As some of you know, recently I was a guest at the “Rasta Möter” (a swedish podcast with focus on the local football / soccer of Gothenburg). One of the topics was about Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp. The host, Fredrik Airosto, asked me which of them I liked the most, which was really a tough one for me.

To be frank, I don’t like any of them. Which in one sense is strange because their football / soccer philosophies are their opposites, surely there would be one of them I like more than the other?

In the show, I mocked Guardiola a bit, in a way that made rings on the water. I’ve got lots of mails and comments about this matter. As always, some think I have good point, some think I am a complete idiot. I find it amusing that is usually one way or the other, so in this post I am about to balance my opinion.

First of all, I have lots of respect for both Guardiola and Klopp. Of course they are both great football / soccer coaches. There is no doubt about that. Guardiola wouldn’t have won as many trophies as he had without being good in his man-management and Klopp is, by record, good at spotting talents and mold them into shape.

But (because there is always a but), I think they are too narrow-minded and that one big part of at least Guardiola’s success is spelled money.

I have a term I use to describe Guardiola (and many other coaches too of course, but he is target here) – “Philosophy Coach”. By that I mean he is a coach that has his own view of how football / soccer should be played and sticks to it, no matter what players he has in his squad.

When I studied football / soccer coaching, our teacher asked us if we thought Guardiola would change his tactics regarding his new material (he was announced new manager of Bayern München at the time). Most of said no, and we were right. Instead of adjusting his game idea according to his players abilities, he simply bought players that would fit into his philosophy. Of course there was some minor adjustments, but the big picture was the same as it was in Barcelona – A team that had a lot of ball possession.

The same thing happened in Manchester City. Did we really think he would change his approach into football / soccer just because he switched team and country? Of course not. He wanted his team to have a lot of possession and so he bought the players needed to complete that task.

I don’t say that Guardiola isn’t a good instructor or that he is poor in his social skills. It is absolutely necessary to be good at both, especially when you are dealing with super stars on a daily basis, but that doesn’t change the fact that the money got him the players he wanted in order to execute his ideas. He hasn’t really changed his philosophy, not in any major way at least, since he became coach in Barcelona. The only thing that has changed is the amount of trophies and his status.

For me, a good football / soccer coach understands that he needs to adjust his philosophy. Of all the teams I have managed, none has been the same. One of them had good short-passing players, one of the teams were good at positional defense and so on. They all had weaknesses too. I understood that I cannot squeeze the player into a box that doesn’t fit them. Instead, I needed to build a new box that was more accurate to their skills.

It would be interesting to see Guardiola in a less skilled team, with a club with less money than Barcelona, Bayern München and Manchester City. Imagine Guardiola in Frosinone, Huddersfield or Real Betis? Or why not a national team, where you can’t buy players, like Switzerland? That would be interesting, to see how he would tackle such a challenge. How his approach to football / soccer would change if he didn’t have the best players. I mean, how many times during the past ten years has his teams been since as the underdogs?

Really the same thing could be said about Jürgen Klopp, even though in lesser degree than Guardiola. He has his ideas about “gegenpressing” which all of his teams has used. The thing I like with Klopp though is that he rarely buys top of the line players. It is usually young players that he molds into shape. Guardiola does that to some degree too, but where Guardiola only does it because he can, for Klopp it is a necessity since he doesn’t have near as much money as him.

The same thing could be said about coaches like Lars Lagerbäck, Otto Rehhagel and José Mourinho. These three men are primarily known for their defensive tactics. They often have teams that are seen is underdogs and therefore they deploy a very defensive structure in order to get success on the pitch.

It would be interesting to see them in teams where they are supposed to have the ball more than their opponents. Mourinho didn’t exactly fail in his missions at Manchester United and Real Madrid, was no success story either when he had teams that was supposed to control the events of the game. He has always been at his best when he has managed teams who has nothing to lose. The same thing could be said about Lars Lagerbäck. Imagine him in a club like Barcelona. Would he play so defensively with such a great collection of footballers?

When I say that I am a football / soccer coach, I am often asked to describe my football / soccer philosophy. This is in many ways a dumb question. I haven’t meet a single coach that doesn’t want to have lots of ball possession, lots of short passing and a team that uses the “gegenpressing” technique.

All of us wants to do that.
My point is that isn’t always possible.

