24/04/2024

Emma Loving has recently signed her first professional football contract and can't wait to make a decisive impact for Mallbackens in Sweden. (Design: Will Cuckson)

A star on the rise, United States football sensation Emma Loving sat down exclusively with The Inner Sanctum to discuss her career so far.

Now playing with Mallbackens IF in Sweden, her journey has taken her through UPenn, one of the USA’s most prestigious colleges, seeing her football development skyrocket.

In love with sport from a young age, she has only continued to grow.

Early life and career

Born in the town of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Emma Loving grew up surrounded by sport, which included playing basketball, softball and football. She excelled in the high school arena, where she captained her school team.

Attending Central Bucks East as a student, she became a two-time all-state honouree and received regional All-American honours. As the star player and captain, she accumulated 33 goals and 11 assists in her senior year. This added to her total of 72 goals and 24 assists.

This outstanding effort advanced her school to the state final, and saw her named as the 2015 Player of the Year by the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Intelligencer,

During her time in high school, she achieved numerous awards and honours. This included being named a three-time Pennsylvania All-State player, three-time Offensive MVP, three-time All-Southeastern PA player, and three-time All-Intelligencer first team player.

College career

After years of dedication in the sporting arena, Loving attended the University of Pennsylvania and cemented her spot in the football team. This was in large part due to her successful high school career. The Pennsylvania native appeared 44 times in the Penn State jersey between 2016 and 2019.

She was chosen to captain the side in her senior year at the university. A natural born leader, she helped mentor the younger players coming through the ranks and was an inspiration on and off the field.

Her honours during her time at UPenn include being chosen as the Ivy League Player of the Week in 2017, the Ivy League Rookie of the Week in 2016, an All-Ivy League Honourable Mention and being selected as the Offensive MVP by her teammates in 2016.

“The biggest takeaway was being able to play at a high level, under a lot of pressure,” Loving told The Inner Sanctum.

“Whether that be a lot of student athletes or a lot of students from school, like showing out to the game or you have to win one game.

“The Ivy League didn’t have a playoff system, so every game counted and mattered so, so much. Playing under that pressure and staying composed under pressure was the biggest way that I developed.”

Going pro

Loving recently signed a football contract with Swedish team Mallbackens IF. The attacking forward has added extra flair and skill to the team.

“I’m really loving it so far. It feels like I’ve been here a lot longer than I have. The country is wonderful,” she said.

“The weather has been beautiful, and then the soccer has been really good so far. It’s a high level of play. The trainings are intense and the team has been welcoming. It’s been a really good experience so far.”

Loving decided to choose to sign with Mallbackens IF mainly due to timing. However, it has provided her with a great opportunity to showcase her talents.

She talked about her decision to join the Swedish club in the middle of the year during the transfer window.

“It’s a couple of things, it’s kind of a timing thing and figuring out what team needs a player like me halfway through to come in and help out the rest of the season. So, timing was the biggest factor but it was also a good opportunity,” Loving explained.

“The league’s a really good a good step for me in my career [with] competitive high level play. I knew that this would be a place that I could come and develop as a player.”

In her eight appearances for the club, she has been able to add one goal to the score sheet. She has been a great addition to the team playing alongside fellow forwards Irvina Bajramovic and Ritah Kivumbi.

Emma Loving joined fellow Americans Jenna Deane and Kari Johnstone (pictured) at Mallbakens IF. (Photo: Midlo Scoop)

Surprisingly, Loving is not the only American player in the squad. Playing alongside her are compatriots Jenna Denae and Kari Johnston, who play in the defensive and midfield lines.

“One of the Americans on my team played at Cal State Stanislaus in northern California. My college coach, coached at Cal State Stanislaus as her first head coach,” Loving explained.

“That’s Jenna [Deane] on my team and Kari Johnston from Virginia. She played at a really competitive high level school in the state, so I was excited to play with them and learn for them.”

Not only has Loving enjoyed playing with her American teammates, but is also thrilled with the rest of the squad. Ranging from players who are 16-years old to 31-years, the team is very well-rounded.

The more talent in the squad, the better for the development of players, as they learn more from each other.

“There’s obviously a lot of really talented Swedish players on the team,” Loving said.

“We have Ellen Anderson, who’s on loan from a team in the top league here in Sweden. I just knew there would be a lot to learn from these players.”

With three games to go in the Swedish competition known as Elitettan, Mallbackens sits at seventh place on 35 points with 11 wins and two draws.

The club will be looking to finish the 2022 competition on good form, playing Sundsvall (10th), Uppsala (second) and Jitex (sixth) in the next three weeks.

