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!

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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.