Erik Sviatchenko was initially speaking only in jest when, during his signing negotiations with Celtic last month, he suggested they might also consider recruiting his partner.
But in a move which simply adds to Danish defender Sviatchenko’s less than conventional background, he has now duly been joined at the club by Anne Rudmose.
Seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child, Rudmose will not be able to make her debut for Celtic’s women’s team until the summer.
Football, though, is very much a serious business for the 25-year-old winger who already enjoys no shortage of bragging rights when it comes to comparing her career with Sviatchenko.
Rudmose played for Denmark in the 2008 Women’s under-17 World Cup finals in New Zealand, where they lost out to eventual winners North Korea in the quarter-finals, and also helped her country finish third in the under-17 European Championships in Switzerland the same year.
“She always says ‘Erik, it’s really nice to go to a World Cup’,” said Sviatchenko with a smile. “Even though it was under-17, it’s still a big achievement. It’s the biggest thing you can get at any level of football when you represent your country. Hopefully I’ll be good enough to do it one day too.”
Rudmose, who latterly played for ASA Aarhus in the top flight of Danish women’s football, met Sviatchenko when she was best friends with his twin sister. Their shared passion for football has been a constant and key factor in their relationship.
“We talk a lot about football when we are at home together,” she said. “It is part of our lives. Sometimes I give him advice – I think I am a better player than Erik! We analyse the matches together. I am very honest and I tell him if he has had a bad game.
“I was 12 when I started playing football and it took off quickly from there. When I was 15, I got into the Danish national set-up. I played for the youths, the under-17s, under-19s and then the under-23s.
“I had some offers from the United States to turn professional with a soccer scholarship. But I was still at high school in Denmark at the time and wanted to finish that. Unfortunately I then had to have some cruciate ligament surgery which put me back a bit. It was always a goal of mine to join Celtic as soon as we knew Erik was coming here. Football is a big part of my life as well. So my ambition was to play at the same place as Erik.”
As the couple posed for media photographs at Celtic’s training centre yesterday, there was a predictable response from Sviatchenko’s team-mates.
“They were standing up and banging on the windows when they saw us,” he laughed. “But that’s fine. This is who we are.
“Anne has been playing football all her life and it’s a good thing for her because it helps her socialise. We’ve come from Denmark to a new country, so it’s nice that she also feels at home. Celtic have helped massively with organising everything. At first we only spoke jokingly about Anne joining as a player but then it became quite serious.
“The girls she has met at the club are really nice and it’s a very good environment. Celtic are rising and looking to improve in the women’s game but first Anne has to give birth and then recover, so there is no stress. She told me before that sometimes she can be struck by loneliness because she misses all the things at home but we had been talking about everything prior to my move and she has been a real help to me. Now we are getting a house and she has a club and everything is settling down and we are getting to where we want to be.”
Sviatchenko is also settling happily on the pitch following a torrid start to his Celtic career. The 24-year-old was pitched into an earlier than planned debut as a substitute following Efe Ambrose’s dismissal in the League Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County, then experienced another loss when making his first start against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
But three successive clean sheets and victories since then have provided Sviatchenko with a clear sense of better times ahead.
“I was rushed into things but that has worked quite nicely from my point of view,” he said. “It was a bit rough to start with but I was looking to see how both myself and the team bounced back.
“Now we have won three games in a row, we’ve started scoring goals again and also keeping clean sheets, which is every defender’s main target. So I think we’re getting better and better every day.
“When I came here I wanted to challenge myself in every way you can think of – the football, the fans, the pressure of losing games. Obviously, I didn’t enjoy losing but I was looking forward to seeing how I coped with it.”
Sviatchenko hopes to make a happier return to Hampden, scene of his debut loss, when Denmark play Scotland there in a friendly at the end of next month. Capped four times for his country, he is anxious to secure a place in the first squad to be named by their new coach Age Hareide.
“He has joined from Malmo and everyone at Celtic knows about Malmo!” he added. “We have to adapt to him and hopefully he will pick me for the Scotland game. It would be nice for me to play against Leigh Griffiths. I play against him in training every day, so hopefully I will finish him if I play in that game!”
- Erik Sviatchenko and Anne Rudmose were speaking at the launch of IT and telecoms company Exsel Group’s shirt sponsorship deal with Celtic’s women’s team.
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