Former Finnish National Teamer Part of Groundbreaking Decisions with Football Association of Finland
By her own admission, Katri Mattsson likes to keep busy.
From speaking five (five!) languages, to a 17-year career and 100 caps with the Finnish National Team, to a 15-year pro career in Europe, to working on a Ph.D., busy seems like an understatement.
Did we mention she has a family and a full-time day job and is in her second term as the first vice president of the Football Association of Finland. “I’m glad I’m not one of those people who needs 10 hours of sleep a night,” Mattsson said.
Mattsson was just re-elected to a second term as the first vice president of the association and is the first female to hold a presidency role. During her first two-year term, which began in January 2018, she was part of some groundbreaking changes – equal pay for the country's national teams and dropping the word “women’s” from the name of the top women’s club league. “Those are pretty big steps for us as an association, but also, as a representative for women’s sport, it’s a big step towards equality,” she said. “I think one of the biggest things is it’s not even about the money regarding the equal pay. It’s more about the respect, and it’s time we are fully committed to the women’s sport.” While Mattsson noted that Finland is one of the front runners when it comes to equality, she feels that the majority have supported these steps. She credits men’s National Team Captain Tim Sparv for his role and positive voice in supporting equal pay as something that has helped gain support from others. “With his support, I think he is really thinking about the future and how we should treat our young boys and girls, and they should have the same type of equal things and equal playing fields,” she said.
As for the association’s decision to drop “women’s” from the biggest league, now to be called the National League, Mattsson said it was for the perception of the game. “We thought, it doesn’t matter if it’s women’s football or men’s football, it’s the same for everybody and that is how it should be viewed,” she said. “We did a brand renewal for the league, and I think we’ve gotten some very good media coverage, and it’s been a very positive thing for the league as well.”
Mattsson played her college soccer in the United States, starring at Fresno State before finishing at Florida Atlantic University, and came up through the Finnish Youth National Team with 65 appearances. After 100 caps for the senior National Team over a 17-year span (retiring in 2016) and 15 years playing professionally in Europe including in Sweden, Norway and the Bundesliga in Germany, Mattsson said she earned some coaching licenses but never coached a team. Why? “I felt like I had some other things to contribute to the game and with my background, education and playing experience with the National Team, I felt like I had something more to give.”
Mattsson noted that the Football Association assigns duties to board members based on their greatest strengths and competencies. As such, she is in charge of the elite women’s football (National Team) and National Teams in general, duties she shares with the second vice president. She is also chairwoman for the Football Foundation, which supports sports funding for youth, and her international duties include representing the association at several events internationally.
The women’s Finnish National Team is still searching for its first World Cup appearance but has played in the Euros three times. Mattsson said that with the expansion of the 2023 World Cup, the team is working toward qualifying out of the competitive European pool. Mattsson noted that the women’s game has grown so much over the last 10 years and right now the women’s side is focusing on keeping up with that growth. She added that the 2019 World Cup showed the market for the women’s game is here more than ever.
“If people used to have the idea that women’s football wasn’t interesting enough, the 2019 World Cup showed that you can scrap that idea,” Mattsson said. “France showed there is a huge interest both commercially and also on TV in different aspects.”
Mattsson said she’s able to make all of this work – her family (her husband and two young children), her day job (category manager for a global purchasing department) and her board time (which is a volunteer position) – thanks in large part to her husband, family and support system. Which is great news for the football world as Mattsson continues to leave her mark on the game.
“I still get to do things with the sport I really love, and I enjoy it a lot,” she said. “Still being involved in the game is so great because I still have so much passion for this sport.”
Mattsson (front row, center) in the UEFA Football Committee group photo. Mattsson was the first-ever woman on this committee, which includes former football stars like Luis Figo, Jose Molina, Demetrio Albertini, Marko Pantelic. Photo credit: UEFA.
Mattsson earned 100 caps for the senior Finnish Women's National Team. Photo credit: Jussi Eskola.
Mattsson at the recent elections for the Football Association of Finland, where she was re-elected as the first vice president. Photo credit: Jouni Koivuniemi.
Mattsson (front row. second from right) is pictured with Fresno State teammates in Houston, Texas, in 2002 before a game at Rice University. Also pictured is Backline Soccer writer Kristen Saibini (back row, second from left.)