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Jonas Frögren (left) and Carl Söderberg (right) spoke to SUR at the Fuengirola Lions Hockey Arena. Nacho Carmona
A community club with a sprinkle of stardust
Inline hockey

A community club with a sprinkle of stardust

Having played in the best league in the world, Swedes Jonas Frögren and Carl Söderberg have traded the ice of the NHL for the sun of the Costa del Sol and are key members of the Fuengirola Lions inline hockey team

Nacho Carmona

Fuengirola

Thursday, 28 March 2024, 16:17

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Stepping into the home of the Fuengirola Lions feels like entering a different world altogether. This quaint pavilion, nestled next to the Antonio Basilio municipal stadium in Los Boliches, boasts terrazzo floors and is adorned with over a dozen flags representing its 140 members. It's not just a sports venue; it's a cultural hub where multiple languages are spoken, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of its players.

Leading the charge is president Jari Nyman, a Finn who arrived on the Costa del Sol as a boy in the 1980s. Fluent in Spanish with hints of an Andalusian accent, Nyman explains that handling sticks and skates comes naturally to Nordic kids, akin to riding a bike in Spain.

Standout recruits

This year, the club has two standout members: Swedes Jonas Frögren and Carl Söderberg. Beyond their roles as players, they also serve as mentors and parental figures within the tight-knit community. Despite their low-key demeanour, they're internationally renowned ice hockey stars, adding a touch of stardom to the team.

The former, now 43, played 41 NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008-09 season, while the latter, 38, has a consistent track record across four franchises (Boston, Colorado, Arizona and Chicago) from 2013 to 2021, totalling 597 games.

After their respective stints at the highest level, they returned to their native Sweden for their final years as professionals. Now, they've settled on the Costa del Sol to embark on a new chapter.

"Spain's culture is distinctively relaxing. It's a haven for my daughter, who's grown up here," says Frögren, who has called Malaga home for three years.

Frögren hails from Ludvika, a small Swedish town where he spent his formative years. At 15, he relocated to pursue his hockey ambitions, eventually amassing six gold medals in Sweden and making a mark in the NHL and KHL before returning to his roots.

Interestingly, despite their parallel careers, he and his current teammate never crossed paths in the US but did compete against each other in Sweden and even shared a room during national team tournaments. "It's amusing how fate has brought us together here," he reflects.

With his commanding presence on the ice, Frögren was known for his defensive prowess, though he humbly downplays his goal-scoring abilities. "He scores plenty," interjects the team president with a smile from the stands, watching the youngsters train.

Total immersion

Meanwhile, his fellow countryman, Söderberg, started his hockey journey at the tender age of seven in Malmö, his hometown.

One standout achievement in his illustrious career is the gold medal he clinched with his national team at the 2017 World Championships.

Having played in four different parts of the United States, he gained exposure to diverse climates and ways of life. "I enjoy immersing myself," he says.

Though he acknowledges the similarity between Arizona's climate and that of Spain, he values the distinct charm of each location, including the colder ones.

He currently resides in Marbella, just half an hour away from Fuengirola, and says he chose to move here because of the culture, the mountains, the people and the food.

A unique club

Söderberg stumbled upon the Lions through a friend and, like Frögren, joined to satisfy his itch to keep playing.

He also wanted to explore inline hockey, a sport closely related to ice hockey, which he's always been passionate about. The only difference lies in the surface and the skates; instead of blades, there are wheels. "Both are very fast. I like it."

His children, a boy and two girls, also play on the team. "I would love for them to follow in my footsteps," he says with a smile.

The Fuengirola Lions operate with a different structure than most other sports clubs. "We have a team, the Lions, for the National League, dressed in blue," says Nyman.

"Then, in the Andalusian League, we have Barona in black, the Vikings in yellow, and the Latin Team in red."

The best players from these three teams make up the Lions' squad, the flagship team of the club. Interestingly, only the top team has its own dressing room. Each player's name is written on their respective bench, with one notable detail: there are only two Spaniards.

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