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Development as a player

When asked about who has helped her develop as a player, Loving had some kinds words to say about Jorge Rodriguez. The owner and creator of Max Futbol in Pennsylvania has helped train football players from the age of eight-years-old upward.

With over 20,000 of coaching hours to his name, he has played a big part within the United States Youth Women’s team, college teams and professional teams in Pennsylvania. His resume includes training with the New England Revolution and Cape Code Crusaders.

Rodriguez has achieved multiple titles in his coaching career which include the 2014 PIAA AAA State Championship, and two district championships.

“There’s an organisation in Pennsylvania called Max Futbol, and Jorge Rodriguez is the owner of Max Futbol, and he’s known me since I was eight years old or something,” she said.

“He coaches and he trains a lot of the college and professional players in the area, and he’s just super invested in our careers and will do anything for us to see us succeed.

“I just attribute a lot of my success to him. It’s been really valuable having him in my corner and he’s just like a technical wizard.”

Having been trained by Rodriguez, Loving has become a Level II trainer within the organisation. She is looking to train the future footballers of Pennsylvania and give back to the community with her expertise and knowledge.

Career highlight so far

Having achieved already so much in a short period of time, Loving has plenty of highlights already across her career.

Two stand out over everything else, one of them being achieved during her time playing in Israel and the latter at UPenn.

“I would say there’s two highlights. The first would be making it to the Israeli Cup Championships, [where] we won the semi-final,” Loving said.

“We were ranked pretty low in the league but we beat the number two [seeded] team to advance to the final in overtime.

“It was huge for the club. I think one of the first time the club had been to the Cup final, so I would say that would be my number one highlight.

“Secondly, would probably winning the Ivy League championship in 2018 with Penn [UPenn]. That was awesome.”

Inspiration in life and football

Loving’s family been incredibly supportive across her career so far, always behind her when it comes to both life and football.

“My family has generally always inspired me to keep chasing my dream and they’re incredibly supportive,” Loving said.

Like any young American footballer though, she looks up to current United States women’s national team. In particular, Margaret Purce.

Having played against various USA national squad members during her time at college, she stood out to her for a number of reason.

“In terms of players that I look up to, I mean, obviously every player on the national team is just pioneering the way for for female athletes all over the world, and they are inspiring in so many ways,” Loving said.

“I would say that Margaret Purce [who is] on the national team now, she plays for Gotham for her club team. I played against her in college [for] a season or two and she is an outstanding player, just wonderful to watch.”

“She has just continued to develop and grow after college too and watching her really inspires me to keep pushing in my career.”

Life outside of football

While playing at UPenn, Loving graduated college with a Bachelor in Environmental Science and Legal Studies (Cum Laude).

However, after achieving her degree, she is not sure what is next for her outside football.

“I’ve been toying around the idea of maybe working on an online masters (degree),” Loving explained.

“I’m actually kind of a nerd, I like to take free online classes. There’s so many online classes for free, you can just sit down and take. I love doing that.”

On the non-studying side, she has been trying to find new hobbies to do when she isn’t training or playing. Away from her home country, she is enjoying travelling and exploring a new country and culture.

“I’m looking for hobbies [and] actually in the market for new hobbies right now, but we do have a good bit of free time,” she said.

“So I spend a lot of time reading or taking online classes trying to just stay sharp and occupied.”

Future goals

Currently in her prime, Loving discussed the goals she is aiming for the future. Having recently left college, she is not giving up on her dream playing in the NWSL and national team one day.

“My end goal is to come back and play professionally in the States, in the NWSL,” she said.

“I think it’s going to be good for me to spend time in Europe developing as a player. I’ll be more well-rounded spending some seasons abroad, but my end goal is to come back and play in America.

“I believe that if you take care of yourself and you really just want to put in all of the work that it takes to be at the best [and] play at your best, we really don’t have limits to our potential.

“We can keep growing. I think that was one of the biggest lessons I learned after college.

“A lot of players stopped playing after college, and I’ve seen a lot of really talented players develop exponentially after college. So that inspires me and I want to just keep going and see how far I can go.”

Emma Loving is looking to play for the NWSL and USA National Team. (Photo: Penn Athletics)

“I would say [to younger generations] that the opportunities and the pathways for you to achieve your dreams to play at the highest level,. [Opportunities to] play professionally are there and it’s just a matter of you chasing them down and being willing to put in.

“We have endless potential. There’s going to be times in your career [that] coaches, players, fans or whatever it may be, make you feel like you you’ve peaked or you you can’t go any further [and] you’ve reached your highest level.

“If you have a growth mindset and you approach your career with that type of mentality, you have endless potential. If you really are willing to put the work in, I think you can see yourself soared to new heights in so many different ways.”

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