Maybe I don’t have the money, maybe I don’t have the patience from the board, maybe I have too old players. The list goes on.

A good coach is a coach who understands this and that can adjust his ideas to the players he or she has. Who have many tools in the box and can use many styles of playing football / soccer. The beauty in football / soccer is not about short passing, it is about using the right tool at the right time. Or as Bob Paisley, the legendary Liverpool Manager once said – “It is not about the short ball or the long ball, it is about the right ball”.

There is a lot of things to be said about Sir Alex Ferguson (no, I am not a Manchester United fan), but he was a coach that changed his philosophy through time. He didn’t have the same tactics from the 80’s to the 2010’s. He developed and understood that he needed to change in order to gain success. In that way, he was an excellent football manager.

Finally: 
Keep in mind that this is not a post about me disliking Manchester City or Liverpool.
It is about two managers who are too narrow-minded for my own taste.

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Well, I am not exactly a newcomer to podcasts (I think I subscribe to at least twenty football-/soccer oriented shows per work week), but about two weeks ago, I was a guest in the new podcast called Rasta möter (swedish for “Rasta meets”).

During the interview, the host, Fredrik Airosto, asked me questions about my coaching career, my view on tactics in football / soccer and what my goal is with Backatorp IF this season.

You can listen to the podcast for free from here (it is in swedish):
http://rastaochdalla.se/2019/02/20/rasta-moter-avsnitt-3-johan-solinger/

In my last blog post, I showed you pictures from my study trip to London in December. Well, I still have photos to show you, but this time it is from Skövde.

Last weekend, I visited Skövde for the event VFF Symposium. It is an event where coaches, referees, players, leaders and football / soccer workers from all over Sweden visits to see seminars and lectures. Over 1000 people visited Skövde during this weekend.

So, with no further ado, here is some pictures from VFF Symposium 2019 (next time, I promise you I will write a more proper blog post, but in the meantime, enjoy!).

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Arena Skövde from the outside. An early morning in january, and still no sign of the sun…

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Peter Gerhardsson, the former Head Coach for BK Häcken’s Men’s Team (now Head Coach for Women’s National Team), started the VFF Symposium with his speech. Among many things, he talked about his view on leadership, the difference between contacts and relationships and how you can have structured attacking style.

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William Lundin, from FC Trollhättan, shows how his team plays 3-5-2. A young and very interesting coach, to say the least. Funny fact – He was coach for BK Wobbler before I came there in 2015.

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It wasn’t just football / soccer on VFF Symposium. Here is Rikard Grönborg, Head Coach for ice hockey national team for men. He talked about his own view of leadership, which is a mix of the swedish and american style since he has lived in the states for large part of his life. Leadership is universal.

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Magnus Edlund, former assistant coach of IFK Göteborg, shows the importance of individual defense. We had a bit of an argument about man-man-marking versus positional defense, but I do have a great respect for him. You don’t have to think a like all the time.

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Katarina Dunder Olsson and Erik Lundstedt, now in Sjömarkens IF, shows their view on defense and attacking. Not very impressed, but still it takes some guts to stand on the stage.

Pics from London

2019-01-13

It’s picture time!

As some of you may know, I visited London over the christmas holidays. Partly to visit some coach colleagues, partly to make some educational visits to a handful of London clubs. Luckily, most of the clubs I asked were more than happy to welcome me.

So, this blog post will be a little different. Now, it will be more pictures than words for a change. I guess some of you will be happy over that fact…

Enjoy!

The first stop at my trip was Leyton Orient. They currently play their games at The Breyer Group Stadium in the northeast of London. It was an unusual experience to watch a non-league game. I haven’t heard so many swear words in my life, either before or since then. Very genuine. Funny fact: Leyton Orient was the first club that I managed in Championship Manager 94 / 95. Oh, does memories… And hours I won’t get back. 

 

I didn’t have high hopes for the visit at Stamford Bridge. My view on Chelsea has been that it is a very “plastic” club, but oh, I was so wrong. They really cared about their former heroes. This is the old wall where the old stands were. On the wall, they have pictures of former CFC-heroes.

 

Peter Osgood was / is a good for CFC fans. Here as a statue outside Stamford Bridge. Not a statue (or even a picture) of José Mourinho though… I talked with some of the staff at CFC and they admitted that Mou is their greatest manager of all time, but they don’t like him very much. Their favourite? Carlo Ancelotti.

