Sweden coach Pia Sundhage and U.S. coach Jill Ellis face off as competitors on Friday in the Olympics quarterfinals.
But off the pitch they’re the best of friends.
Sundhage coached the U.S. women for five years and led the team to gold medals at both the Beijing and London Olympics. She left the team after the London Games and returned home to coach her native Sweden’s national team.
Ellis was an assistant under Sundhage and named interim coach after her departure. Ellis became the U.S. head coach in 2014.
Ellis said the two friends chatted before the trip to Brazil.
“Pia’s a wonderful person. It was fun to be at her side. To this day, even though we’re on opposite sides of the benches, we remain friends. Apart when they’re playing for us, I’ll be cheering for her because she’s quality,” Ellis said. “She brings a smile to my face when I think about her, so that says a lot.”
The American Outlaws supporters’ group in Austin, Texas, sent out an old throwback photo of the two in advance of the match:
One coached the USA to Olympic Gold.
One to a World Cup.
Ellis vs Sundhage. USA vs Sweden. Friday 11 AM at Haymaker pic.twitter.com/jEdxMWLk33
— American Outlaws ATX (@AOAustin) August 10, 2016