Swedish players had to show genitals at 2011 World Cup, writes former international

Swedish players had to show genitals at 2011 World Cup, writes former international
Nilla Fischer 2019

NOS Football

Sweden’s soccer players had to show their genitals around the 2011 World Cup in Germany to prove they were women. So writes former international Nilla Fischer in her book I Didn’t Even Say Half Of It.

According to Fischer, 194-time international and one of the best players in Swedish soccer, suspicions existed after protests from several African countries that men were playing in selection from Equatorial Guinea.

FIFA demanded clarity on the gender of the soccer players after these allegations. The “tests” on the Swedish players were conducted by a female physiotherapist from the federation. She knocked on the door of the hotel rooms together with a male team doctor to conduct the examination, according to Fischer.

FIFA demands active investigation

Two weeks before the start of the World Cup, world soccer federation FIFA also issued the current gender recognition policy. This states that participating countries are responsible for delegating players of the correct gender by actively researching secondary sex characteristics.

It is unclear why the Swedish players were not checked via a swab of cheek mucosa, something that was fairly common at the time. It is also not known if and how players from other countries were checked.

The Swedish team for the 2011 World Cup match against the United States, Fischer wearing number 18

Fischer described in an interview to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet how the female physical therapist performed the “tests” at the behest of a doctor. “I understood what I had to do and quickly pulled down my sweatpants and underwear. The physio nodded, said ‘yup’ and looked at the doctor. He made a note and then they went to the next room.”

‘Painful and humiliating’

Prior to the inspection, the players were told not to shave. “Nobody understood anything about it, including not shaving. There was doubt whether we should do it, but no one wanted to take the risk of missing the World Cup. We did it, no matter how painful and humiliating it felt.”

Fischer does describe the Swedish team’s environment at the time as safe. “It was probably the best environment to do it in, but it was uncomfortable and an extremely strange situation.”

The soccer star, who stepped down as an international last year, does not blame the Swedish federation for subjecting her to these tests. “I don’t question the federation at all and I don’t think they handled it badly there. They felt the pressure from FIFA and did what they had to do.”

Swedish federation doctor Mats Börjesson confirms that the tests were conducted under pressure from the world soccer federation, but that “FIFA is not doing this to be mean to anyone.” FIFA says it has taken note of Fischer’s story, but has not yet responded substantively.

Kayleigh Williams