Sweden holds a warm place in British hearts, from Ikea to Abba via Volvo, they appear to produce nothing but quality, and reliability, with a touch of class, the same can be said of two their Women rugby players.
Abba may have had Agnetha and Anni-Frid but Harlequins Women have an even better double act in Victoria and Tove.
Any city that has a beach called the cat’s bottom (Kattrumpan) must be pretty special, the city in question is Kalmar the home of Victoria Petterssen, situated alongside the Baltic Sea it is one of Sweden’s most beautiful.
Heading north some 245 kilometres and a three hour drive via route 35 and the E22, we arrive at Norrkoping Sweden’s tenth largest city situated at the mouth of the river Motala Strom, and the birthplace of the other half of Quins Swedish duet, Tove Viksten.
Both of these young ladies have brought their own scandanavian warmth to darkest Surrey, there is always a smile and a friendly greeting from this modest pair, and their addition to Harlequins Women’s already international entourage has been a massive plus for the club.
Tove is a prop and Victoria a wing/centre/fly half ,in rugby terms you coudnt get much further apart, but there are many similarities between them both stand at 5ft 6ins in height, their birthday’s are a month apart, and they both love welsh cakes.
Tove and Vic are classic exponents in the art of “Fika” an important part of Swedish culture, it is much more than just coffee and cake, its about making time for friends and colleagues over coffee and a bite, it’s a state of mind and I can vouch for their Fika skills first hand, back home in Sweden even the mighty Volvo car plant stops for Fika.
Victoria’s rugby journey started due to a chance meeting at a party, following game time at university and local club Kalmar Sodra she found herself jetting off to leafy Surrey at the tender age of 22 to join Harlequins.
She displays a maturity beyond her tender years in the way she talks about life and rugby, with her wonderful modesty and a smile as wide as the oversund she is one of the most popular members of the squad.
Having settled into English life the one thing she misses from home is her mum’s potato and leek soup, on the plus side she and her partner have delevoped a taste for Welsh cakes, my home country’s economy has taken a dramatic upward turn thanks to those two.
Injury prevented any Quins action from January onwards, but a summer of Sevens with the Swedish national team has left her looking very sharp at pre season training, having the ability to play fly half, centre and wing she will be an integral part of Harlequins Women’s drive for success this coming season, and whatever happens the down to earth Swede will take it all her stride, Abba recorded “The winner takes it all ” but they also sang” I let the music speak” a much more appropriate title for Vic.
Some 16 kilometres south west of Stockholm, the Motala river flows through the former industrial city of Norrkoping, once the centre of Sweden’s textile industry, this is the place Tove Viksten calls home.
Tove is a scandavian name that derives from the old Norse “Thorfrithr” meaning beautiful Thor.
Having seen her demolish a scrummaging machine at pre season training there is also plenty of “beast” to go with that derivation.
She arrived in the UK in 2017 after impressing Quins coach Gary Street at a training camp in Sweden, another engaging and intelligent Scandinavian she has settled into the English rugby season like a duck to water, someone who has a great regard for rugby values the game is in safe hands with people like Tove around.
Holding down a demanding full time job and playing amateur rugby with professional commitments is a tough juggling act for the affable Swede, but her love of the game is so strong that she somehow finds a way to achieve success at both, quite an achievement.
Her Dad is a big rugby fan who comes over to watch Harlequins Ladies whenever he can especially the annual “Game Changer” at the Stoop, we look forward to seeing Mr Viksten next April when Quins face Wasps in the 2020 event.
Tove feels very much at home in England but does miss Sweden’s unique natural beauty and its vast unpopulated spaces.
Both Vic and Tove take huge pride in representing their native country which comes at price both physically mentally and financially.
Playing for Sweden at both sevens and fifteens requires them to fund their own transport to and from training camps international matches and tournaments which due to their adopted country of residence involves expensive flights.
This is the burden for many players at the top end of the women’s game, and like Victoria and Tove they never complain about the crippling costs involved, in fact rather than financial gain they would much prefer to have the time to rest and recover properly.
Maybe we should end our Swedish odyssey back in Kalmar, and just along the coast from cats bottom beach is Kalmarsunsbet, it doesn’t have a bus stop but instead a pusshalplats in other words a “kiss stop” Borta bra men hemma bast.