Back in the summer of 2019, IFK Mora were looking to preserve their status in the fourth-tier of Swedish football. Their English manager Ben Smith looked towards his homeland for reinforcements to get his side out of the relegation zone of Division 2 Norra Svealand.
The club had several Englishmen in on their books in the first half of the season but returned from the mid-season break in the summer with several new recruits as they looked to avoid relegation. They included former Mansfield goalkeeper Keaton Marrs, Jeremiah Gyebi who had previously played in Slovenia and Robbie Foster, a forward from Sheffield who had just left Chesterfield.
The 18-year-old had formerly been with home town clubs Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday before joining Chesterfield at under-15s level. He would go on to stay with the club until the age of 18, completing his scholarship with the side.
When the offer of a professional contract did not materialise, Foster turned his attentions to what was next and help came in the form of the League Football Education (LFE). The charity helps young released scholars and has been setting up placements in Sweden for English players for many years. They offered Foster the chance to join IFK Mora on a three-month deal which would last for the remainder of the season.
The 18-year-old and his compatriots headed out to Mora in central Sweden, an area with a population of 10,000 people, to try save their new side from relegation.
Gyebi had previously played senior football but for Marrs and Foster, their time in Sweden would see them make their professional debuts. Foster went on to make ten appearances, scoring once. His goal came in a 3-2 victory Enköpings, with the former Chesterfield man scoring the decisive fifth goal.
In the end, despite their best attempts, the new recruits were unable to help Mora avoid relegation to the fifth-tier as the side finished second-bottom.
Although the outcome was not what was hoped for, the experience will always be Foster’s first taste of senior football and he learned a lot from it. He now hopes to take what he has learned on to his next club as he looks for his next adventure.
I got the chance to ask the young forward a few questions about his time abroad.
English Players Abroad: How did the opportunity come about to play in Sweden, had you always known about the LFE?
Robbie Foster: I heard about going abroad from having meetings with the LFE and that they said that they would support us if we don’t get a professional contract when I was in my second year as a scholar. At this point I was injured so I knew I had to have a back up plan. They told me they had a connection with a club which was IFK Mora.
How did you find living in Mora? I saw there were several other English players there!
Living in Mora was a big change for me coming from a place with over half a million people and having your family and friends around you to a place with just over ten thousand and living with seven other guys you’ve just met is very different! It makes you mature very quickly.
Mora is very quiet and a peaceful place so there were no distractions. There were eight of us in total in one villa all from the U.K. so a lot of us were definitely feeling the same. It was good to be around some other boys from the UK especially Bakes [Lewis Baker], [Ryan] Finnie and Jeremiah because they were the older boys and have experienced things that I’d say I am yet to experience so they helped me a lot when I got there.
What do you think of the standard of football in Sweden?
The Swedish standard of football is different to back home. It’s slower and I’d say it’s very technical. There is a lot of ability. We played in the Norra Svealand and we always had to travel towards the capital so we knew it was never going to be easy on game days. The teams in the capital had a lot of choice of players and a place like Mora found it hard to get players so that’s why people like myself took the opportunity to play there.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Well as everyone knows a football career only last for so many years so you have to make the most of it because you never know when it could just end for you. I am willing to go any where I know I am going to play and I want to make a name for myself in the game as I believe in my own ability and that’s the most important thing believing in yourself. It’s just a matter of time!