For the last five years Maria Thorisdottir has been contemplating a dilemma. An integral part of the Norway side that has reached the last eight of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012, the midfielder is also a gifted handball player, so gifted in fact that she could easily pursue a career in the sport. Yet despite mulling over her options for some time now, she has still to decide which of her two sporting passions she should follow.
Thorisdottir has been playing both sports since she was a child, performing so well in them that she could never bring herself to opt for one over the other. Such is her quandary that not even Norway’s run to the quarter-finals in Japan has helped her decide where her future lies.
“I’m always asking myself which one I should choose but I never come up with a simple answer,” she said in conversation with FIFA.com. “I think I’ve chosen the two of them, though I know that if I make a go of things in football, I’ll have to give up handball, and vice versa.”
Thorisdottir’s exceptional achievement in representing her country at youth level in both sports has only added to the confusion in her mind.
“Which am I better at? Maybe football. I don’t know. I’m good at handball too,” she explained, or at least tried to explain, with a wry smile. “I’ve got my strengths and weaknesses in both, but I think there are things I can take from one sport and use in the other, which helps a lot.”
Amid all the doubts, one thing is for sure: the knee injury and subsequent operation she underwent last November mean that she will not be able to carry on fighting on two fronts forever.
“That’s a fact. My knee still hurts a little,” said the 19-year-old, applying an ice pack to the area in question after Wednesday’s training session. “It’s more of an inconvenience in handball than football because of all the jumping. I’m happy all the same just to be here. I never thought I’d recover in time.”
A chip off the old block
The daughter of Thorir Hergeisson, the coach of the Norway women’s team that won handball gold at London 2012, Thorisdottir was always destined to play sport in one form or other, taking up football at the age of eight and then trying her hand at handball.
Her father even coached her at youth level and has always believed in letting his girl make her own decisions and choose her own path.
“People also ask him what sport I’m going to go for, but he supports me in everything I do and I think he’d be happy for me even if I chose to take up swimming,” she explained. “He knows it’s a personal decision.”
What with so many major international events in the last few weeks, it has been all go in the Thorisdottir household. After closely following the progress of her father’s team in London, the Norway midfielder missed their gold-medal match against Montenegro, albeit for a very good reason: she had a flight to Japan to catch.
“That was tough. Everyone wanted to watch the game and we even paid for an internet connection on the plane, though everything stopped working when we flew over China. It was only when we got here that I found out the result.”
The job in hand
There is no question that her father’s success has inspired Thorisdottir and her team-mates, perhaps even helping them to recover from a heavy defeat to Korea DPR in their opening match.
Finding themselves under pressure and a goal down in their next game against Canada, they staved off elimination by coming back to claim a crucial win: “Our coach really motivated us during that game,” said the player, “and we showed we can go further.”
Thorisdottir sat out Norway’s third game against Argentina and is anxious to return for Friday’s big game with Germany, a team who have proved a major obstacle for the Scandinavians in recent times, most notably in inflicting a crushing 8-1 defeat on them in the final of last year’s UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship.
“We don’t talk about that game anymore. It’s history,” she said, anxious to move on. “They’re strong, but so are we, and I feel we’re going to win.”
As far as Friday’s game is concerned at least, Thorisdottir has no doubts. And who knows, should Norway prevail and she go on to emulate her gold-medal-winning father, it might even help her come to a decision about her sporting future.