The Best FIFA Football Awards
- Hedvig Lindahl has always dreamed of becoming The Best
- Sweden’s most-capped keeper is nominated once again in the FIFA Football Awards
- Lindahl identifies her key attributes and the achievements she’s most proud of
Many footballers go to great lengths to downplay the significance of individual awards. Not Hedvig Lindahl.
The Sweden and Atletico Madrid keeper takes pride in being a team player, and attributes her decades of success to being able to form a cohesive unit with the players in front of her. But Lindahl also harbours a burning and long-standing desire to stand out and excel as an individual. The ‘My Story’ section on hedviglindahl.com begins: “If anyone asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up, I would answer that I was going to become the best goalkeeper in the world. I’ve let that vision lead me in my journey throughout life.”
As such, recognition of her place among the elite means a great deal. The 37-year-old was thrilled in 2018 to be voted by her peers into the FIFA/FIFPro Women’s World 11 and, having been among the three finalists for The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper awards in 2019, its inaugural year, is elated to have been nominated once again.
“It really does mean a lot,” she told FIFA.com. “When I was growing up in a small village in Sweden, that dream of becoming the best keeper in the world manifested itself in me. But it’s only in recent years that these awards have come in, and that’s why being named in the World XI team – and getting nominations like this – really does feel like realising that crazy dream I had as a kid.
“And I still have dreams, even at my age, of winning this award I’ve been nominated for. It will be tough because of all the great young keepers coming through. But I think I’ve shown that, if I keep working hard, I can compete with these youngsters and prove to be one of the best, if not the best.”
The veteran Swede is certainly the oldest on the all-star list of nominees; Ellie Roebuck, one of her rivals for the award, was still a toddler when Lindahl travelled to the first of her five FIFA Women’s World Cups. Yet there are no signs of her powers waning. Of all those World Cups, France 2019 was arguably Lindahl’s best yet, and she followed it up at club level by winning the double and reaching a UEFA Women’s Champions League final with Wolfsburg.
“It’s been a great time for me,” she said. “The World Cup was really important in building myself back up, restoring my self-belief, because that had been damaged a little bit towards the end of my time at Chelsea. I needed that experience to show everyone, even myself, that I’m still one of the best goalkeepers around.
“I was so grateful too to come straight from that World Cup into a club like Wolfsburg and one of the best dressing rooms in the world. I felt a big respect from the girls there, made lots of great friends and enjoyed some great successes too. It was also a huge learning experience for me in seeing what’s made that team so successful over so many years, and how hard-working, humble and professional they all are. For sure it’s one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had in my career.”
Injury and the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions have restricted Lindahl’s involvement for club and country over recent months. But she is already loving life at Atletico and has in her sights completing another quintet of major international tournaments. “It could be my fifth Olympics if I go to Tokyo and I don’t think anyone has ever done that before, in Sweden at least, so that’s an exciting prospect,” she explained. “As for the next World Cup (Lindahl previously told FIFA.com that France 2019 would “definitely” be her last), you never know.
“When I spoke to you before France, I couldn’t see myself going through all that again. It requires a lot of effort from your body and mind to take part and do well in a tournament like a World Cup and, right now, I don’t see myself being there in 2023. But if I feel valued, and feel I can still add value to the squad, then I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Never say never!”
#TheBest: Lindahl on Lindahl
#TheBest physical attribute I have
“I’ve always been very explosive. Even as a kid, I was muscly, quick, strong and powerful. That’s stayed with me throughout my career and has definitely helped me. My height is obviously a big attribute as a goalkeeper too.”
#TheBest mental attribute I have
“Probably stubbornness and refusing to give in. That’s a big part of my make-up and sometimes it’s challenging. I can be so stubborn in discussions and I know people down the years will have thought, ‘Shut up already!’ My brain is so active and that can be a negative because I have over-analysed in the past. But in terms of reaching my goals and overcoming obstacles – injuries, criticism, mistakes or whatever – being so headstrong, determined and goal-oriented has been a big asset. I also think that I’ve been able to use my head a little bit better in recent years, calm myself down and stop over-analysing quite as much.”
#TheBest achievement in my career
“That’s tough because there have been one-off achievements – tournaments, prizes and so on – but there are more long-standing things that mean a lot to me too. Winning the double with Chelsea in 2015 was a proud moment as the club had never won anything before that season, and winning Olympic silver in 2016 – after beating USA in the quarter-finals – was a fantastic story. But just being picked for all those tournaments, and playing more games for Sweden than any other goalkeeper – male or female – is something I’m especially proud of because it’s an achievement that’s taken so much effort over such a long period.”
#TheBest save I’ve made
“On of my best traits as a goalkeeper is being able to organise the defence in front of me, and the idea is to keep the saves I make pretty easy! I don’t feel I’m someone who makes ‘wow’ saves a lot and, as a keeper, you really don’t want to be making too many of those. The penalty saves in big tournaments probably spring to mind. And although the one from (Janine) Beckie in France was great, the one that meant the most to me was the one against Alex Morgan in the Rio Olympics. To save from a player of her status in such a historical shootout, winning against the US and Hope Solo – who’d always been the one in the way of me getting to my goal – was a really big moment for me.”
#TheBest advice I could give to a young keeper
“One of the most important things is to always find a new challenge. It’s also important that, whatever your big goals are, to be focused on the here and now – not on what’s going to happen, or what you hope will happen, tomorrow or next year. I would also advise them to ensure that they are always in a challenging environment, and to work with good goalkeeping coaches – and different coaches – because learning different styles helps so much in improving you and keeping you fresh.”