Imagine learning the entire vocabulary of your favourite sport – in Icelandic. That’s one of the challenges North Saanich soccer player Katie Kraeutner faced when she turned pro in Iceland.
Kraeutner, 24, plays as a winger and in central midfield for ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar. She has played in the Iceland Pro Women’s League for the past two years and now speaks fluent Icelandic.
“It’s been a great experience,” she says. “Icelandics are next-level friendly and kind. The transition has been surprisingly seamless.”
Off-season activities at the office....Happy Thursday! pic.twitter.com/q83FbwiqPl— Katie Kraeutner (@kraut22) November 16, 2017
ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar play on a small island to the south of the mainland and their soccer pitch is often listed as one of the most picturesque in the world, ringed by a dramatic landscape of lava rock peaks.
“Playing there was very surreal. I love nature, but sometimes we’re training and it takes a lot for me not to daydream,” she says with a laugh.
Pre-season is February to April, when the team train indoors, before the season kicks off outdoors in May, ending in September.
Kraeutner is one of the marquee players for her club and says the Icelandic weather assists her style of play, as the often gusty winds make the team play technical ball-on-the-ground soccer.
She estimates that 35 per cent of the players in the league are non-Icelandic and there is an expectation that the foreign imports perform.
“There is a bit more added pressure being a foreign player, because you’ve come all this way and they’ve paid good money for you when they could have spent it on someone else,” she says.
Kraeutner’s team won the Icelandic Cup in her first season and adds to a list of accolades, such as Big Ten Tournament Champion and Big Ten Conference Champion, she earned at the University of Nebraska before she turned pro.
Kraeutner has played 45 matches, logging 3,822 minutes, and racked up two goals and 10 assists for ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar. Previously, she played for the Canada U-20s, scoring a goal and notching three assists in three games.
It was during her second year at university that Kraeutner realized becoming a professional soccer player was a possible career choice.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a little kid. There are so many female pro soccer players ahead of me who paved the way. The sport still has so much room to grow.”
As the sport grows, so does Kraeutner’s stature and she is looking to move to one of the bigger European leagues, in either England, Norway or Sweden. There, she hopes to one day play in the prestigious European Champions League.
“Anywhere I’ve travelled, soccer has been my stability and comfort, so as long as soccer is there, and I’m playing at a high level, I don’t find it hard to adjust to the environment or culture of the country.”
Kraeutner is disciplined and has a set routine to calm and focus herself before a game.
“When we get to the locker room, it’s right leg first and laces tied up, then it’s onto the left leg,” she says before adding with a laugh, “Otherwise it’s going to be a bad day.”
Asked about her success, Kraeutner says hard work and having fun go hand-in-hand, and have led her to this exciting stage in her career.