Linda Sällström: Comeback after Second ACL Injury

Linda Sällström (Photo: Rainer Fussgänger)
Linda Sällström (Photo: Rainer Fussgänger)

With only four games left to play, LdB FC Malmö has established a gap of four points to Tyresö FF. The Stockholm based team with American internationals Ashlyn Harris, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Christen Press played only 2-2 away at Umeå last week. Umeå took the lead twice after individual mistakes by first Harris and then Krieger – both times it was youngster Lina Hurtig who scored for the home side. Since Malmö took another three points winning 2-0 against Jitex with both Anja Mittag and Ramona Bachmann scoring, Malmö’s now got it in their own hands to win the Swedish championship.

Last Saturday Sweden started its qualification for the FIFA World Cup in Canada 2015 by winning 2-0 against Poland in Malmö. Goals scored by Caroline Seger and Lotta Schelin in a game that was not specifically well played by the Swedes against a very defensive Polish side. Interesting news: 36 year-old-midfielder Therese Sjögran (who played for Sky Blue FC in the WPS 2011) has declared that she wants to try playing for Sweden until the World Cup. Even 34-year-old defender Sara Thunebro wants to carry on in the WNT, but said that she needs to play in her club which might indicate a change of club next season since she is sitting on the bench in Tyresö right now.

One of the fastest forwards in Europe has made her comeback after her second ACL injury within one year: 25-year-old Finnish striker Linda Sällström played 13 minutes for her Linköping side against Yael Averbuch’s Kopparberg/Göteborgs FC (Linköping won 3-0).

The last 18 months have been quite difficult for Sällström. The Damallsvenskan 2012 had not even started when Linda played for her Finland against Slovakia when she tore her ACL which practically ended her season. Linda worked hard, and came back slowly. In February this year she was ready for her first match, playing Russia indoors and her comeback was promising. After only three minutes on the pitch she scored her first goal. Another three weeks later it happened again while practicing with the national team.

A bitter moment in the career of Linda who was competing in track and field when she was a teenager. She actually has won a Finnish junior championship in pole vault and was one of the fastest girls on 80 m hurdles in her home country. However, Linda never thought of quitting, she wanted to come back stronger than ever and now, six months and five days after she underwent surgery, she played against Göteborg.

I spoke to Linda Sällström after the game.

“It was really marvellous playing in the Damallsvenskan again. I played my last game in October 2011 away at Piteå, really a long time ago. But it was just great to come in and I was really nervous, but all positive. Then, it was good that we were already leading 3-0. The third goal by Pernille Harder was scored when I was waiting at the sideline. The game was decided and there was no stress when I finally got in.”

Tell us about your rehab and how it could go so fast.

“I travelled a lot back and forth to Finland during this period,” Linda Sällström says. “My physiotherapists in Sweden and Finland worked closely together and they gave their ok, because everything went really well. And when my coach Marin Sjögren also thought that I could play again, I could sit on the bench again instead of in the stands like I did many times now.”

Did you never felt depressed, because it happened again almost directly after you had recovered the first time?

“I had already learned a lot from the first rehab period. In this respect, I was prepared and knew what I had to do. But of course, there are days when it did not felt that good and on those days you have your family and your friends who will see how you feel and they help put you through this.”

I know that you were so much looking forward to the EURO here in Sweden and play for Finland. How did you experience the tournament?

“It is really bitter, that I’ve missed that. However, I was with the team on a lot of occasions and that helped me a lot, because I always had the feeling that I was a part of the team. The loss against Sweden (0-5) was really tough. When I came into the arena I felt really bad, because I had so much wanted to play against Sweden, but after the final whistle I was almost relieved that I did not play. I felt so sorry for my teammates, they had worked so hard for this tournament, but our offensive game simply did not work. But, if Sweden had scored on their two penalties against Denmark in the first game, it would have been us in the lottery against Russia.”

Is there anything positive that you take with you from this difficult period in your career?

“If I have learned something, then to practice on my own. Do my own stuff and have a lot of patience. This is really something good, but hopefully it is over now and I can continue some years without being badly injured again,” Linda Sällström says.

Her contract runs out by the end of the season, but Linda has not thought about staying or leaving. All her focus was on coming back again. One of Europe’s fastest forwards will hopefully soon be able to go 90 minutes again and show us what she goes for.