In the CFC dressing room. In the corner, a whiteboard with the text “How to win”. I guess Sarri’s men didn’t listen, cause they losed against Leicester the day before…

 

Outside Unai Emery’s office at Arsenal Training Ground. Too bad he wasn’t at work that day.

 

Dennis Bergkamp is perhaps the greates Arsenal hero of all time. Here, he is a statue outside Emirates Stadium.

 

During my visit at Fulham, I wasn’t allowed to sit on the bench during the game. Instead, I was placed behind this camera man the whole game against Wolves. Cozy stadium, though.

When I write these lines I sit in a hotel room in London, far away from white snow, grilled Christmas Ham and wrapped presents. I try to find the words to sum up what I think Christmas is all about.

For me, Christmas is primarily two things – Children and dreams. These two things belong together. To somehow tie the sack together for this feast, I am going to write about three stories from my life.

That’s it.
No big deal, just three stories.

We start a little bit cozy. The first story happened terribly long ago. I was 8-9 years old (it feels literally so long ago that I imagine that the dinosaurs were still alive then) and the television show Småstjärnona (in English, “Little Stars”) were a great deal. You maybe remember the show concept? It was an attempt at family entertainment on Friday evenings. The idea was that children would choose a favorite artist and a song to perform as closely to the original as possible. For understandable reasons, it was a mim and not a singing competition, so the best kids could do was to watch MTV and try to mimic their idols as good as they could.

Me and my friend wanted to be a part of the show. We had practiced the song Land of Dreaming (already one should have known that I would write this post about 20 years later) with Masterboy (and again, not a coincidence that I am called The Master).

To get in the mood, you can listen to the song here:

To be honest, we did not scratch the song especially well. I wanted to sing (mim), but for some unreasonable reason, I stood steady most of the time and rocked on my knees. My pal was not much better. We heard that they played some kind of synthesizer in the background, so he took out an unplaned wooden plank and pretended to plink on it. And rocking on the knees. Most of the times we rocked our knees to the ground.

When we finished repeating, we told our parents about our grand plans. But my friend’s mom said no. I really don’t think it was because his mother realized our limitations (believe me, it would have been enough to spare the Swedish people that suffering), because she was quite brusque. She simply didn’t want us to be disappointed if we didn’t win. So instead of letting us search for the competition, she forbade him.

There was no show.

I will return to this story, but before that we will forward the tape, more specifically to this summer.

For several years I have had a coach colleague who has more or less been eager to want me to help him with a football school that he is involved in. The idea behind the whole event is to let children and young people, whose parents have to work during their summer holidays, should have something to do instead of wandering the streets with no aim. Not infrequently, this is young people with parents who have bad finances. Usually, only those with money in the wallet can afford to bring the family to trips.

For the first time in several years, I actually had a vacancy gap in the middle of the summer, so I accepted the offer. My first thought was that my task would mainly be to instruct the young people in the noble art of playing the beautiful game, but there I mistook myself and I did it roughly. There was something sad and at the same time empty in the eyes of these young people. As if they had been grazed on their hopes long before their lives had begun (even I feel that my life has barely begun and I am a gaggle uncle in comparison).

I remember above all a sequence when one of the youngsters made a wonderful dribble through the penalty area, just to then smack it up the ball in the cross. Like a slap! I couldn’t keep my delight for something so beautiful, so I praised the player in question and it sounded loud.

“What a fantastic football event! You dribbled through the whole defense and put it in the second cross as if you haven’t done anything else. You are just like Messi!”

It is such a thing that USUALLY makes people happy to hear. But for some reason the player looked down into the ground and did not say a word. My first thought was that the player in question didn’t like Messi. It is a kind of battle there, who is the best of Messi and Ronaldo. So after the training I took my arm around the player and asked if it Ronaldo was his favourite. He wasn’t. But instead, the player told a completely different story.

“My dad thinks I should stop playing football”

“Why does he think so?”

“Because he keep telling me that I will never be like Messi”

The player started to cryi and I almost did to. It turned out later, when we ate lunch together, that several players had been through similar stories. Sometimes it was their parents, sometimes even their coach, sometimes some spectators. But always there was someone who told them to stop dreaming, because it only hurts when one fails.

