the 90s, but it was always a little more about shots at goal than Mel C’s famous high kicks. She grew up without a favourite team to support, instead following her older brother’s example and watching many games involving the club he followed fanatically – Brøndby of course.

Although Simone Boye Sørensen is her full name, she explains that she doesn’t tend to use the ‘Sørensen’ and is always called ‘Boye’ on the field by her teammates. Regardless, more and more have started to know her name since she debuted with the national team as a 19-year-old in December 2011, coming on late for international cap centurion midfielder Mariann Gajhede Knudsen in the 4-0 win over Chile at the Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo.

Three years earlier, she had featured in Danish colours on another continent, at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand. She was a starter at that tournament in a squad featuring present-day senior internationals like goalscoring captain Pernille Harder, Katrine Veje, Line Jensen, Sofie Junge and Nina Frausing-Pedersen. Helping them reach the last eight, Simone also came up with the Danes’ opening goal of the tournament as she equalised against Colombia in a 1-1 draw in Auckland.

After an injury in the Algarve Cup in 2013, she missed out on the possibility of going to that year’s Swedish-hosted European Championship, but she has become a key component in Nils Nielsen’s lineup with Euro 2017 in the Netherlands looming. For Simone to be at the heart of it all when Denmark step out to play Belgium in Doetinchem on July 16th in the tournament’s second game would certainly be the fulfilment of one childhood ambition.

She describes where she started out from, as well as some of the important decisions and hurdles that eventually arose on her footballing road back home.

“Regstrup is a small town with only about 2000 citizens. It was a fine town to grow up in when I was little.

“I played a lot of soccer, both at home with my dad and my brother, and in the club Jernløse IF. When I turned 15, I had to find another club if I wanted to do something with football.

“There were only two clubs and they were in Copenhagen – BSF and Brøndby. I chose BSF, and for many years, my parents – especially my dad – drove me to BSF, which took 40 minutes, until I got a driver’s licence myself.

“At this time, Regstrup was very annoying because of its distance to Copenhagen! When I came home from Texas I moved to Copenhagen.”

One result for Denmark that definitely caught the eye was their 5-3 win over the United States at the 2014 Algarve Cup. Simone headed in a corner in a game that turned out to be one of U.S. boss Tom Sermanni’s last before his surprising departure, and although not at a major tournament, Denmark’s ruthless edge that day despite much fewer chances could be very useful in summer 2017 if they can put it into action.

That win gave the U.S. their first back-to-back defeats since 2001 and perhaps held a touch more meaning for Simone after her time in Texas with UTSA in 2012. Her solitary season with the Roadrunners was the team’s debut year in the WAC, and as a midfielder, she scored goals against Dayton, San Jose State and Denver.

Her teammates included two Chileans in midfielder Valentina Lefort and forward Maria Jose Rojas, Norwegians Anka Grotle (defender) and Charlotte Husoe (defender/midfielder), Brazilian midfielder Laylla da Cruz, Slovenian goalkeeper Katarina Pus, and a fellow Dane in midfielder/forward Liv Nyhegn! Simone is thankful that her stay in Texas was a truly international affair.

”It was a big experience playing in the States. The setup around the team was so much more professional than here in Denmark and it was nice to try something where soccer came first and then school was scheduled around soccer.

”I’m so thankful for my teammates over there, which made the stay in Texas so much greater. We had a really good team, with players from many different countries; it’s fun now that I know people from many places in the world like Brazil, Chile, Hawaii, Slovenia and Norway.”

 

Simone (left) with fellow Danish player Liv Nyhegn at The San Antonio River Walk during their time as UTSA teammates. instagram.com/simoneboye3

Simone (left) with fellow Danish player Liv Nyhegn at The San Antonio River Walk during their time as UTSA teammates. instagram.com/simoneboye3

 

When Per Nielsen was appointed by Brøndby at the end of 2014 following Peer Lisdorf’s resignation for personal reasons, there was a significant amount of attention in Danish football. Nielsen had been a successful defender and captain for Brøndby in a long and distinguished career with the ten-time Danish champions, while he also represented Denmark on ten occasions before his 2008 retirement.

The women’s national team has its own heritage of note, appearing at four World Cups (all three in the 90s and again in 2007), though the quarter-final is as far as they have been to date. Winners of the Euros in 1979 before it became officially recognised, Denmark have reached the semi-finals twice (2001 and 2013) since the tournament was extended to eight teams in 1997 (becoming 12 in 2009 and 16 for 2017).

In addition to Belgium, they will face Norway and the hosting Dutch team in the group phase at Euro 2017, coming into the tournament off the back of an impressive qualifying campaign for Simone and her compatriots. The Danes qualified as runners-up in their group to Sweden despite only conceding once.

That goal had been in a 1-0 defeat in Gothenburg, although they did manage to beat the Swedes in Viborg for the last match, with Nadia Nadim and Johanna Rasmussen doing the damage. Simone makes reference to the 7,000+ crowd for that game as she discusses how she has handled the sacrifices to pursue her career, as well as how she thinks the support for and perception of the women’s game in Denmark has begun to turn for the better.

“I have always loved football and have never had any problems dedicating myself to the sport, even though I missed out on many things like birthdays, parties, vacations and other social activities. The support for women’s football in Denmark has improved during European (Championship) qualification.

“We got a deal with the TV station DR3, who have shown all our games and have made it possible for people to watch our games and get to know us. When we played our last game in the group against Sweden we played for an almost-full stadium in Viborg, which was a really nice experience.”

As Denmark closed out the calendar year by grabbing a 3-1 friendly victory in Belgium recently, Simone was on target. Brøndby’s goal-getting number three is one of those in the Denmark team who may just catch the attention of a few in the near future as more get to see her prowess in both boxes.

She scored on November 19th in the 2-1 win over Brøndby’s closest rivals for domestic success, Fortuna Hjørring, which meant they leave the Elitedivisionen action in first place heading into the New Year. All is looking bright for club and country in Simone’s world as 2016 nears its finish line and she leaves us here by putting forward her contribution to the regular final question.

Each player on here has been asked in recent years to picture a small-sided game in which they get to select four teammates from any points in their career to play alongside them. Whether they decide to pick players based on fun, meaningful memories or just being pretty good at football, it’s always intriguing to see who makes the lineups!

There is a combination of leadership and laughs to help fill Simone’s selection as she goes for a Danish quadruple.

“Keeper: I will pick my teammate Katrine Abel, because she is a really good friend of mine. Defender: I will choose my old captain Malene Marquard (Olsen), who played next to me when I got moved from the midfield to the defence.

“She was a really good captain, both on and off the field, and was in general a really nice person to be around. Midfielder: I will choose Liv Nyhegn, who I was in Texas with and who is also a close friend.

“She has a good eye for the game and we share many funny, good memories from our stay in Texas. Forward: I will choose my old friend Amalie Holm (Pedersen), who was my teammate when I played in Skovlunde IF.

“She was really good on the ball and extremely fast, but unfortunately, she injured her knee and doesn’t play now. She also was a really good friend of mine and I felt a special connection with her, both on the field and outside the field.”

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