Chelsea’s Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder are team-mates, partners and among the best footballers in Europe.
Between them, they have won countless trophies, picked up more than 160 international caps, played in Olympic, European and Champions League finals – and that is without even mentioning the individual accolades.
In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast, Eriksson and Harder discuss their relationship on and off the pitch, the image which went viral, being role models and dreams of reaching the top.
When THAT picture went viral…
After defender Eriksson helped her country Sweden beat Canada in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup in France a year ago, she found Harder, a Denmark international, in the stands and kissed her.
The “natural” moment was captured by a photographer and the image went viral on social media afterwards. The pair have since become prominent figures for gay couples in women’s football.
“Our intention was never to be that,” said Eriksson. “We have just been open from the start, been ourselves and had successful careers. It just ended up being that way.
“Now we do think more intentionally to be role models because we feel that we have a responsibility to be who we are and to show you can be who you are.”
Former Norwich and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu was the first male English professional to come out as gay while still playing, doing so in 1990, and is the only male player to do so while playing professionally in the top tiers.
Both Eriksson and Harder believe it will be a while before more male players come out while playing.
“I think we are a long way from that,” Harder said. “But I hope we are going that way in the future. Just the first one to do it is the most important thing.”
Eriksson added: “The culture is not accepting enough in men’s football. It is not an individual responsibility to come out, it’s a collective responsibility to make the environment as safe as possible for the one person who is brave enough to do it.”
‘Chelsea was the perfect match for Harder’
‘Magda’, as Eriksson is known to her team-mates, is Chelsea’s captain and has recently signed a contract extension until 2023.
Harder, who jokes “she is a captain at home also”, says it is a “plus” to be able to play alongside Eriksson after becoming the most expensive signing in women’s football history when she joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg this summer.
“It was not a difficult decision [to join Chelsea]. I felt like it was time for me to try something new. Magda is playing here, which of course was a plus, but it was not what made me go here,” said Harder.
“To be in the same country and then to play here at Chelsea together, of course I am very happy – not only because she is my partner but because she is a really good football player and a great leader.”
Eriksson said Chelsea were the “perfect match” for Harder and she didn’t have to persuade her to join.
“Chelsea have proven that we are part of the top teams in the English league and last season we won the league,” she added. “Pernille wants to play for teams that win, win trophies and have high ambitions.”
‘There is no doubt she is one of the best’
Forward Harder had helped Wolfsburg win four consecutive German league and cup doubles before moving to Chelsea in the summer.
She spearheaded her country’s run to the final of Women’s Euro 2017 and was the Uefa Women’s Player of the Year in 2018 and 2020.
So does Eriksson think her “talented” team-mate and partner can become, or already is, the best player in the world?
“Being the best footballer in the world is a subjective opinion and it’s something that you build,” Eriksson said. “For me there is no doubt in my mind that she is one of the best in the world.
“The biggest thing for me is her mentality – to always want to be the best in everything she does. Those are the types of characters that I want on my team. I would always pick those.”
Harder said it was “my dream” to become the best after writing an essay at the age of 10 on becoming a professional footballer.
“Being the best in the world is something you have to earn over time. It is not just for one season. I am working on that,” she added.
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