Before we tie the bag together, we go to the story number three that happened just a few days ago. As I said, I am in London right now, partly a study trip to see how other football coaches work, but partly also to lecture. I have been invited to talk about one of my favorite topics, game understanding, and as a coincidence I have over the years through networking built a contact network of coaches who by some unconscious (had they seen my other shortcomings so …) want to have my services.

During the last few days I have held a couple of lectures for a number of young academy players in the later teens, young people who do not have time to go home over Christmas and New Year to meet their families so they have to stay at school. At first, of course, we talked about the theme of game understanding, but during the time of all lectures I noticed an interesting pattern. Although all these youths are to some extent relatively successful (they have come in through a needle eye to end up where they are at that age), I noticed them being anxious and restless souls who desperately sought to find their place in universe. So, more than football, the lectures started to be about life in general (how they could ask an irresponsible 32-year-old about the meaning of life goes beyond my understanding).

Most of the discussions were when I pulled out a slide I had with the headline “You can be more than you already are”. By that I mean that the meaning of life, at least the way I see it, is to constantly improve. To become a little better person today than I was yesterday. I do not compare myself with others, but only myself. I do not think we are created for being aimless. In short, I believe that we are designed in a way that makes us need challenges, otherwise we are not going anywhere.

I once read an interesting quote that if man did not have a single concern, if we as a race could only sit down, eat cakes and converse about nice things constantly, everything would eventually collapse with pure restlessness. Probably we would break everything down. Then there would at least happen something.

I got a question from one of the academy players why I do this. Why I go to London in the midst of burning Christmas holidays instead of being home with family and friends just to talk football and life with a bunch of young people who will soon be ravaging the big football scenes.

“I can’t understand. We don’t want anything else but going home to our families over Christmas and you, you abandon them instead. Why do you do this? “

“Because I have a purpose with my life”

“And what is that?”

“I want people to dream and to dream big”

I think dreams are important. If we do not have ambitions, goals and challenges – What are we then? This can of course look different for different people and it can also vary from time to time for the same person. For some, it is to get a beach body 2019, for others to become a doctor, for a third to give back in form of time and consideration to their parents. It can be big and it can be small, but in common for all Dreams is that they are important for the people who have them. All of us must have those dreams, what we strive for. We really have to fight for life and the world to be a little, a little better than it was yesterday. Because if not, what is the point of everything?

When I stood up there on the podium, I remembered the two previous stories I told you about, so I rendered them to the academy players (with my Gothenburg-sounding English, I mind you). It is only now that I understand what they mean and what they mean to me.

In the former story, my friend’s mother just wanted his son to be safe and sound. Probably she had experienced so many disappointments in her life that she had been robbed of the confetti so many times that she had lost her spirit. For her, life was not something to hope for, but something to live through. She didn’t want to see her son as bitter as herself, so instead of hoping for too much, it was about being realistic. Seeing their lot here in life and making the best of it.

The same thing really applies to history number two. Young people who have been told to stop dreaming. They will never be anything. Really no Messis or Ronaldos. So they are better off believing this, so they don’t have to be sad and disappointed.

Over time, I have realized a very strange thing. Throughout my life I have believed that we are born unique and die as copies, but in reality it is exactly the opposite. Try to go to any kindergarten and ask the children what they want to be when they are big. One dream bigger, cooler and especially stranger than the other. Someone wants to become a firefighter, another wants to become an artist, a third wants to become an engineer (although they do not know what it is and above all can not spell it, but it sounds cool). I wanted to become a superhero and baker myself. Then I could save my friends and then invite them for coffee. I thought that sounded awesome.

Somehow it is like all children dream big thoughts. Personally, I have never met really young children who does not. But somewhere along the way, that is changing for some. It is like a glass roof is placed above them that shows what is possible and reasonable to cope with. This glass roof often appears in adults who tell them what they can and cannot do. So, instead of letting children and young people believe in their own abilities and struggle to achieve their dreams, we strike them down in some kind of well-meaning spirit. To save them from suffering. Or at least it is so we think.

At the same time, I can’t help but think … Who am I to give them a glass roof? Who am I setting thes limits on them? Think what many children with such untapped potential that we have not been able to use for the good of society. Talk about high-level resource waste.

