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Bouncing back: My Story with Simone Boye Sørensen

An international for more than a decade, Simone Boye Sørensen has had to adapt to new environments and overcome injury as she prepares for another shot at glory this summer.

Simone Boye Sørensen made her international debut in 2011 and when available has been a regular in her country's red and white ever since.

In 2013, she suffered an injury in the Algarve Cup which ruled her out of that summer’s Women’s EURO in Sweden, but bounced back to be named Danish Player of the Year in 2014, and in 2017, the central defender was a mainstay of the team that progressed all the way to the Women's EURO final.

At club level, she started her career with Ballerup-Skovlunde Fodbold before moving to Brøndby. She left her home country in 2019 to join Bayern and then Arsenal in 2021, but injuries have been a disruptive influence since moving abroad. Here, she shares her journey through the game and discusses the frustrations of being sidelined and the problems that accompany it.

Simone Boye Sørensen on… starting out

It happened because my brother, who is two years older than me, played football and I was the irritating little sister who wanted to do the same as my big brother, so I also started playing. I was about five or six years old and from what I remember, I played with a lot of the boys from my school. They played football during class recess and I wanted to join, so I did.

There wasn’t a team for girls, so I played with the boys for several years - I enjoy being told that even then I was quite good, also compared to the boys.

Women’s football wasn’t common and little investment was made in women’s football, and I didn’t grow up watching the women’s national team playing, so I didn’t have the same dreams and understanding of the possibilities of playing professionally.

It's funny talking to some of the younger players today who have a dream of going abroad to play professionally - I realised quite late that it was a possibility and something I wanted to do.

Women's football in Denmark

Simone Boye Sørensen on… the pride of wearing famous jerseys

I feel proud but I think it is only in recent years that I have done so. I have not been very good at keeping in mind that I actually play for the national team and have played for Bayern München. Unfortunately, I didn’t play that often for Bayern München, and I think that overshadowed the pride of having played for such a big club alongside so many great players, so it is definitely something I can appreciate much more now and how crazy it is.

I haven’t played much for Arsenal [this season] and I have been injured for much of this year but I feel like I’m in a good place now, and I definitely have a goal of playing in matches and doing well to prove to myself, as well as others, that I am still good enough even though I am not playing [regularly].

 Sørensen in action at UEFA Women's EURO 2017
Sørensen in action at UEFA Women's EURO 2017 SPORTSFILE

Simone Boye Sørensen on… overcoming injury problems

I’ve had a few injuries in my career that have never been really serious on paper, but it’s just taken a long time to overcome them and to figure out what was actually wrong. So, it’s been tough.

[Although] my injuries weren’t that bad, it took me a long time to get over them. So, I think it was more, especially when I was in Germany, I was new, I didn’t know the language, then I got injured after two training sessions and that was a really tough period. I always knew that I would come back but I didn’t have a date. So, I think every day was a struggle because I didn’t know when I would be back. I never doubted that I would be back but it’s difficult when you don’t have something to look forward to.

We tried a lot of different treatments and it didn’t really work. So, I think not knowing was the worst thing. Some days you felt better but then the next day, you’d be back to the start. So, that was really difficult. And, also, I didn’t have a role in the team because I didn’t get to play any games before I got injured.

Simone Boye Sørensen on… finding help when you need it

In the end, I found a sports psychiatrist who really helped me to get through this tough period. I’d never doubted that I would be back physically and also get back and feel good mentally. But I don’t think it would have gone that quickly if I didn’t get the tools to fix myself mentally.

I’m still talking to a sports psychiatrist now - I really see how it helps me off the field too. So, I think that would be my advice to myself and to other boys and girls out there. Not everyone needs one but it’s a good way to get to know yourself better, to get some tools to go through some things in football that are not always fun but are a part of it: injuries, not playing, moving to a new country and stuff like that which can be difficult.

Simone Boye Sørensen on… key people close to her

That would be my boyfriend and a really close friend of mine, who also played in the national team, Katrine Abel.

But I think with my boyfriend it was also hard because I wasn’t the best version of myself. I was frustrated and sad. And, when you hear me being sad and angry every day, that takes a lot of energy from him as well. So, I think it was good that I had more people I could talk to.

I think I would just say thank you for always believing in me, alway being there to listen. They mean everything to me, and it is a big part of where I am now. Every time I got to play, I would go on the field thinking of the people who believed in me and I would play for them. I owe them a lot

Simone Boye Sørensen on… seeing life and football in a different way

It's probably also just from getting older, but I appreciate things a lot more. Being with the national team, I’ve always been proud, but I don’t think I’ve really thought about how big it actually is.

I had a difficult time in Bayern but I’m still proud of being a part of such a great squad and like playing for such a big club, the same with Arsenal. So, I think I’m better at enjoying things and being proud of myself.

Women's EURO 2022 Inside View: Denmark

Simone Boye Sørensen on… near-glory at Women's EURO 2017 and hopes for 2022 in a "group of death" with Finland, Germany and Spain.

Even though we lost, we were still very proud, as I see it, to have finished as runners-up. “Little Denmark” was suddenly in the final, and now we were getting runner-up medals placed around our necks. It was a great accomplishment.

Even though it was disappointing to lose, the Dutch were just better that day and deserved to win, especially based on the second half, where they simply had more energy. We just didn't have any strength left and nothing more to give.

This year, if we get through the group stage, anything can happen. I think that Spain will finish first in the group, and then the question is who will follow in second place. Germany and Spain are two really strong teams - it’s going to be difficult. On the other hand, we have defeated the Germans before. As for Spain, we haven’t beaten them, actually, they kicked our butts last year, but the role as underdogs suits us well and we might be able to spring a surprise. So, if we make it out of the group, I think we will start to dream.