Goal Click and #WePlayStrong teamed up for a collaboration to tell the inside story of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, from the personal perspective of the players. Kylla Sjoman (Slavia Prague) documented her football life during the knockout stages of the UWCL.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your football life?
My name is Kylla Sjoman. I was born and raised in Canada but have dual nationality with Finland as my dad was born there. I have lived and played in 6 countries, and I am currently playing for Slavia Praha.
Who is in the photos? Where were the photos taken?
The photos are of my teammates, and us around the training ground, preparing for our Champions League quarter final against Bayern. The photos are in Prague and of us traveling to Munich for the second leg of our quarterfinal where we had everything to play for, but were disappointed to not play our best, and were outplayed by Bayern.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with any of the photos?
I wanted to show both the hard work we put in, but also the joy that is brought by working within a team and overcoming challenges. I think there is just something so special about going to a place where you don't know the language but to make the connections you do through sport and to unite and work towards a shared goal.
What is your favourite photo? Why?
The photo of us after the game against Bayern Munich in the locker room with the team celebrating being down 1-0 and coming back to tie 1-1 in front of a record crowd for a women's football match in the Czech Republic. That is probably the most memorable game and atmospheres I have ever experienced.
How have you felt when competing in the UEFA Women's Champions League?
The experience of playing against some of the best clubs in the world is beyond my childhood dreams. I am so proud of the women I get to train with and work with everyday as we all push towards being the best we can. When entering the group stages of the Champions League I never imagined we would have the run we did in the Champions League. It has been an incredible journey and experience.
What are the biggest changes happening at the moment in women's football?
I think the media coverage. The WSL has been an exciting one to see grow from year one and to see how the game is finally being recognized for its talents. I think this summer’s World Cup will be a real awakening for clubs to see the value of investing in their women’s teams, as it is only going to get bigger and better. You can already see the massive success of clubs who have provided the resources for female players to become the best they can be.
What has been your football journey up until now?
I started playing in the backyard with neighbors when I was 7 and just fell more and more in love with the sport. I was competitive in a lot of sports - basketball, softball, volleyball, but football is the one that stuck. I played with a really great club growing up and from there I had the opportunity to play for the Canadian youth national teams. I then went on to get a soccer scholarship to study at Arizona State University. Once I graduated I moved to England and was the first North American Player to play in the newly formed WSL in 2011, from there I went to play in Germany, Scotland, and back to England before making the move to Prague. During my professional career, I capped internationally for Canada and was part of the squad in matches against France, England, USA and Mexico. The highlight for myself was playing against Mexico in my hometown in front of 27 of my friends and family and 22,000 people.
In my journey and time at Sunderland I tore my ACL, which was so difficult, but I was lucky to go through it with my teammate and friend Rachel Pitman and huge support from our strength coach Paul Parker. It made me appreciate and love the game that much more. From not being able to run for months, going back into my first football sessions I had this boost of energy where I was so grateful to be back playing that I felt like I could run forever. I loved every minute of it.
I think some of the hardest trials have been the insecurity with women’s football while trying to put yourself in the best possible position to chase your dreams. I have uprooted my life a lot over the years to be playing in the best teams I could, to help me develop as a player and further my career. I have defiantly lived by the saying "get comfortable being uncomfortable". That mindset has allowed me to have some amazing football moments, but also to experience new cultures and meet some incredible people.
What does football mean to you? Do you have a message for the next generation of young female footballers?
Football provides opportunities to grow beyond player development on the pitch, so take on every challenge that football brings. Work hard and the commitment and discipline the game requires will be so worth it. Also, enjoy yourself and celebrate all the small wins. It’s a dream come true to go to work everyday and smile every time you are on the pitch because you get to do something you love.