Quite often I hear people, often for some kind of mitigating purpose, tell other people who are having a hard time, “you are good as you are”. That they don’t have to do anything more than “just be themselves”. Somehow, I back back down when I hear such terms. Misunderstand me right, all people are just as much worthy and everyone is entitled to the same opportunities, rights and obligations in my world. But, and this is a fat BUT, to say things like those above indicate that they no longer have to make an effort in their lives. Why should I even try to make a difference in my Life? And if I don’t like myself, why should I be myself?

Somewhere we live in a fantasy world where we believe that everything is static. Not least our personalities. But the fact is that we are dynamic beings who can change our lives and thus also our destinies. We are so uch victims that we allow ourselves to be. For the vast majority, our obstacles are in the head. It is only when we realize that we can truly achieve our full potential, what we want to devote our lives to.

I realize I’m floating away here (suprise, suprise), but if we are to summarize all this I just wrote, Christmas is about Children and dreams. Let children dream. It can be weird, childish, overpowering, grandiose, and sometimes completely absurd, but let them dream. And never tell them what is reasonable or possible, because the opposite of dreaming big is to live mediocre. It is not an alternative that I think you or I want to live in.

So everyone I meet I try to inspire them to dream and chase those goals in one way or another, as long as they are receptive. It does not mean that I go around preaching, but rather trying to lead by example and having a future vision of life in general. It doesn’t mean I am perfect (but god damn near perfection, I mind you) or that I’m not making mistakes, but I try to learn from them.

I should not say that it is extraordinary in a world perspective, but for me it is important that my son really feel that everything is possible. No one should explain to him what he can or cannot do. Only he sets the limits. I try to help him every day as best I can. It feels meaningful. Somewhere I want all children to wear that feeling. That nothing is impossible.

The meaning of my life is to make people dream. To find again what makes one like a child again on the inside. You know, that childish enthusiasm that everything, everything, is possible. In my case, it is about me, as a football coach, seeing a responsibility to manage people’s dreams. For many people, football is the only thing they have and there I see an extra great responsibility. Everything I do in my life, in all aspects, is about that with dreams. Everything is tied together for me. It is also why I wake up every morning and feel happy that I will have another day. Another day that feels meaningful. It may sound scary, but that’s exactly how I feel. I suppose the child in me refuses to die. Or as Paulo Coelho once wrote in the Alchemist; “What makes life exciting is the opportunity to realize a dream“.

This picture that you can see on the beginning of theis post was taken during a study visit during this Christmas. Thanks to friendly colleagues, I got the opportunity to get a guided tour around the Emirates Stadium. Then they wanted to take a picture of me from the coach bench, which you can see the result of above. When I saw the result, I said this:

“It will be fun to compare this picture with the one we take in thirty years”

“Huh, what do you mean?”

“Yes, when I come back”

“What?”

“Yes, either as a home or away coach. Which of them settles. But back I shall ”

First, they both laughed hysterically. Then they saw that I was serious.

“You’re really not joking, are you? You’re dead serious!”

I shook my head.

Frankly, it should be fun to compare this picture in thirty years. It’s my goal, my dream. It must sound childish, completely ravenous and, not least, totally unrealistic, but I am not like others either. You may like to call me naive when it comes to such things, stupid even and in some cases quite devilly stupid in the head, but that is my view of life. That’s how I look at life. And I rather die with Dreams inside the chest than to live a life that feels meaningless.

It is only we who are really0 are so stupid that we believe that we will change the world that will actually change it for real. Because we do not see the boundaries, not the limitations. That does not mean that we are not reasonable. The approach must be realistic, the methods must be reasonable. But the goals? They should always be bigger than life itself.

Let children dream. Let them dream big. And then do the same for yourself. It’s not your right, it is your obligation. Just because you are 34, 57 or 69 doesn’t mean that life is over. It just means that you have a chance to start living in a meaningful way, which you feel makes sense. Be hungry for life. The best time to start doing something is always now.

Continue to dream. That’s what makes you human.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I am back

2018-12-21

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It is finally official – I am back as head coach for a football / soccer team.

This time, after more than two years break from regular club football, I will coach Backatorp IF’s Men’s Team, who plays in the eight tier of the swedish football league system.

It has not been a secret to anyone that I wanted to get back to the pitch. But the timing regarding moving to a new city (Borås), family and a new job hasn’t been right until now. To my delight (but not suprise, mind you), I have had my fair share of offers. It has been flattering, but finally I decided to join Backatorp IF.

