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Magdalena Eriksson: Celebrating Common Goals

In collaboration with Nike.

Magda Eriksson believes that football and human rights go hand in hand. As one of the best football defenders in Europe, Magda shows her rebel spirit by charging the pitch and speaking out about the need for change.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls in collaboration with Nike. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Haley Dapkus with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written and edited by Abby Sher. Narration by Caroline Bartholdson. Fact checking by Joe Rhatigan. Joy Smith was our executive producer. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Get to Know Magdalena Eriksson

Nandi Bushell teams up with Nike Kids and Rebel Girls to talk to one of the best soccer defenders in Europe, Magdalena Eriksson. In addition to her soccer skills, Magda runs a podcast to talk about LGBTQIA+ issues and making positive change.

Transcript

The year was 2019 and the Parc des Princes stadium was thundering with applause. Magda Eriksson, a star defender for Sweden’s football team, was so excited about their victory. She ran into the stands and embraced her girlfriend, Pernille. 

Pernille was a professional football player too. She knew it had taken Magda years of blood, sweat and tears to get here. The two of them kissed and cried with joy. 

They had no idea that someone was capturing this moment on film — or that it would change their lives forever.

I’m Caroline Bartholdson. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us. 

On this episode, Magdalena Erikkson, star defender, talk-show host, and outspoken activist for human rights. 

Magdalena Eriksson, or Magda, as she likes to be called, was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1993. From the time she could walk, she was either kicking a ball, swinging a hockey stick or trying some new gymnastics move. Her father started a local girls’ football team and Magda joined when she was six, instantly hooked on the sport.

Magda loved playing defense — surveying the opposing team and trying to figure out their strategies. Even when players came charging at her, she was nimble yet grounded, giving her team a steady sense of strength. 

Soon, Magda joined a regional football club. She trained for hours even after practice was over, trying to increase her range of passing and find new ways around her opponents. She was proud to call herself a “real football nerd,” studying her coach’s notes, determined to get better.

Over the next few years, Magda lived and breathed football — training and playing as much as possible. Her closest friends were her teammates or people playing for other football teams. It was more than just a sport for Magda. It was a way of life — putting herself out there on the pitch, trying to communicate and collaborate for each pass, moving as a group through any obstacles towards a goal. 

All of Magda’s hard work and dedication paid off. By the time she was 21, she was competing in the premier championship tournament in Sweden. When she and her team won the Swedish League, she felt like her heart was bursting with pride. Magda also went on to compete internationally at the biggest tournaments in the world.

Which brings us back to that magical moment in 2019 at the Parc des Princes stadium in France. 

This was the most significant win that Magda had ever experienced. As the stadium erupted in wild celebration and players ran to greet their families, Magda did too. 

The fact that Magda was in a relationship with another female football player named Pernille Harder had never been a secret. But they’d also never announced it to the whole world. As the image of them kissing traveled around the globe, Magda and Pernille found themselves center stage in a whole new way. Tens of thousands of people started following them on different social media channels. They got all sorts of messages — mostly thanking them for being so open about their love. 

Magda had never intended to be a role model like this. But she felt a new sense of purpose and power as she read through these words from total strangers, inspiring her to be louder and prouder about her queer identity. 

In 2021, on Valentine’s Day, Magda and Pernille decided to do something very special. They wrote personal and vulnerable messages on social media for the world to see.

I’m so lucky to have a relationship with the woman I love, Magda wrote. But I know this isn’t the case for everyone, especially in these times. In the LGBT community, these problems can feel even worse. So, for the next hours, @PernileHarder and I will open our DMs for anyone who wants to chat.

The response was immediate and intense. Magda and Pernille were honored by how many people reached out with questions and stories. They were also shocked by the number of people struggling with their sexuality and saying that they couldn’t come out because they were scared of their families’ and friends’ reactions.

She and Pernille felt determined to change the conversation so that everyone felt accepted. But where to begin?

It started as a televised conversation between Magda, Pernille, and some of their biggest mentors on and off the football pitch. They called it The Hangout and it felt like just that — LGBTQIA+ people hanging out together, sharing and supporting one another. Magda and Pernille wanted to really dig into what it’s like to be out and proud, what it feels like to be seen as “different”, and the many ways people encounter both prejudice and acceptance. 

Doing The Hangout was definitely a labor of love for Magda and Pernille — they weren’t used to speaking in public a lot, and they were still training and playing football full-time professionally. But The Hangout was something they felt like they had to do. They both felt passionately that queer identities needed to be normalized in society and they had a unique platform as celebrated athletes. TAnd they learned so much from their guests and their audience, listening and growing together.

To this day, Magda continues to be a star defender — not only on the football pitch, but as an activist for human rights. 

“I think everyone is different and I think that is something very beautiful and something that you shouldn’t be ashamed of,” Magda says. “Our goal is really to make the world an easier place for everybody to be in.”

She knows this is easier said than done. But she also knows that with practice and patience, great things can happen — whether it’s on “The Hangout”, the football pitch, or in life.