Mar 25, 2024

Soccer Star Amanda Ilestedt is Proof That Practice Makes Dreams Come True

While some athletes get by on just raw talent alone, Amanda shares her story on what elevated her game. Just be forewarned: it required training, a lot of it.
by Justin KornEditor

Ever since she was a kid, the 30-year-old Swedish center back Amanda Ilestedt always wanted to be a part of her country’s national soccer team. She started kicking around a ball as a tween in her hometown of Sölvesborg, with a population just under ten thousand.  

Some of her earliest soccer memories date back to playing in the garden with her brothers. Then she joined an all-girls soccer squad. And little by little, the idea began to solidify in her mind that not only was soccer her favorite sport, but that she wanted to be the best.  

At this point in time, she was only around 13 years old. An age where most parents welcome their teen’s flavor of the month interests with encouragement, knowing all too well that what’s of interest today could change in time for dinner. But this wasn’t the case for Amanda.     

She’d fallen header over cleats for soccer 

Despite her young age, she was precocious and filled with determination. She understood that wanting a career in soccer, something that only a tiny fraction of the population can pull off is just the beginning of a long and windy road. Filled with sacrifices. But her mind was already made up and there was no turning back. 

“I always had the mindset that I want to be the best. I wanted to go to the national team, play for our national team, play in the best league in the world; so that was always in my head, and I was training a lot when I was younger,” she tells me.  

She would keep to her word until she was her best soccer-self. There was no slowing down for Amanda until she satisfied her appetite to one day wear her country team’s blue and yellow jersey. That craving led her to join an even more experienced and talented senior women’s team in Sweden. 

She greeted the steep learning curve with open arms 

Now surrounded by her role models, a starstruck Amanda found herself gazing around the locker room and during practices, saying, “I want to be like her; I want to be like this person.”  

Having the right environment, teammates, and coaches can either make or break a young player.  

Luckily, in Amanda’s case, joining the senior team gave her the perfect stomping ground to grow and improve her game. From that experience with her teammates, she’d come to learn the importance of “making fast decisions” and “taking up space on the field” to excel in matches and truly be a part of the team.  

And the coaches were just as dedicated to the beautiful game as Amanda. Reflecting on the coaches, she says, “And to be honest, the coaches that I had at the time really wanted to put in the effort.” 

She adds, “They also wanted to develop us. They could see the motivation I had –  that also helped too.” That translated into additional nightly training sessions at 10 p.m. until 11 on Fridays, which Amanda made time for. 

But training was her jam – she loved it 

Amanda is the poster athlete for how to turn your dreams into reality: practice, practice, and a bunch of more hours of practice. While her coaches were willing to go the extra mile for the team, Amanda ate miles of practice for breakfast and asked for second servings.  

At first glance, Amanda has all the physical traits of a top-notch soccer player. She’s tall, she’s got a firm build to push off on opponents, and she’s lithe enough to burst into sprints to chase down a runaway ball. But she makes it no secret that to mollify the inner voice telling her to be the best, she had to train hard.  

“I’m a training player. I wasn’t the most talented player, but I had the biggest will in that sense when I was younger,” she says, laughing off the countless hours of training that made her the player she is today. “So I knew that I loved to train. I still love to train. It was a lot of hours there to achieve what I’ve accomplished, to be on the level that I’m at now.” 

It’s no wonder when she got the call up to the national squad 

Amanda was in the Swedish youth academy system for soccer for most of her teenage years, and her phone eventually rang with news that she’d been called up to join the Women’s Swedish National Team. It was a special moment for Amanda to say the least. 

Talking about how she felt after hearing she’d made the team, her voice tremors with traces of ecstasy and disbelief all balled up into one.

"When something you have been wanting for almost your whole career, actually happens. It’s a big, big step. And you can actually represent your country."

Amanda IlesedtPro Footballer

Three World Cups later, Amanda is still in awe she gets to represent her country.  

Her most recent FIFA Women’s World Cup expedition with the national squad landed Sweden a Bronze medal. And Amanda had a breakout competition scoring four goals throughout the monthlong tournament, hosted in Australia and New Zealand.  

There was quite the fanfare waiting for her and the team upon their return 

Amanda couldn’t even begin to imagine the stranglehold that the Women’s World Cup hype had on her country.   

The day after their bronze-medal victory against Australia, Amanda and the team were already on a flight back to Sweden. Waiting for them was a closed-event celebration at the Swedish Royal House. Overjoyed fans also didn’t hold back from letting the team know how they felt.  

She recalls fans coming up to her, saying, “I’ve never watched football, but I loved seeing you play.” The rock star treatment left Amanda in a post-celebratory daze.

"When you come home with so many people that were watching and involved. And we were like, does this person even like football? I didn’t know you were into football."

Amanda IlesedtPro Footballer

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Sweden was very much into women’s football 

Because of Australia and New Zealand’s half-a-day-into-tomorrow time difference, Amanda’s hometown friends and family would pile into one another’s homes for an early morning breakfast or brunch to watch their matches. She says, “it was kind of a family event.” 

And speaking of family, the entire Ilestedt family also welcomed Amanda back home with an unusual, yet supportive dress code surprise. Amanda’s brothers, parents, and even grandparents all gathered around the dinner table wearing Amanda’s jersey. Then over a homecooked meal, they all took turns sharing first-hand accounts of what it was like seeing Amanda play.  

“They were like, ‘it’s been so stressful. I’m so tired after your tournament’ and they were so into everything. It was fun,” says Amanda. Then with a beaming smile Amanda tells me how she poked fun at her family’s loving melodrama. “I’m like, but I’m the one who played; you didn’t.” 

After World Cup glory, it’s back to training with her new club: Arsenal WFC 

After her international duty with the national team at the World Cup, Amanda is already back at work and training on the pitch with her newest club, the Arsenal Women Football Club.  

She’s excited to be back working with Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall, a fellow Swede, once more. But he’s not the only reason she decided to make the move to the English side.  

“I also believe in the whole project that Arsenal has right now; and playing in the English league; It’s like the best league to play in right now, in my opinion,” she says.  

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Add one more European League to Amanda’s growing CV 

The English Premier League joins Amanda’s international playing résumé along with the Bundesliga, the Ligue 1, and her home country’s Swedish league called Damallsvenskan. And it’s making her one of the most culturally, well-rounded players in the game. 

Even just weeks into her stint with Arsenal, she’ll tell you that English soccer –  under coach Jonas’s leadership –  is more of a  “tactical and technical” driven game when compared to her experiences in Germany and France.  

“In France, soccer was more relaxed in a way, but also the focus is very individualistic, which I didn’t know. It’s very, very different in a team perspective,” she says, before switching gears to describe Germany’s style of play. “Germans are very hardworking and it’s very disciplined I would say. If you have a role, you are going to play into your role.” 

Amanda’s understanding of the game beyond borders makes her a standout athlete on and off the pitch. The women’s game is booming in popularity and Amanda as one of the sport’s most passionate and talented advocates.  

One thing is for sure: Don’t look away when Arsenal’s #28 has the ball.