There are three reasons for this. First and most important of all was that they offered me the best solution since I am a single dad. I had some opportunities to represent clubs higher up in the league system, but they didn’t fully understand my family situation. My son is only 2,5 years old and needs his father, as much as I want to be with him. Backatorp IF understands this and are also a serious club on many levels.

The second reason is that they have something good going on. They have some talented young players (between 16-17 years old) that wants to develop their skills on the pitch. Something I gladly would like to do and mix this youth players with the more experienced ones.

Finally, Backatorp IF has their home on Hisingen. As some of you know, I have a sweet spot for this island. I regard it as my real home and someday I will move back there. In the meantime, I will coach BIF to glory.

That’s not a bad way to kill time.

A few days ago I listened to the excellent Swedish podcast 3-5-2 where Malmö FF: s assistant coach Andreas Georgsson was a guest.

An interesting interview, in my book, is about daring to go into the depths of a subject, although it may not be the most easily digested. Too often, it will just be superficial interviews, especially when football / soccer is the subject. The advantage of podcasts is that there is an opportunity for us listeners to hear a coach or player to speak to the point and develop their entire thinking. If it’s good interview questions, it’s usually good for quality, which the podcast leaders in 3-5-2 should have all the praise for in this matter.

One of the most interesting topics was the question about a player’s development. The interviewer spoke among other things about player loans, but Georgsson turned this question appropriately. Why would it not be more evolving to practice daily with high-caliber players in a high-level A team than being loaned to a club lower down in the league system?

Of course, one does not have to rule out the other, but it was still an interesting point that the good Georgsson shared. Young players today are often in a hurry to get into an A team. That is not always a good thing.

If they do not succeed, they look for an opportunity to go on a loan or being sold to get the chance to play. Not rarely is this player a person who has sprung through the academies throughout his / her career and when they get to know the real senior football they get frustrated because everything is not going on like before. Their first adversity.

Obviously, there is a limit for how long a player only should practive with an A-team before they actually get playing time, but as long as development goes right, that player will get the chance sooner or later. Undoubtedly, this is an interesting subject, because there seem to be few answers, although many sofa experts would like to make sure there are obvious ones.

Take Swedish Albin Ekdal as an example. He was 19 years old when Juventus bought him for the Brommapojkarna. It is easy to point out that the step was too big for him, especially when he only played three matches in the black and white dress, but Ekdal has in several interviews afterwards said it was a good career step. He was given the opportunity to move to a new country, learn a new language, train with some of the best players in the world on a daily basis and take responsibility for himself before finally moving on. Today, he is given in a Swedish national team, which this summer went to the quarter finals in the world cup and, in addition, lead to a move to Sampdoria. Quite OK, ey?

It was right for Ekdal, for others it may be right to stay, fight for a place in an A team and then take the next step. For others, it is going on a loan or moving on. But what is important to understand, as Georgsson himself says, is that this is a complex issue. There are no templates to go for that are easy to follow, but everything must be judged based on an overall perspective for each individual. What is right for a person is not necessarily right for another.

For young players it is important to have patience and to deal with people who can give wise advice. Not to do a career at the fastest possible time. Football is not a dog race, it’s a marathon.

My life purpose

2018-11-05

I was going to use this blog post to be a little personal. Not because I usually am a person who distances me from my audience, but maybe now it’s time to write about something else than just football / soccer.

This time, I will write about life.

As some of you know, my past year has been a little of a life crisis. I have gone through a divorce, sold a house, moved with my son, who is two and a half years old, to a whole new city where I do not know anyone. In addition, I have not had a lot of time to do what I love the most – Football.

In the meantime, I have often asked myself – Who am I? What is the meaning of everything? Why did I even go out of bed this morning?

Luckily enough, I honestly feel great now, which is also why I can write these things in a public blog. I feel better than I have had for a very long time. I have moved to a lovely apartment in an area I like. I enjoy my new job, both with the duties and my colleagues (a nice company with good values and an awesome boss does not make things worse). My son has started his new preschool and me and the boy’s mother have a fine relationship where we have a good dialogue. We are still friends and have some good memories together which I always will cherish, and she is of course a great mother for our son. I think we both feel much better now than we did before everything happened, which for me is a sign that this was the right way to go for both of us.

