Going Pro in the Land of Fire and Ice
Ashley Gunther spent her post-graduation summer playing in the sun.
Playing professional soccer. In the Icelandic sun, which shines pretty much all day, all summer long.
Gunther (BA, Journalism, ’09) lived in the harbor city of Hafnarfjordur, playing defensive center-midfield for the Haukar football club—a first-division team. She got to Iceland through Chico State women’s soccer assistant coach Petra Kowalski, who played for Haukar when she graduated from college.
These were Gunther’s first professional matches, and she says the support for women’s sports in Iceland made playing there fun. “There was definitely a sense of equality between men’s and women’s sports there,” she says. “Our club had both men’s and women’s teams in multiple sports. We always had a good-sized crowd at our games, both home and away.”
Gunther and her teammates gave the club’s fans something to cheer about: Haukar finished the season with a 13-2-2 record, gaining the team first place in the first division. The finish moves the team up into the premier league—the highest professional division—next year.
“The support that we had as a club made the experience similar to my career playing for Chico State. When you play, you feel that sense of pride in knowing you’re representing something bigger than just you or your team.”
“The style was a little different from how I played in college, but any team you play with is going to differ. What I did like was that our coach coached us to play quickly, with one and two touches whenever possible to keep the ball moving. All in all, though, it was still just soccer and I was happy to be playing again!”
While Gunther was intrigued by local specialties like puffin and putrefied shark, she thought the most interesting Icelandic food trend was from a restaurant called American Style. “There you can order burgers, chicken burgers, salads, and fries, and that’s pretty much their interpretation of ‘American style,’ ” she says. “This includes big portions and free refills.”
Between training, playing, and sightseeing, Gunther says, she was busy all summer.
She returned to the States in September and began an internship with SutherlandGold Group, a public relations agency in San Francisco.
— Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications