A Brush with Vikings

Sally Shipard catches up with Canberra United teammates Ellie Brush, currently playing in Norway.

Name: Ellie Brush
Club: Avaldsnes IL, Norway Toppserien
Position: Centre Back

SS: How are you finding Norway?
EB: I am loving being in Norway . The club and training environment are so professional and it is the right place for me to improve my football. My teammates are lovely and have made me feel very welcome. They are very hard working and driven.

SS: What was going through your head when you first stepped off the plane?
EB: I flew into Oslo from London and flying over the country I was looking out and there was just so much snow. I-d never seen anything like it in my life. It was quite beautiful. All these little towns were covered in snow, lakes and rivers were completely frozen over. All I was thinking after coming from a 28 degree plus Canberra was, “I am SO far from home”.

SS: Why did you want to play overseas?
EB: It is something I have always wanted to do. I was lucky enough to have the coaching staff at Canberra United help me out. I-ve always had the goal of challenging myself week-in-week-out against some of the best players in the world and experiencing a different culture. It-s amazing being like a real professional football player. Being able to focus all your attention on football and being able to do two sessions a day without having to worry about going to work or university is a rare privilege.

SS: Have you played any games yet? When does your official season begin?
EB: I-ve only played one practice game and it was mainly with the seconds. I played defensive midfield and managed to score a couple and set up another couple. We-ve had a few injuries and players away at the Algarve and Cyprus Cups representing their respective countries. It will be a very good team when we-re all back together again. Our first league game is the 13th April.

SS: Are you struggling with the cold? When I was in Germany, I couldn-t feel my feet for weeks. Have you had this experience?
EB: No I haven-t! I am actually not struggling with that at all. It has snowed a bit the last few days so we just train indoors, but I missed the worst of the cold. Plus they say over here, “there-s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate dress.”

SS: How is your teammate and US footballer Katie Bethke helping you through the experience?
EB: It has been fabulous to have her support, she is a lifesaver. She got here probably six weeks before me so was settled in and knew how everything worked and could tell me what I had to ask about and organise.

SS: What do you miss about home? Or is it too soon to ask…
EB: Not too soon, definitely missing my boyfriend, Shaun, but we talk everyday on Skype and he-s so supportive. He-s going to come and visit soon too. Also of course I miss my family and friends and I miss being able to have a big, juicy steak, but thank God I brought Vegemite!

SS: How are you finding the language barrier? Are they coaching you in English or Norwegian?
EB: There-s really not too much of a barrier, everyone speaks English so well. Except one coach who-s Hungarian and speaks Norwegian, but I-m not sure even the Norwegians understand him too well.

SS: On the language topic, will you be embracing it wholeheartedly and attending lessons?
EB: At the moment there isn-t enough time to do classes but maybe when the season starts and we go to one-a-day sessions I-ll be able to. I do have all sorts of Norwegian language apps and am on Google translate a lot so I-d like to think I-m picking something up.

SS:Away from the football, do you have time to explore your surrounds?
EB: Again, I haven-t a lot of time to be away from football but it is a beautiful area. There-s a lot of history here too, the first Vikings came here and there-s a restored Viking village nearby. It is apparently the place to walk out to and have a barbie and play some cricket – or whatever the Norwegian version of those are.

SS: What-s your house like?
EB: I share a house with six teammates at the moment and it-s great we all get along so well. It-s funny because there are two Icelandics, two Norwegians, an American and I, so three different languages being spoken at any one time. The place is nice and big and warm, and to my disbelief has a hills hoist out the front! Who would-ve thought!

SS: For you so far, what-s the biggest difference in comparison to Australia?
EB: It-s really not too dissimilar to home, which has helped in making the transition easy. Everyone-s so friendly and willing to help. Because we cook for ourselves I haven-t eaten anything too weird.

Although every Tuesday and Thursday after morning training we have a team lunch where everyone takes it in turns to cook. Before I came one of the Norwegians cooked one of their “delicacies” – sheep head!

SS: How are you finding the level of football in comparison to the W-League? Any scheduled games in other countries?
EB: We are going to La Manga, Spain next Tuesday for a training camp and practice matches against other Toppserien teams. I am really looking forward to this as it-ll be a great test of where we are at individually and as a team and we-ll definitely get some warmer weather too.

I am planning on meeting up with other Canberra United teammates in Europe to watch some of the Women-s Euros next door in Sweden in July.