Nevertheless, that existential thought has plagued me during the year. Without my football, which for so long defined who I am and what I want to do, the meaning of life has been questioned in many ways. I have tried to find my purpose in many other things. Like my job, my family, my friends, women, training and so on. I will not say that I was into depression because people tend to use that word to often in situations where it is not applicable, but I have had my fair share of sleepless nights. 

Something has been missing.

At the end of the summer, I met a friend who was worried for me, even though everything went well for me at that point. I replied that I missed football, it felt like some of my DNA was gone. He finally asked me why it was so important for me with football. I replied that I miss the match pulse, the adrenaline that goes out in the veins when it becomes a penalty kick, the audience’s cheers … And there he stopped me.

“I asked you WHY you miss football, not WHAT you miss,” he said.
“Why do you miss football so much, Johan?”

I was thinking for a while, I understood that I could not only answer something cliché here. Still, I was surprised by the words that came out. It felt like I was talking in tongues.

“Because I want to make people dream and make them dream big”

My friend broke up in a smile before clapping me on my shoulder. “There you have your life’s purpose, that’s why you’re here, you’re going to make people dream. That’s why you want to come back. That’s why you’re coming back”

I should not say that it was a religious experience, but somewhere here I began to understand what the meaning of my life was. It’s so easy to talk about three points, winning games, getting the honor, but all that really does not matter. For me, sports in general and football in particular have always been about dreaming. It is an arena where David can beat Goliath. Where the impossible can be possible.

We who works with football do not do this because we are realists. Then there would have been thousands of other jobs we could have chosen from. We do this because we are dreamers and because we dream of doing big things. For my part, it’s about getting people to believe in things that are bigger than themselves. To make people leave their boring everyday lives and be part of a broader context. Perhaps their local football team is the only thing they have in life. Perhaps it’s about getting people to gather around something. To see people do things together, even though they have different backgrounds. Perhaps it’s about getting a group of people to play together to accomplish great things as a solid unit.

I, as a football coach, has a big responsibility. I want to make people dream and dream big. I want to show them that everything is possible, that in spite of untrue conditions, faith can move mountains. I want to inspire them to great things.

It’s also a homework I want to teach my son. No one shall tell him what he can or can not do. He will have a dream, just like all other children will. I want him to chase his dreams. Just what I think we all people should do. We have too much realism and too little dreams in this world. Without dreams and visions, the world is going nowhere. That is not a place I want to live in. We need more dreamers, not less of them.

Håkan Hellström, a famous Swedish artist, sang once “sometimes, a dream is the finest thing you have” . He could not have more right, dear Håkan. Hopefully, this blog can make some of you to dream. Because dreaming is the most beautiful thing you can do. That is what makes us humans.

So I apologize if I do not update this blog as often as I would have to do. It’s just that I’m busy making people dream and make them dream big.

That’s my life purpose.

I read somewhere that a regular wage earner on average gets fired once per lifetime. Some never gets fired, others several times, but the average is once per person and lifetime. Within football, this number is definitely a low one. In particular, at higher levels, it is more common to have a couple of severance pay in their back pocket.

It is not rare to hear people say that the football / soccer world has become too cynical. Everything is about results and when they are not enough, a coach gets fired (let’s face it, it’s easier and cheaper to kick a coach than a whole team). Sometimes the results are not enough. Ask Fabio Capello who was fired from Real Madrid despite winning the Spanish league. The reason? They played dull football, the board said.

Now, when coach icons like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have put the bag on the shelf, it has in some way become a kind of pink skimmer of the times that has gone by. That it was better before when coaches actually got the chance and the clubs dared to invest in them in the long run. Note that it took a while before Sir Alex actually started winning titles. It is not rarely described that Manchester United’s patience and belief in long-term and continuity were crucial to laying the foundations for the success that would later symbolize the club.

Of course, it’s not hard to dream back to these times, not at least for us coaches. We would like to keep our jobs by writing long contracts and then praying and asking for patience. At the same time, I can not help thinking we have become a bit too nostalgic here. That football + continuity does not always lead to success. Wenger, who certainly had a couple of really good seasons, can anyone honestly say he has been succesful in recent years?

Misunderstand me right here. I think of course everyone should get a chance to do their job. My coach god, Brian Clough, got 44 days in Leeds United before he got sacked. Obviously, it was a strange employment and nothing I recommend, but what says that long-term always leads to success?

