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Mission Accomplished for Paige Culver in Swedish Top-Flight

The former Oakville Soccer Club star is looking for her next adventure.
Oakville's Paige Culver, Kalmar's Captain | Paige Culver leads her team onto the field. | Bildbyran: Michael Erichsen

The challenge was set from day one when Oakville’s Paige Culver was given the captain's armband at IFK Kalmar. When Paige arrived in the sleepy town in the South East of Sweden, the pundits had predicted her newly promoted club would only experience a cup of coffee on the top flight.

Culver lets out a chuckle when pressed about the media’s expectations heading into the 2022 campaign. “At the beginning of the season, there were all these experts that kind of predicted where the team would fall in the league, and every single expert except for one had put us in last place.”

She continues to say, “for us not only to stay in the league but to avoid the qualification games as well is fantastic. So, I think overall it was successful.”

Leaning into it. | The 25-year-old defender doesn
Leaning into it. | The 25-year-old defender doesn't shy away from anything, and that includes standing up for what is right. | Bildbyran: Michael Erichsen

Culver is one of many Canadian Women plying their trade in the Damallsvenskan, but with the Women’s European Championship taking place this season, schedule congestion meant that she couldn’t spend a ton of time connecting with her compatriots.

“We would see each other on game days, and that was pretty much it.” she laments, adding, “Sweden is also very spread out, so unless you’re in Stockholm, you're pretty far from everything. So, it’s not the easiest commute. So, it was nice to see the girls when we had games and stuff. We’d always stay and chat.”

Things weren’t all cheery in Sweden for Culver. She decided against renewing her contract following internal issues at the club. It involved a personal relationship between the coach and one of the players, after which the player was dismissed from the club rather than the Coach. This demonstrated an unacceptable power dynamic.

Taking a strong moral stance is something you look for in a leader, and Culver isn’t shy to make her position known on the subject, “I don’t really support that.”

Beyond that incident, she wasn’t willing to support the alleged misappropriation of funds that saw money collected by the youth players used to pay for the Women’s team.

So, despite her club’s overall success in 2022, she has decided to take a different route in 2023.

Fortunately for her, the Swedish soccer calendar runs on a different schedule than most of Europe due to the climate, and as her season has ended, the rest of the continent is approaching their mid-season break.

There are several irons in the fire right now for the 25-year-old defender as she and her agent weigh her options.

“We’ve had some offers. You know, we're just going through logistics. Trying to figure out what the best opportunity is.” Without giving away too much, she lists Spain, Germany, Italy, and England as possible destinations.

Another option is the NWSL, the professional women’s league in the United States, but she would have to wait until the completion of the university draft in January before anything solid comes to light.

In recent weeks Oakville’s own Diana Matheson was part of a significant announcement regarding the launch of a professional women’s league here in Canada, but that’s not set to launch until 2025.

Culver is excited about the news, exclaiming, “I mean, it’s huge. It’s so exciting. I think it’s about time.”

Being in her mid-20s, she sees it as a viable option to return someday and play where she was raised, “to have potentially the opportunity to play at home is amazing.”

In the meantime, she will continue training at the Athlete’s Lab in Milton, and hitting the gym at 6 am, while she waits for news on her next move.

She says she’s been working on her foot skills. As a physical defender, she’s got some room for improvement, “That’s a big focus for me this off-season as well. I have a little bit more time to focus on those things, so I’m excited. I’ve already jumped into training.”

Paige has been working with a few local players while she waits for a fresh crop of returning professionals and university athletes on their Christmas break to return and push her a little more over the holidays.

Don’t expect her to hang around town for too long, though, as it sounds like good news is just around the corner. “My agent was saying he was hoping we should have something signed before Christmas time. So I’ll know around then when they’ll want me to leave. It could be the day after Christmas; it could be the day after New Year.”