Sweden ‘must pick woman’ for Euro 2008

Sweden's hopes of footballing victory at Euro 2008 have been dealt a blow with the news that coach Lars Lagerbäck may be forced to include a female player in his squad.

The country’s Ombudsman for Equality in Sport has threatened to take the Swedish Football Association and Lagerbäck to court if they “continue to ignore clear anti-discrimination rules”.

“I am not trying to harm Sweden’s chances of winning Euro 2008, but it is my responsibility to ensure that women are fairly represented at the highest levels of sport,” said ombudsman Gudrun Grönberg in a statement.

Grönberg, whose department falls under the remit of Minister for Culture and Sport, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, said she would use “all the powers at her disposal” to push through the recommendation.

“This will send out all the right messages. Football is extremely popular among girls in Sweden and it is only right that they should be represented,” she said.

Ultimately, individuals found guilty of discrimination could be barred from competing in professional sport in Sweden.

A source close to the Swedish national squad told The Local that Lagerbäck will fight the move up until the last possible moment.

“Lars won’t like this one bit. Plans for the squad are more or less complete and barring injuries he already knows who he’ll be taking to Austria and Switzerland.”

Sweden has a relatively successful women’s team and if Lagerbäck is forced to name a woman in the 23-person squad then he will have plenty of international experience to call upon.

Hanna Ljungberg, 29, is the top scorer in Swedish footballing history with 72 goals from 129 caps – putting the record of her namesake, Freddie, to shame. The West Ham United player has only managed 14 goals from his 70 caps.

Another candidate is Ljungberg’s fellow attacker, Victoria Svensson, who has scored 61 goals from 143 caps. Alternatively, Lagerbäck could opt for a defender, which would almost certainly mean that 29-year-old Hannah Westberg, with her 122 caps, joins the squad.

But even Gudrun Grönberg acknowledged that the player selected would probably not have much of an opportunity to prove her ability against the best male players in Europe.

“I accept that the player may not get a full match. But it would send shockwaves around the sporting world if Sweden brought on a woman for, say, the last ten minutes of a game,” said Grönberg.

“As long as we were already a couple of goals up and coasting,” she added.

As most of you have probably worked out by now, Lars Lagerbäck will not have to replace Fredrik with Hanna, as this article was The Local’s April 1st joke. The related stories above however, which may have caused some to scoff, are in fact genuine.