Damallsvenskan: Sweden’s top flight developing world class talents

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - DECEMBER 09: BK Häcken cheering after Stina Blackstenius of BK Häcken scored 1-0 during the UEFA Women's Champions League group D match between BK Hacken and Bayern München at Bravida Arena on December 9, 2021 in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Gunnar Hoffsten/Getty Images)

Some of Europe’s top leagues, such as in England and Germany, are broadly covered in the media. However, the Swedish league is often forgotten. Damallsvenskan has been around since 1988 and has had excellent players in the league since then. Some are considered the best in the world.

Throughout the years, the domestic battle for the title has been tough and exciting to watch. Meanwhile, there has also been international success as a couple of teams have reached far in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Specifically, Umeå IK, as they have made it to the final a total of five times. Most importantly, they’ve won it twice, which is a remarkable achievement.

On the other hand, the last team from Damallsvenskan to reach the final were Tyresö FF, who finished as runners-up in the 2013/14 campaign. Since then, the Swedish sides have had a hard time in the competition. 

As of the 2022 season, Damallsvenskan has expanded from 12 teams to 14. An important step, as the league has to keep growing and improving in order to close the gaps with the biggest leagues in Europe.

The league itself is quite unpredictable, which makes it so much fun to watch. Right now, after eight games played, one of the predicted title contenders Rosengård FC are at the top of the table. Yet, the teams below are really close and there’s no question that this season is going to be an interesting one. 

This piece will focus on players that are still active, and who have a past in the Swedish league. But worth mentioning is that the “Hall of fame of Damallsvenskan” is absolutely incredible and stacked with legends. Now, let’s take a look at some players you may know have a past in the Swedish league and some who might come as a surprise to you.

A Damallsvenskan legend: Marta

It goes without saying that Marta Vieira da Silva, or just Marta, is a fantastic footballer. She’s rapid, has magnificent skills and sharp finishing. As a result, she’s been voted the best player in the world a total of six times. 

Her journey in Damallsvenskan started in 2004. She moved from her home country Brazil, to the northern parts of Sweden as an eighteen year old. Despite her young age she had an immediate impact for her new team. Marta was the top scorer together with her teammate Laura Kalmari, both scoring 22 goals that 2004 season. Umeå IK finished as runner-up that year. However, the best was yet to come. 

People were astonished by the Brazilian footballer who became somewhat of a superstar almost straight away after her arrival in the Swedish league. The success was never-ending for her at the club. The seasons 2005-2008, Umeå IK became the first team to win Damallsvenskan four years in a row. On top of that, Marta won top goal scorer of the year another two times during these years. 

In 2009, Marta left Sweden and played in both the US and Brazil for a couple of years. She returned to play for Tyresö FF in 2012 and once again won the league. After two seasons at Tyresö FF she signed for her last club in Sweden, FC Rosengård, where she played 2014-2017. Add another two Damallsvenskan titles to her name and that concludes her time in Sweden.

To say that Marta has meant a great deal to both the Swedish league and women’s football as a whole is an understatement. She’s inspired and keeps inspiring people around the world to play football and has been one of the players that made Damallsvenskan what it is today. Nonetheless, her time in Sweden was where she got established as a football player, thrived on the pitch, and grew as a person. 

More international talent from Damallsvenskan

To say that players like Pernille Harder, Ramona Bachmann, and Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir have played several years in Sweden feels unreal. Then add the UEFA Women’s Champions League winner Lieke Martens to that list. Further, let’s throw two-time World Cup winner Christen Press into the mix. Unbelievable. 

All of the mentioned players improved as footballers those years since Damallsvenskan is quite a tactical league. There is a broad variety of formations being used by the different teams. Having to adapt to that, translates into becoming a more intelligent football player. 

On the other hand, having players of that high caliber helped Damallsvenskan become more competitive and raise the standards for their teammates as well as the opposition. 

Pernille Harder spent four and a half years at Linköpings FC in the beginning of her career. She arrived as a rather inexperienced player in 2012. When she left for VFL Wolfsburg she had been voted player of the year twice and won Damallsvenskan once. Just to name a few of her awards during her time in Sweden. Additionally, we all know that her trophy cabinet hasn’t exactly been left that way. It has grown significantly since then

Alongside Marta, Ramona Bachmann has to be mentioned while talking about some of Damallsvenskan’s best players throughout the years. She’s won the MVP award twice, midfielder of the year, and the league a total of five times. Bachmann has represented both Umeå IK and FC Rosengård during her years in Sweden.

Short but valuable stays in Damallsvenskan

In the 2015 season, Kopparbergs Göteborg signed two new players that weren’t that well known back then. However, seven years later they’ve both had great success and are quite big names within women’s football. 

Who are they? Well, no other than Maren Mjelde and Danielle van de Donk. While neither of them surpassed 15 appearances in the league, both have experienced and played football in Sweden before moving on to new challenges in other countries. 

Another two, high-profiled players that have played in Sweden are Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris. Both signed for Tyresö FF in 2013 on short-term contracts. Their stay wasn’t long-lasting but for about a season, they were a part of the squad that finished as runners-up in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2014.

Swedish stars shining bright

Damallsvenskan has experienced and is currently experiencing packed with quality players, Swedish or not. Throughout the years, the majority of Swedish players have played domestically. Some have started out as youngsters and worked their way up, some have left and returned to Damallsvenskan. One of those people is the captain of the Swedish national team, Caroline Seger.

Chelsea skipper Magdalena Eriksson, is a great example of other Swedish stars that have played in the league. Barcelona’s Fridolina Rolfö is another. Kosovare Asllani, Real Madrid’s first Galactica, is a must to mention. Hedvig Lindahl, who some might consider the best penalty-stopping keeper in the world, is without a doubt inevitable to acknowledge. Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius has played a large part of her career in the Swedish top flight. The list goes on and on.

Looking forward

The Swedish league has a great legacy and surely the future will follow in the same direction. New players are going to leave their mark. However, it’s important to have had a quick look into the past and get inspired by the amazing people that have paved the way before them. 

With more knowledge of who’s played in Damallsvenskan, hopefully, this has sparked an interest in learning more about it.

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