Pernille Harder – Player of the Week

Pernille Harder during the EURO 2013 (Photo: Mirko Kappes)
Pernille Harder during the EURO 2013 (Photo: Mirko Kappes)

With five matches to go LdB FC Malmö still leads the Damallsvenskan in Sweden, two points ahead of Tyresö FF. Both teams face strong opposition in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in October with Malmö meeting the Norwegian champions LSK Kvinner and unseeded Tyresö facing Paris with USWNT player Tobin Heath and European champion Annike Krahn of Germany among other stars.

Five rounds before this season comes to an end, it is almost obvious that Sunnanå SK will have to leave the league after only one year. After a devastating 0-8 at home against Tyresö, Sunnanå met Linköping and lost again, 1-4.

All goals for the away side were scored by 20-year -old Pernille Harder, a Danish WNT player that has already 48 appearances with her national team. ‘Harder created fireworks’ the Swedish news agency TT wrote about Pernille. And her coach, Martin Sjögren, has said: “She really has most of the things you need. She has speed, she is two-footed and she can read the game very well.”

I have seen Pernille for the first time almost three years ago, playing for Denmark when she was barely 18 years old. I watched a live stream somewhere on the internet and I remember how impressed I was seeing that young midfielder/forward. At that time she was still playing for Skovbakken, a team playing in the first Danish league.

Last autumn, Pernille Harder was signed by former Swedish champions Linköpings FC, a club that had entered the season 2012 with a lot of ambitions and star players like Lisa DeVanna and Manon Melis.

Why did you chose Sweden and Linköping, Pernille?

“I wanted to play abroad in order to meet new challenges,” she tells us. “I knew that the Swedish league has a very good standard and at the same time I was sure that the step to Sweden, another Scandinavian country would not be that big. There are differences, of course, but not major differences and I thought that it would not be too difficult to adjust to a new life in another country.”

Pernille Harder plays for Linköpings FC (Photo: Filip Oskarsson)
Pernille Harder plays for Linköpings FC (Photo: Filip Oskarsson)

Can you compare the Danish league 3F where you have played a couple of years already with the Damallsvenskan?

The Swedish league is more even, in Denmark you have two teams that are superior to all the others and they win every match with four or five goals. It is more competitive here,” says Pernille, “although we also have Malmö and Tyresö, but in Sweden you really have to work hard in every single game and that develops you as a player. And we have a larger audience in Sweden. At home, in Denmark, we have a lot of games with an attendance of 100 people more or less and even during the EURO 2013 where we reached the semifinals, the media was not interested too much in the beginning. But that changed when we went to the quarterfinals and then the semis. I hope, we will do good in the qualification for the World Cup in Canada and get more people interested in women’s soccer in Denmark.”

Anyway, even if there might be a more competetive game and larger audiences in Sweden , it seemed to me that the Danish WNT is not far away from Sweden. You played 1-1 in the opening game of the EURO in Göteborg?

“That was an incredible experience. With 17,000 people in the audience who were screaming and shouting. There was a real good atmosphere and yes, we had a good tournament which was my first big tournament with the women’s national team. It would have been even better, if I could have scored, of course.”

And then, after the group stage, Denmark and Russia were even and only one team could move on. The decision was made in a lottery that Denmark won. Tell us about that.

“That was really incredible and very nervous. We were in Göteborg and the team was watching the game between England and France and when the results were there we knew there had to be a lottery about which team should advance to the semifinals. We waited almost two hours, the whole team together. The decision was made in Linköping and the only connection we had to Linköping was a telephone line.”

Certainly an experience that neither the Danish nor the Russian players will ever forget. Of 12 teams in the group stage 8 teams would advance to the quarter finals. The best two teams in each group and the two best 3rd placed teams in the groups.

Pernille, you are considered to be Denmark’s biggest talent in years and many see you as an upcoming top player not only on Europe, but think that you have the potential to be one of the world’s best players. How do you cope with that?

“I always try to work as hard as possible. I am looking for new challenges all the time and my ambition is getting to be a better soccer player every day. When people say such things about me, it is a compliment and of course, I appreciate that. But having talent is not enough if you don’t work hard and that is what I try to do. All I can do is keep on working.”

You have one more year in Linköping. How do you see your teams perspective?

“It is very difficult to compete with Malmö and Tyresö, because they have such incredible rosters and, of course, more money. Look at Malmö, they have Anja Mittag, Manon Melis and Ramona Bachmann. That says a lot already. We have a lot of young players and talents and if we can keep them, we can get a lot better and maybe threaten the top teams. I have adapted very well to living in Sweden,” Pernille tells me in very good Swedish already. And when I try to find out what she is missing about Denmark apart from family and friends, she thinks a while: “Well, I really miss newly baked rye bread. That is so good in Denmark and you won’t get it here so easy.”