UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Swedish interest surges across the board

After the foundation of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) in 1904, the game grew quickly to become the country's most popular sport.

Swedish interest surges across the board
Swedish interest surges across the board ©Popperfoto/Getty Images

After the foundation of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) in 1904, the game grew quickly to become the country's most popular sport. In its first decades clubs were formed all over Sweden, and since then the SvFF motto has been "a club in every village". Today, with exactly 3,000 teams in a land of ten million people, football is achieving that aim.

The sport's development at youth level and the popularity of women's football are two reasons for the surge of interest. Women's football was introduced in 1970 when 728 players were registered, and today there are almost 90,000 participants aged 15 and over making the female game a significant force in Swedish sport.

Going back to the early days, Sweden played their first international on 12 July 1908, defeating Norway 11-3 in Gothenburg. Since then there have, not surprisingly, been highs and lows in sporting performance. Yet, for a small nation, the healthy number of highlights began with an Olympic bronze medal in 1924. Sweden have also featured in 11 FIFA World Cup final tournaments, placing them among the all-time leading appearance makers.

The halcyon days of Swedish football came between 1948 and 1958. In 1948 Sweden won gold at the London Olympic Games. Bronze medals followed at both the 1950 World Cup in Brazil and the Helsinki Olympics of 1952. Then, in 1958, Sweden not only hosted the World Cup but also reached the final, losing 5-2 to a spectacular Brazilian team.

The early 1990s also brought success. Sweden got to the semi-finals of the 1992 UEFA European Championship on home soil, before finishing third at the World Cup in the United States two years later. Under the leadership of coaches Tommy Söderberg and Lars Lagerbäck, the national side or Blågult (blue and yellows) would qualify for five straight final tournaments from 2000 to 2008. Sweden made it past the group stage at three of those events, enhancing their achievement. After narrowly missing out on the 2010 World Cup, Lagerbäck stepped down after 12 years on the bench. His successor Erik Hamrén led Sweden to the UEFA EUROs in 2012 and 2016.

Sweden's youth teams have had notable success in recent years. The U17 team finished third at the 2013 FIFA World Cup at this age level, and the U21s were crowned European champions in the Czech Republic in 2015.

The women's team have also gained international honours. They were European champions in 1984, runners-up on three occasions – 1987, 1995 and 2001 – third in 1989 and then semi-finalists in 2013 when acting as UEFA Women's EURO hosts. The female side also came second at the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003 and third in both 1991 and 2011.

A significant date in Swedish football history is 19 April 1990 when Lennart Johansson – honorary president of the SvFF – was elected UEFA President. Mr Johansson's tenure coincided with a challenging period for European football, with the introduction of the UEFA Champions League being a key legacy of these years. Mr Johansson was, for a time, assisted by compatriot Lars-Christer Olsson, a former SvFF general secretary who succeeded Gerhard Aigner as UEFA chief executive.

Latterly the development of better training facilities has been a key target of the SvFF. In a country where football can only be played between April and November for climatic reasons, indoor facilities are vital if clubs and national teams are to have a chance of competing at the top international level. Therefore investment in indoor training halls and artificial pitches is being made a matter of priority. In this way Sweden hopes to record further football success in the future.


Karl-Erik Nilsson

Karl-Erik Nilsson
Karl-Erik Nilsson©Bildbyrån

Nationality: Swedish
Date of Birth: 6 May 1957

Association president since: 2012

• Karl-Erik Nilsson was a teacher in Kalmar schools before going into politics. He served as mayor of his home town, Emmaboda, from 1995 until 2006, when he left active politics. His first post in football administration was at local club Lindås BK. In the 1980s, Nilsson started out as a referee, and went on to officiate in the UEFA Champions League and at UEFA EURO 2000.

• Nilsson was elected SvFF president in March 2012. Before that, he was a member of the SvFF board, as well as president of the Bohuslan regional associaton. He was tournament director at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and had several other UEFA assignments, working as a referee observer and mentor for younger officials.

• Nilsson enjoys playing the piano and taking his boat out to the Bohuslan archipelago on Sweden's west coast. He stresses the symbiosis between elite and grassroots football: "We need successful elite football because that is what generates interest. But the elite also needs thriving grassroots all over the country in order for talent to develop." Nilsson was re-elected for a new term as president in March 2017. A month later, he was elected to the UEFA Executive Committee, and became UEFA first vice-president.

General secretary

Håkan Sjöstrand

Håkan Sjöstrand
Håkan Sjöstrand©Bildbyrån

Nationality: Swedish
Date of birth: 1 October 1966
Association general secretary since: 2014

• Håkan Sjöstrand joined the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) from retail group ICA, where he had been marketing director.

• In his playing days, Sjöstrand represented Skiljebo SK and Gefle IF in the second tier of Swedish football. In recent times, he and his wife have coached their twin daughters' team at Skiljebo.

• SvFF president Karl-Erik Nilsson labelled Sjöstrand "the engine that we need" after recruiting the new general secretary. Sjöstrand himself is especially keen on developing SvFF's commercial side, saying: "It is an exciting business challenge with one of the strongest brand names in Sweden."