Caroline Graham Hansen is a perfect example of an athlete that will stop at nothing to improve. She has challenged herself since she was a child, when she was accused of stealing spots on a boys’ team by her teammate’s parents.
“I've always played with boys, and my team has always been boys.” she told Oslo based newspaper Aftenposten back in 2014. “ Eventually, I combined it with girls' teams, but I played with boys in Lightning until I went to Stabæk.”
“It went ‘she's a girl and she's taking up a place in the team that my son should have.’ A little stuff like that. But the fact is that I was better than them, so I was right in that place.”
Hansen spoke about that experience just after she left Staebek in her native Oslo, where she had a unique arrangement with the club that allowed her to carry on that tradition of playing with the boys. She would play games for the women’s team, but the then 19-year-old attacking midfielder would train with both the senior and under-21 men’s sides. That practice allowed her to compete with those well above her perceived skill level, attracting the attention of the strongest teams in Europe.
Hansen moved to Wolfsburg, one of the giants in European women’s soccer for the 2015 season and helped them continue to dominate the game in Germany. She played six years there, winning the Bundesliga three times and played in a pair of unsuccessful Champions League Finals. She moved on to play for Barcelona last summer, but not before she was the focal point of a Norway team that didn’t have it’s best talent at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Hansen was expected to fill the void left by Ada Hegerberg, who has refused to play for the national team for several years. Her home nation put enormous pressure on her, saying she needed to be at the top of her game if Norway wanted any hope of competing. Fortunately, she was up to the challenge.
“Physically, yes,” she told Norwegian TV2 when asked if she was in the best shape of her life leading into the World Cup. “And in terms of football, the season that has now been my best when you look at what I have produced. The last three years have in a way been an adventure considering that they have won what can be won in Germany, which is considered to be the toughest league, the recently Barcelona-signed offensive marvel answers direct questions about whether she actually is in the form of his life.”
The World Cup last summer was her first chance to shine on the global stage. She missed the 2015 edition with a lingering knee injury and she spent the following four years impressing at Wolfsburg. She had the chance to lead the team at the 2017 European Championships, but Norway failed to score a single goal and lost all three of their group stage matches. This happened after she claimed to be “invincible.”
Thankfully, the World Cup proved to be much different than that continental experience two years prior. She had a goal and an assist and nearly scored the goal of the tournament in the round of 16 against Australia when she dribbled through the Australian defense and curled a shot from outside the penalty area off the inside of the post. She made up for that bad luck by scoring in the penalty shootout to take Norway into the quarterfinals.
Excellent form in the World Cup gave Hansen even more confidence heading into the 2019-20 season with Barcelona. She has seven goals in 13 games with her new team, which sits nine points clear at the top of the league with nine games to play. She’s cruising towards another league title and will get another shot at the one major trophy that’s eluded her: the Women’s Champions League.