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Sweden's feminist hockey hunk who doesn't want to go to the Olympics

Published: 16 Jan 2014 17:27 GMT+01:00

There are stitches in the picture. It's Johan Forsberg's 15,352nd tweet. Last time, in October, when he broke his leg on the ice, he tweeted rallying cries for his team from the ambulance. In the end, Forsberg's north Sweden powerhouse Luleå beat Färjestad 2-1.

The 28-year-old native of Piteå, another town in Sweden's far north, has had his share of success since reaching the country's top league, the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), in 2009. After five years (and two league championships) with Skellefteå, Forsberg (no relation to retired Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg), moved to north-Sweden rivals Luleå, who had lost to Skellefteå in the 2013 final.

But it's Forsberg's tweets rather than his skates that have made the 185 cm and 87 kg winger even more famous than his hockey skills might allow. Not everyone likes hockey (even in Sweden), but it's hard to resist someone who defies expectations and crushes stereotypes. His tweeting is extensive, fast, critical, and has earned him more than 12,000 followers. He recently tweeted that he'd never go to the Winter Olympics in Sochi due to Russia's human rights record.

"I can feel myself getting irritated. I'll have to go home and send 50 tweets after this," the 28-year-old hockey player responded when a newspaper asked him about the tweet. He admits to The Local, however, that it's easy to utter a 'No way!' when he hasn't actually been picked for the national team. 

Forsberg is not a fan of Putin, nor of men in general, despite being one. Nor does he particularly like some of his former class mates from Piteå, nor the predicament that faces heterosexual women - that is, dating men.

"But that's true, isn't it?" he backed his statement up in conversation with the local NSD newspaper recently. "Men as a structure are the worst. Really. They are in principle responsible for everything that is wrong in the world."

The quote from the tweet became the headline of a recent profile on Forsberg published in the national daily Dagens Nyheter (DN), an article which stayed at the top of the paper's most-read list for days.

While Forsberg admitted there was plenty of laddish jargon in the locker rooms after practice, the young player said his teammates do not sit around "spitting out snus and bragging about women we've slept with".

If they did, they would likely not capture Forsberg's attention for long. He may pay the bills as an ice hockey player, but once he's off duty, he's off duty. That's where the tweeting comes in, with messages that gallop from humorous to scathing. Or, both at the same time.

Top five most cruel torture methods:
1: The rack
2: Quotes from (Centre Party leader) Annie Lööf
3: The Spanish boot
4: Mock execution
5. Waterboarding

"I'd rather listen to Annie Lööf than to have my head cut off.... but it's a close call," Forsberg tells The Local in way of explanation. "I've got very little patience for liberals."

The tweets are also personal.

"The uncomfortable silence when you meet an old acquaintance in town and s/he says 'Hi' and you say 'I remember you pouring 7-Up in my ear'."

Bullying. He hates it and he writes about it often, even though he was neither bully nor bullied in school - "I was the boring kid in the grey zone". He has slammed Russia for its human rights records, especially the new anti-homosexual propaganda law, but says it would be too easy to simply brand President Vladimir Putin a bully.

"It's so much bigger than that, it's structural and so calculated," says Forsberg.

And while on the topic of homosexuality. Why are there no openly gay hockey players in Sweden? Statistically, Forsberg should have played hockey with a gay player at some point during his career.

"I take it for granted," he told NSD. "I've played with several hundred of players, or against them. I must have played with a homosexual."

Yet no players are openly gay.

"I just wrote that I thought it was odd."

Writing. It's not only what could be next for the young hockey player, but it's ongoing. His blog Samma Vatten (Same Water) is a lesson in literary shorts. A recent post about suffering anorexia and disassociation:

"I have to go. I have a date."
"A date? You do know that masturbating is calorie-free?"

Forsberg tells The Local that while the texts are not autobiographical, he would not go as far as labelling them fiction either.

"They all have some kind of connection to something I've experienced," he says. "Life is hardly ever interesting enough for a blog about life to be interesting to read. You have to make it prettier... or uglier."

Having ploughed through authors from all corners of the globe, Forsberg has returned to his roots.

"Of course I've read a fair share of boring Russian men, but right now I feel a lot of world literature has been a waste of my time."

But isn't the allure of Dostoyevsky that no matter how bad one is feeling, there is always someone in a Dostoyevsky novel suffering more than you are?

"You only have to log into Twitter to get that," Forsberg counters. "Maybe Twitter is the new Dostoyevsky ."

Russian men out, northern Swedes in. Now it's all about Sara Lidman and Torgny Lindgren. He interviewed the former recently ahead of a Storytelling Festival in Skellefteå, a decision Forsberg regretted.

"It was nice, inspiring. We've become pen pals," he explains. "But I said yes to meeting him in a weak moment and I regretted it. I suppose the fear is they will not be as good or as interesting as you want them to be.... I'd be much less interesting if people actually met me. But Lindgren was wonderful."

Forsberg describes Lindgren and Sara Lidman as authors who "kinda live in cottages and eat stuffed cabbage rolls". The image of the isolated country house pops up not only in Forsberg's writings, but also in interviews. Why?

"To balance out my weakness for the internet? You've got the isolated cottage on one side of the scales, and the internet on the other."  

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

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