From being an FGCU women’s soccer standout to recently signing with the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Julia Roddar can now add Olympic athlete to her list of achievements.
Roddar, 29, a 2015 hospitality management graduate, is representing her native Sweden in the Tokyo Olympics as a reserve midfielder. The Swedes defeated the reigning World Cup champion U.S. women’s soccer team 3-0 in their opening group-stage matchup on Wednesday, July 21. Sweden’s next match is Saturday, July 24, against Australia.
Born in Falun, Sweden, this is not Roddar’s first stint as a member of the Swedish national team. Roddar also played with the team in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where they captured third place.
Prior to that, Roddar was a part of Göteborg FC, a football club in Sweden, from 2017 until she signed with the Spirit. She played 70 matches for the club over three years, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists in 63 games.
Before joining Göteborg FC, Roddar played in Sweden with Kvarnsvedens IK after she graduated from FGCU and scored three goals with three assists in 54 matches.
Like much activity throughout the world, the Olympics were put on hold last year, creating a roller coaster of emotions for athletes such as Roddar.
“It was pretty crazy because I thought I played pretty well for my club in Sweden that year. Everything paused, and I thought that I was in good shape, so of course, it was sad when the Olympics weren’t played,” Roddar said in a phone interview July 9. “I’m happy that I made the move to the Washington Spirit to feel in shape for these Olympics, too.”
Roddar believes the NWSL’s fast-paced play style has prepared her for international competition. She signed a two-year contract with the Spirit on Jan. 26, and played in five games with the Spirit before joining Sweden for the Olympics.
She said her motivation to start playing soccer started with her family, who unfortunately will not be able to attend the Olympics in person. Due to COVID restrictions in Tokyo, spectators are not be allowed at matches.
“You know it’s sad, because the World Cup in 2019 was such a great experience because there were so many fans and so much of my family that went to the games,” Roddar said. “Of course, there is a different type of feeling with no fans in the stands, but with the pandemic, we should do what’s best for the world. Hopefully, it will still be a good experience and good games.”
“They’ve (my family) always pushed me to get better, and they’ve always believed in me, so I think that’s been my motivation to keep fighting,” Roddar said. “As an athlete, nothing is smooth … there’s always going to be certain times when things go against you. But they have motivated me to keep doing my thing, and I think that has been my biggest help.”
Despite Sweden coming up short in other competitions, Roddar says the team has what it takes to finish at the top, and she is looking to earn more playing time.
“I think we were close in the World Cup to making the final two. I believe in us a lot because we are a close group,” Roddar said. “If we continue to be good as a group and believe in each other, then that will be the key for us to reach the finals.”
Her former mentor at FGCU, program-founding head women’s soccer Coach Jim Blankenship, shared his admiration for his former star midfielder.
“We’re so proud of Julia and excited for her,” Blankenship said. “This opportunity and experience to represent her country in the Olympics is truly amazing.”
In her three-year stretch with the Eagles, Roddar started in all 62 matches she appeared in, netting four goals with 10 assists. FGCU went 21-1-3 in ASUN play after Roddar’s arrival with three ASUN regular-season championships, two ASUN Tournament titles and two NCAA Tournament berths.
“I think FGCU prepared me to be a professional athlete,” Roddar said. “The way FGCU treated me as a student-athlete was really good for me now, because it is the same type of daily activities. I think FGCU prepared me for how I live my life right now.”
Beyond the Olympics, Roddar is looking forward to finishing her season with the Spirit and participating in next year’s Euro Cup.
Roddar is FGCU’s ninth Olympian in the athletics program’s history and is one of two Eagles featured in these games. Petra Halmai, a breaststroke specialist currently on the FGCU swimming and diving team, is there to represent Hungary.
—Tyler Watkins is a senior journalism major at FGCU and Tampa resident. He writes for FGCU360.com as part of a student newswriting internship program coordinated by University Marketing & Communications. FGCU students interested in future internship semesters should write Keith Gibson at [email protected] and put “Internship” in the subject line.