Rosengård will win championship, say experts – and Tyresö?
A lot has happened in Sweden during the first months of the new year. Five days before a new season of the Damallsvenskan is about to begin, it is time to summarize. On a Tuesday before a new season the Swedish Soccer Federation (SvFF) invited media, coaches and players to come to Stockholm for the annual kick-off avspark. Much, if not most of the talk in pre-season, had to do with Tyresö FF, the champions of 2012 and team of USWNT players Christen Press, Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen. When the last season ended in October 2013, Ashlyn Harris and Alexandra Krieger were also members of the team that had beaten French side Paris St. Germains in the Champions League and kept the Swedes in the competition. Not only Harris and Krieger left Tyresö, but even Spanish international Jennifer Hermoso Fuentes, Norwegian super talent Caroline Graham Hansen. Defender Johanna Frisk was forced to end her career due to a knee injury.
Coach Tony Gustavsson was nevertheless optimistic when I met him in February. The club was now aware of that Press, Klingenberg and Engen were called back to the NWSL after the end of their Champions League campaign, but the club had signed four Brazilian players, three of them members of the Brazil national team: Fabiana, Rilany, Thaysa and Mayara. The public did not know then that Tyresö was close to bankruptcy. A local newspaper was first with the news that got spread within a few days: Tyresö FF was not able to pay their players and had debts amounting approximately $1.2 million. In the beginning of March, Tyresö was given the chance of debt restructuring by a local court in Nacka. The state is now paying the players up to a certain guarantee that cannot exceed $27,200 per employee. This is a loan that the club will have to pay back when it is restructured.
On Monday it became clear that Vero Boquete after two years play in Tyresö, will return to the US and will join the Portland Thorns. Today, Tyresö announced that it cannot afford to renew the outgoing contracts of both Marta, Caroline Seger and goalie Carola Söberg. The club is willing to release the players by the end of May to help them find new teams, maybe in the US. On June 5, the court in Nacka has to decide if it allows Tyresö to continue debt restructuring. The permit for the first three months in March was granted, because the club’s president Hans Lindberg told the creditors that Tyresö is negotiating a development project with an unnamed African state that could give the club as much as $611,000 a year for the next four years. The worst case is that Tyresö cannot be restructured and ends up in insolvency. That could lead till that the team plays the semifinals and maybe even finals of the Champions League (May 22 in Lisbon) and shortly thereafter has to be finished. In that case, eleven teams would have to play the Damallsvenskan.
The strongest team according to 79,5% of the experts at the kick-off in Stockholm are the defending champions FC Rosengård. Rosenwhat? Yes, the team formerly called LdB FC Malmö has submerged with FC Rosengård in order to becoming a part of a larger organization and to both save money and secure the future of the team. I spoke to Swedish WNT player Therese Sjögran today who confirmed that not much if nothing had changed yet in the daily routines of the players of Rosengård formerly Malmö. New logos and a slightly new shirt, but still the same lockers on the good old Malmö IP where the team has won three championships in the last four years. Anita Asante is new on the team, replacing Malin Levenstad who is on loan with newcomers AIK. With Christen Press leaving Sweden soon, the bookmakers have Rosengårds German striker Anja Mittag as a clear favorite of scoring the most goals in the Damallsvenskan.
Many do believe that Linköpings FC will be competing for the second spot in the Champions League this season. The club that once had players like Lisa DeVanna, Manon Melis and Nilla Fischer on their payroll has recently changed strategies and tries to achieve success by recruiting and developing younger players. One of Europe’s greatest talents, Danish striker Pernille Harder has one more year with Linköping and additionally LFC has youngsters like Swedes Magdalena Ericsson, Fridolina Rolfö, Jessica Samuelsson and Dutch midfielder Renée Slegers, who played a magnificent season last year. The Swedish season will start on Sunday and even if they are no longer favorites, Tyresö will be the talk of the league, at least for two more months to come.
Rainer Fussganger covers the Damallsvenskan, Sweden's top league.