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Junior Senior with Sweden's Hanna Bennison and Caroline Seger

One is 19, the other is 37, but there is plenty in common for one of Sweden's young stars and their most experienced player.

Hanna Bennison (L) and Caroline Seger (R)
Hanna Bennison (L) and Caroline Seger (R) UEFA

Hanna Bennison is just 19 but has been an international for almost three years, scoring in Sweden's win over Switzerland last week at her first major international tournament.

In contrast, 37-year-old Caroline Seger is European football's most capped player of all-time. She set a new record in 2021 by making her 215th Sweden appearance and is still going strong 17 years after her UEFA Women's EURO debut in 2005.

Growing up in a country where women's football had enjoyed huge success, as a child Seger was able to visualise a future in the game, but still lacked obvious female role models to look up to.

Below, she compares her experiences with her teenage team-mate, and the pair reflect on the importance of setting an example for future generations.

Bennison is congratulated on her winning goal against Switzerland on matchday two
Bennison is congratulated on her winning goal against Switzerland on matchday twoUEFA via Getty Images

Can you remember your early experiences of football?

Seger: It was always football for me, and I knew very clearly what I wanted to do when I grew up. And I played in a team whose colours were blue and yellow, so I had a dream early on to make it to the national team and become a professional. It is so very many years ago now but, of course, there are a lot of sweet memories from when I grew up and how you arrived at the training pitch; there is only one where I come from so getting there by bike, meeting your friends, and frequently watching the men's team when they played and eating a hot dog in the stands. It was a really great atmosphere. I come from such a small village, so I loved to go there and just sit in the sun and watch good football.

Bennison: I started to play football when I was five, and I also wanted to become a professional footballer, but maybe that came a little later, maybe when I was around 11 or 12. But since then, I always wanted to play football full-time.

How to play football where you are

Who were your role models – how did they differ?

Seger: Growing up, we didn't have the benefits of watching a lot of women's football on television and really seeing our role models play football on television. I didn't really look at any particular men's player that I admired. I think this generation coming now has a completely different benefit where you can find someone to look up to in every part of the world, and it can be female footballers that didn't exist then in my time. I wish I had that but it wasn't there for me.

Bennison: When I was younger, especially when I moved to Rosengård, it was Helena Backman, who played in the first-team at the time, so I watched her a lot. And then Marta, of course, when she played in the Swedish Allsvenskan. And, then, lately it has become Seger.

Seger: I forced her to say that!

Caroline Seger and the 200-cap club

And now you are role models for little girls…

Bennison: It's a little bit hard for me because I have always had the players that play here in the first-team as role models, and to have got this far myself means a lot. It can be hard to realise that you, yourself, have become a role model. But, of course, it is great and really cool that you can be that for others.

Seger: In this day and age, it is cool to be a role model while being a member of the women's national team, because we are heard, we are seen and we are there doing it. And younger girls like Hanna can see from an early age that it is completely possible to reach the first-team and realise your dreams to play internationally. If you look at me, as someone who has had a long career and can be here and make a difference for young girls and the next generation coming through, hopefully, I helped a lot so that the new generation coming after us will probably have seen everything that is possible, and feel that you can literally go as far as you want to. The possibilities are endless. So, it's cool for the next generation as well.

Seger competes for a header against England's Katie Chapman at Women's EURO 2005
Seger competes for a header against England's Katie Chapman at Women's EURO 2005

Caroline, what's your advice for Hanna and that next generation watching you on TV now?

Seger: One piece of advice I would have told myself if I had restarted my career would be, which is the hardest, just to enjoy the journey. There is a lot of pressure, demands and stress when you are in a tournament. And to succeed, you have to perform at a very high level, so the tendency is to forget to enjoy the experience along the way – because not many players get to experience tournaments. So, if you can get the mix of putting in high-level performances, but also enjoy it along the way, you are halfway there.

The story of women's football in Sweden