Women and Football: Interview with Sophie Brundin of Sassuolo

ItalyWant to practice your Italian? Click here to read an Italian translation of this interview

Sitting third in the Serie A Femminile table after 10 games, Sassuolo Femminile are one of the most interesting sensations in the Italian women’s football season and Swedish defender Sophie Brundin is playing no small part in it.

Aged 23, Sophie is at her first season with Sassuolo after playing for four years at college level in the U.S. On top of being a professional footballer, Sophie is also a sports entrepreneur on a mission to make the lives of thousands of professional athletes easier with her company NOMI.

As part of our interview series at The Cult of Calcio, we talked with Sophie about how she manages to balance between football and entrepreneurship, as well as about her life and experience in Sassuolo.

Cult of Calcio: Hello Sophie! Thanks for taking some time to talk to us. Would you tell us a bit about you as an introduction? When did you discover that football was more than just a hobby?

Sophie: Thank you for having me! I am originally from Sweden where I have lived most of my life. Soccer has been with me since birth because my dad played professional soccer as well. I started to play when I was around 5 years old, but no girls teams in that age existed so I started to play with boys. Soccer is fun but I have always played to become the best. After attending a high school where I was practicing soccer during school time, I decided to move to Daytona Beach, Florida, USA to continue my career. The biggest sacrifice back then was to quit my other sport floorball (the second biggest sport in Sweden), which I took as seriously as soccer. I’m happy about that decision now.

Cult of Calcio: You are a football player but also a sports entrepreneur. Can you tell us a bit more about your company NOMI and how do you manage to balance between these two areas in your life?

Sophie: By being involved in sports for my entire life, I have realized that ankle sprains were a huge problem for athletes. As any other athlete, I have also sprained my ankles. The market was not providing any good solutions, e.g. either tape that becomes loose after ten minutes or braces that are too bulky for soccer cleats. Two other athletes and I thought that there had to be a better way. The project took on in August 2019 and since then we have developed a prototype of a 3D printed customizable ankle brace to prevent ankle sprains. This brace is thinner, lighter, and more malleable than any other braces on the current market. In the US, while playing soccer, I was studying Bio-Mechanical Engineering and through successful design iteration we finally formed our company NOMI: No More Injuries.

To play soccer as my full-time job has been a dream. It works great to balance soccer and entrepreneurship since I have a quite a lot of free time. It feels great to use my time outside practices towards an idea that will help myself and millions of other athletes to keep living the dream.

Cult of Calcio: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a football player, and how would you describe your football style? Which players do you see as an inspiration?

Sophie: My top three strengths are my speed, my one-vs-one defensively, and the physical game. However, I am mostly proud about the development of my passing game. That was something I had to develop as a younger player and I believe I managed to. As a center back, there is not much technical skill required so that is definitely my weakness.

Cult of Calcio: Your football career started at a very young age in Sweden, Then, from homely Sundsvall you moved to the to the U.S.A. What impact did this experience across the ocean have on you?

Sophie: I am very glad that I dedicated four years of my career in the USA. It was an excellent way for me to develop my tactical and passing skills. Even though I was there to play soccer I am very glad that I got to improve my English, got an education, friends, and memories in my backpack.

Cult of Calcio: 2019 was a particularly important year for your career as you were awarded the Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award. How do you think you managed to achieve such a recognition?

Sophie: 2019 was a great season for both the team and me. Our team had never gone that far into the play-offs before, so I constantly received great support from the teammates, coaches, staff and everyone around us. As an athlete you also have to be lucky to not get injured, and I was lucky. In the U.S., you are only allowed to play for a school for four years, so I knew that it was my last season before leaving my life in Florida. I am very thankful that it was a great last one!

Cult of Calcio: From the U.S., you moved to Sassuolo in Italy. When did you learn that a professional Serie A club was interested in signing you? And how is your Italian experience going so far?

Sophie: I knew before I even moved to the U.S. that I wanted to continue playing professionally. I wanted to move to Europe because of the high soccer level, but was not ready to move back to Scandinavia yet. The agent I was talking with to make the transition, Linnea Lindmark, started to look into options. Then Corona happened and we both knew that it was going to be more difficult to find a good solution. In the middle of August 2020, I heard that Sassuolo were interested. I quickly repacked my suitcase and left the same week.

The Italian experience is unique, and I love it. The people are fun and crazy, the food is delicious, and the country is beautiful. The language is a bit difficult to wrap my head around, but I will certainty get there!

Cult of Calcio: Sassuolo are having a great season so far. They are third in the table behind Juventus and Milan, and have one of the best defenses in the league. How high can Sassuolo aim?

Sophie: I think that we are performing above the beliefs of many, which is fantastic. We should keep aiming high and go for the three points every game. I think it is more than realistic to qualify for one of the two Champions League spots!

Cult of Calcio: This is your first year in Italy. What are your impressions of the Serie A Femminile so far?

Sophie: Even though the top teams are very good, it is an even league where you have to come prepared to every game to win. The mentality in Sassuolo and Serie A Femminile is very professional. I think that our team and the league itself receive great support from a lot of  people involved, from staff to fans.

Cult of Calcio: In your opinion, who are the best women football players in Italy and in Europe?

Sophie: Even though I love Italy and Italians, I need to be patriotic and pick defender Linda Sembrant from Sweden who plays for Juventus. Outside of Italy, I think that Lucy Bronze is a great player.

Cult of Calcio: How is your Italian going? Want to try and leave any message to your fans in Italian? (without using Google Translate?)

Sophie: Currently, Italian and Chinese are not too far off from each other for me even though I study Italian every day…But one of the many great things from the Reggio Emilia area is the parmesan cheese we put on everything. So, Passami il Parmigiano Reggiano per favore! …and Forza Sasol!

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