Frida Leonhardsen Maanum just finished her third full season with Linköpings FC in the Damallsvenskan. She joined the club three and half years ago and won the Swedish league title straight away.
Back in 2017 football experts and pundits talked about the young midfielder as one of Norway’s greatest talents, and since then she has disappointed none. Maanum made her national team debut for her country 2017, as a 17-year-old, when Norway played France in a friendly game as a part of preparation for the Euro’s.
Since then, she has taken big steps in her career the past two years and if she moves to another league now, no one will raise their eyebrows in surprise. VAVEL UK spoke to Maanum about her career so far which she herself describes as; eventful, developing and fun.
In Norway, Maanum has played with Stabaek, Baerumslokka and Lyn. When she signed with Linköpings FC after the 2017 European championship she got to celebrate a title win with the Swedish club straight away. Since then, Linköping have been struggling, finishing fifth in the table two years in a row and fourth in 2020.
For Linköping, there have been highs and lows, but for the Norwegian, her development has been obvious, both on and off the field.
“For us as a team we started the season strongly. We won the games and played very well. As for me individually I thought that I played as good as I possibly could and showed my offensive qualities with the ball at my feet," Maanum said.
"It was tough in the beginning since the league started later than usual due to Covid-19 and it was a tough schedule in the beginning with a lot of games.
"We suffered a couple of injuries in the team, such as myself. Looking back on the season now I think we did good, even though we at times had several players injured who couldn’t play but of course, we wished for a better result than fourth place.”
Although she is young, she has picked up experiences and views on the difference between the leagues in Norway and Sweden. In the Norweigan league, Toppserien, Maanum’s best achievement came in Stabaek where they ended up as bronze medalists before she became a Linköping player;
“The biggest difference between Toppserien and Damallsvenskan as I see it, is the tempo. The football is faster and the tempo is higher in Sweden than it was in Norway when I played. As for Damallsvenskan I think this league is very competitive, where all teams can beat each other on good days.
"What I also would like to add is that I feel that there is a bigger interest for women’s football in Sweden than in Norway. You can tell by the media coverage.”
When football experts Andreas Sundberg and Hanna Marklund summed this year’s season up in Sweden, the Norwegian ended up at tenth place.
“Frida Leonhardsen Maanum performed at a high level all through the season in Linköping. She has the technique, a good vision and understanding for the game and a nice touch. She was a key player in her team and was a big part of the fact that Linköping ended up better in the table than last season. She also scored and secured a spot for Norway in the Women’s European Championship 2022.”
In the beginning of November, Maanum became a hero when she scored the only goal against Wales. This ensured Norway to top their qualification group and earned them a spot in the 2022 Euros in England.
“It was an amazing feeling to score that goal. It was an important game and to be the one that got the goal was of course very nice, but also fun and huge for me personally,” Maanum said.
“It means so much to have the honour to play in the national team. The feeling of putting on the national team jersey with the Norwegian flag attached to the chest is something very special and I really value that. The environment and the atmosphere in our national team is so balanced and nice at the moment so I look forward to every time we are gathered.”
Several of the national team players have careers abroad at the moment and the team is predicted to be one of the big competitors in the Euro’s in England 2022. They have shown their potential, especially when they won against the Netherlands at home 2018 to secure their ticket to last summer’s World Cup. Maanum thinks it’s important for the younger generation to see that the country’s national team players are successful:
“I know from my own experience that it’s very important to have role models to look up to. I really hope that we can inspire the next generation so that they can see that hard work and big dreams can pay off. I also hope that young girls get motivated by the look of how much women’s football is developing around the world right now.
“When I was young, my biggest role model in the national team was Caroline Graham Hansen. It feels surreal that I now get to play with her myself. She is still a big role model to me because of how she acts on and off the field.”
Personal experiences and perspectives
Moving abroad and away from home at a young age has taught the midfielder a lot, both about herself and about football. Maanum is not the only player that shares the experience of how tough it can be to move to a new country to play professionally;
“I sometimes wish that I would’ve been better prepared for what was coming with moving from Norway as an 18-year-old. Being away from family and friends longer periods of time hasn’t always been easy. I must admit, it was a lot more hard than I was mentally prepared for.
"Life as a professional footballer abroad can be quite lonely sometimes, but I didn’t think about that before I moved. But now, I can see how much that has developed and taught me.”
“At the same time, I must say, that even though it has been tough, I am really glad that I chose to come to Linköping. The club has been offering me a great environment to develop in and one of Linköping’s strengths is that they are really good to take care of younger players.”
Maanum is under contract with Linköpings FC until the end of 2021. There are speculations if her time in Sweden is up or will continue. The Norweigan seems happy about where she is in life right now, both professionally and personally.
As a footballer, Maanum is aware of the fact that hard work pays off and that is people who motivate and inspire her;
“Studying and watching people around me that work hard to reach and succeed with their goals is the biggest inspiration I’ve got in life. It’s a huge motivation for me when I notice the difference in my own development, and I become better and better as a player. I feel very grateful for the fact that I’ve already have got to experience both the Euro’s and a World Cup.”
But what does the talented Norwegian midfielder dream about?
“I want to play in a top club, win the Champions league and be a champion with Norway.”