Up North: Duluth-Vaxjo Soccer Exchange
Posted at: 07/02/2012 7:30 PM
| Updated at: 07/04/2012 11:04 PM
By: Laura Kennedy
Many young athletes know travel is a part of competing in sports, but few have ever crossed an ocean to play a game.
This is the 14th annual Duluth-Vaxjo Soccer Exchange. Duluth players visit Sweden one year, and the Swedish players come to the Northland the next. Robin Sandstrom says it's an honor to wear the blue and gold.
"It feels good to represent our country," he said. "I'm proud to be here and play for Sweden. It's just a good feeling."
Duluth and Vaxjo players enjoy spending time together during the two week exchange, but once they hit the soccer field, the competitive juices start flowing.
"I definitely went a lot harder today than I would in other games just because I wanted to beat him," said Willy Atol, a soccer player from Duluth.
"When you're playing a team from a different country, you obviously want to win." Soccer is a mainstream sport in Sweden, but the Duluth players represented a different challenge.
"I think we're a little rougher, like big players and going harder," said Mattias Svard of Sweden. "But they are a little more technical."
"They're a lot more offensive when they need to be offensive. They can really finish the ball and they all kick really hard," Atol said. "But I think we pass the ball well and wait for our opportunities."
The Swedes took this U-16 game 2-0, but think there is some room for improvement. "We had some good passes, some good strikes. We could have played a little better on defense," Sandstrom said.
The Northland squad will get a chance for a rematch next year.