Sweden

The beach soccer star on the front line against COVID

Julia Blomström in beach soccer action.
  • Julia Blomstrom is a pioneering figure in women’s beach soccer in Sweden
  • She is also a qualified nurse who has been working to fight COVID-19
  • Blomstrom: “These six months have been the most difficult of my life”

Julia Blomstrom has never had to look far for inspiration.

“I grew up with a father who’s very driven and passionate, and who always pushed me to follow my dreams and work hard for what I want,” the Swede, 28, told FIFA.com. “He and a friend started a beach soccer team in the 1990s [Vetlanda United], and they’re still organising beach soccer tournaments in Sweden. His attitude towards life has definitely formed in my own personality.”

But as Blomstrom explained, there wasn’t just one hero in her household. “My mum is a registered nurse,” she added, “and I’ve always been so fascinated by her work and all the good in what she does.”

Naturally, as Julia marveled at the selflessness of the healthcare worker and the enthusiasm of the football fanatic, the question arose: whose example would she follow? Her choice: to balance the best of both worlds.

Football was her first love, and she has pursued that passion in various forms of the game – all with the verve and dedication she so admired in her father.

“I’ve been playing football since I was seven years old, and beach soccer since I was about 11,” she explained. “From what I know, no other female player in Sweden has been playing beach soccer for as long as I have, or represented Swedish teams in Europe as often. I’ve also won the Swedish beach soccer championship five times, with three different teams.

“Football in general has always been a big part of my life. In 11-a-side football, I’ve been representing clubs in the third tier here in Sweden, and I’ve also been part of building up three women’s beach soccer teams and a women’s futsal team.

“I’ve always loved playing in a team, the feeling of building something together with others and the strength and happiness that gives you. With beach soccer, what attracted me was the intensity of the game, the technical demands and options, and the environment in general with the music, the crowd and so on.”

After working passionately to build a series of teams from scratch, Blomstrom signed for Djurgarden IF, one of the country’s established football giants and a powerhouse in beach soccer. More national titles followed, along with an impressive sixth-placed finish in the 2019 Euro Winners Cup.

Julia Blomström celebrates with Djurgården IF.

But Blomstrom has combined her burgeoning beach soccer career with her role as a mother and, more recently, with a day job in nursing: “I started my studies when I had my second child and, during that time, I worked at a hospital in Norrtalje (Julia’s home town in the Stockholm region), in the acute medicine section.”

The department in which she works is responsible for dealing with epidemics and pandemics and, as such, Julia endured a baptism of fire after completing her studies in January. “I had to take care of COVID-19 patients from the very start,” she said. “It’s made for a very tough and emotional start to my career.

“I can definitely say that these six months have been the most difficult of my life. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to meet these patients, struggling to breathe, in such pain, and without their loved ones. But I can say for sure that it affects both your heart and mind.

“I also got sick myself with COVID early in spring, but I managed to carry it without needing hospital care. That said, I was definitely afraid at first: about what was going to happen to me, and to the ones I love. But in such moments, the only thing on my mind is to fight. When you spend so many years playing football in teams, you really understand the strength of people surrounding you and what you can achieve together.”

Strength in unity is undoubtedly a maxim for both football and life. All the same, it helps immeasurably when teams have inspirational figures leading the way. And just as Julia learned from the exemplary example of her parents, so she is now providing a shining light for others to follow.

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