I recently read an article about AC Milan, describing their recent majesty era in the mid-2000s. When they won the Champions League in 007, the players were Paolo Maldini, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf. Then, the explanation for the success was the club’s continuity, that these experienced players stood for stability and long-term. When they left the same tournament less than a year later against Arsenal, the excuse was that Milan had not renewed. This despite the fact that it was basically the same team that as less than a year earlier lifted the same cup. What was previously shouted was now what was criticized. Can not make up your mind, eh? 

This issue becomes extra important at the lower levels of football. Not rarely, the squads changes radically from year to year. The core of the group usually consists, but in Sweden, in many cases it is a whole new team that will be gathered in January versus January the year before. Some players move, others test the wings in a new club, a third will have children, a fourth will study and so on. Trying to work on the same methods as the year before, despite the fact that the group is basically completely changed, would be a sort of suicide mission.

Even at higher levels, this is a problem. Attractive players move to larger clubs, the bad ones got sold or the contract expires, long-term injuries forces the club to panic signings. And then the coach is there with a whole new group of players. Then it’s not easy to be long-term.

My point here is that this thing with long term is certainly a good thing, but also a kind of football utopia. Why do we dream of something that is impossible to get? Of course, we will not make changes just because we can, but I think the key to being successful as a football coach is rather about daring to innovate, finding new approaches and always wanting to develop. Wenger ran on with the same old ideas year after year, finally the reality caught him. Just as it now seems to make for José Mourinho.

Sir Alex is an interesting example. Although he lasted for a long time, he dared to constantly develop his ideas and methods. United really did not play the same from when he took over to what he left. He also had no problems eliminating players who no longer delivered. In most cases, coaches usually become nostalgic and refuse to abandon a winning concept, but not Ferguson. It honors him and shows somewhere that long-term is not a worthy goal in itself. It is rather about developing.

Somewhere, I believe that long-term and continuity are needed to some extent, but there is a limit to it. Development is much more important than continuity. Otherwise, we stagnate as a coaches and get worse, or others get better. Where this limit is, I do not know. Expecting large-scale works during a season may be too demanding, but adhering to the same method when no major results or improvements have been seen in 4-5 years may be dumbfounded.

I am tired of talking about long-term.
Let’s talk about development instead, shall we?

It was a good while since I wrote something here last. It almost feels like it was the last World Cup final, but that is of course not the case. Now, my work situation are manageable and I hope to be able to write more here on my official website.

As many of you know, I do not have any coach assignment at the moment, but I will take a new one in 2019. I want to go back to senior level in general and men’s teams in particular, mainly because I want to coach players at the highest possible level of football / soccer. I am currently living in the Sjuhärad area of Sweden, which is where I’m looking for a job. Until then, I will be a guest coach for a couple of clubs within the country’s borders when time is right between work, family and some other stuff. If your club is interested, please feel free to contact me, see my contact page for this!
It is well known that the World Cup is in full swing. As always, I think the tournament is a party, but of course there are things that bother me enough to write a blog post. One of these annoyances is VAR, or Video Assistant Referee, as it is also called. This phenomenon has already been ruled out by media and fans and that for some good reasons.

Unexpectedly, I was positive about VAR. The referees have an difficult task out there on the pitch and are expected to have an eagle’s vision on things that go far beyond their field of view. Of course, reviews should give them good opportunities to make justice?

Unfortunately, there have been childhood diseases that need to be addressed. The big Achilles heel is not, I think, that the games are falling in flow and pace, because I think that has been non-existent. Rather, it seems to me that decisions taken after these reviews are often wrong.

Despite the possibility of video reviews, a great deal of penalty kicks has been missed and despite the possibility there are also penalty kicks that should not have been taken in the first place, much because everything seems way worse in slow motion. Since it also is an assessment question, it is far from simple, even though these reviews exist.

In my book we shall allow the referee to have integrity intact. As it is now, we have referees that act as cowards, who do not dare to blow because VAR will make them look stupid. This is not a sustainable situation.

My suggestion is that VAR remains, but is used in situations where subjective judgment is not needed. For example, to determine if a ball is over the goal line or not (goal camera) or to judge if it is offside or not. These rules are clear and need no closer subjective judgment, in any case not the same as penalty kicks do.

I think there are other things that are more important than VAR, such as effective playing time, time out breaks for the coaches and the like.

But maybe in the future, all is well…