Within football in the Nordic countries highest divisions, there are few female head coaches. Currently, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland all have none, while there is one in Norway, two in Sweden and five in Finland.
"Let's face the fact here. Gender still matters, and there are still several hard questions that we need to solve before equality can become a reality within this area." Gunnarsdóttir says.
Her 12th season
Kristianstad DFF have been playing in the Swedish top flight, the Damallsvenskan, since 2008. Ahead of the 2009 season, Elisabet Gunnarsdóttir joined from Iceland to become the team's head coach and has stayed there since. The 2020/21 season will be her twelfth at the helm.
As a club and organization, Kristianstad work very hard on gender equality. Gunnarsdóttir is very clear about what she thinks needs to improve before a real change can be seen:
"I think the main issue is that as women, we don't get recognized as coaches before we have reached a higher age. Clubs need to hire women earlier and help them develop sooner."
"Sure, there are female head coaches within the highest level of football, but how many of them do you see before they get hired for the positions they are in today? For example, I've just hired a young female coach from Finland who is going to be in charge of our youth teams in Kristianstad on a full-time basis"
Gunnarsdóttir was born in Reykjavik in 1976, and before she ended up in Sweden, she led Valur to the title in the Icelandic top-flight four times in five years. She believes in the importance of believing in yourself:
"I contacted many clubs outside of Iceland and visited the clubs to attend training sessions and talk to coaches and sports managers. I learned a lot, got inspired and created a network of valuable contacts.
"Dare to take the chance to lead a team, dare to fail but still believe in yourself. It's the best and most fun job in the world, but it is essential to have good people around you to succeed. In this profession, one never reaches success alone. It's always about the team."
Both men and women
When Gunnarsdóttir talks about the team, it is clear that she doesn't just mean the group of football players, but also the team that works around and with the players:
"We try to identify players with qualities in leadership to get them into the organization at an early stage. When they retire from football or if they, for different reasons, don't make it as players, we still keep them. As a woman myself, I believe that it is important to mix the genders in the group of people that work with me and my management. My experience is that you get different perspectives on things from different genders."
The goal for 2020
In 2018, Kristianstad ended up fourth in the table. That is the club's best ever result in the Damallsvenskan. This year, the goal is to finish within the top three to get to play the UEFA Women's Champions League
"The goal for us is clear. We are interested in one of those spots that will give us the chance to play in the Champions League, and we will fight for that to happen."