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.

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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.

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…

Status of the blog

2017-08-08

Hello and welcome to my website!

As you probably have noticed, it has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. This does not mean that I am dead (thanks anyway for asking), but as you might have suspected, I have too little time to maintain this website on a weekly basis.

At the moment, I am on a parental leave, which of course is a lot of fun but also takes time from coaching and writing.

All of this together takes a lot of my time, which means that I for the moment will update this website less often than I am used to do. I have also taken a temporarily break from my Key Instructor role at Gothenburg Football Association and my expert & blogger-role at Futsalmagasinet.

This does not mean that I have ended those roles, it only means that I have taken a break until I have got more time on my hands. Hope you understand and respect that. If I get more time than I expect during this fall and winter, I will of course write here more often.

Meanwhile, you can still get in touch with me via e-mail at hello@johansolinger.com

See you all soon!

Do not be suprised if you will see me on a picth close to you very soon…

A few days ago, I wrote a post at Futsalmagasinet, Sweden’s largest portal for futsal news, about the issues that arise when we educate coaches and players in futsal.

This text has been shared by many people and can be read here for those who are interested: http://www.futsalmagasinet.se/2017/06/14/futsalen-har-en-daddy-issue/

My headline in the text is that we often sell in how futsal could provide football players and coaches in their development. The problem with this kind of sales is that it will be a one-sided story and that futsal will be seen as a tool for creating better football players. That the sport would have its own value seems to be non-existent.

This is noticeable in much of the material coming from both FIFA and UEFA. It’s not uncommon with quotes like this from pro players: “thanks to futsal, I became the world player I’m today”. Of course fun for them, but would you imagine the reverse? “If I had not played football I would never have been a successful futsal player.” An stupid opinion for many, which further proves that the futsal for many people is just considered to be a tool for creating football players, not an own sport. This prevents the development of futsal on both long and short term.

Some time ago, I received additional water on my mill when I read UEFA Direct # 168, a publication that UEFA publishes. In this issue, the focus was on futsal, which you can read about here:

http://www.uefa.org/about-uefa/news/newsid=2476815.html

Of course fun that the futsal is noted, but as you may have understood, there is a con. Several times in the magazine, it is described how futsal is a tool for creating good football players and that it is mainly because of that reason why futsal exists.

Below are a few examples from page 22 of this issue that further strengthen my thesis.

It may seem small of me to remark on these words, but I have a strong belief that words affect how we think and look at things. It is of course very good that UEFA properly gives futsal a lot of space, but it must also be done right. As we use these word choices and formulas to describe futsal, it will be a one-sided story where futsal is subordinate to football. It’s problematic that we describe futsal as a tool to create footballers. Futsal is not a training method to create footballers, it is an own sport.

Misunderstand me correctly here.

I think it’s great that UEFA and FIFA give futsal more attention and of course football players can benefit from training futsal. But that does not mean it’s okay to have educations that puts the emphasis on creating good footballers instead of doing both. Or that we sell in futsal to coaches because it’s a good method of developing football players, instead of pointing out that it’s a sport that some actually prefer instead of football.

A lot of thing is done well and going in the right direction, but many things can still be better.

No matter what many consider, futsal is a sport of its own, with its own rules and tactics. It is a sport that has many similarities to football, but also many differences that are important to pay attention to. Above all, it is important to make no valuation in any of those preferred from federal associations because UEFA and FIFA represent both football and futsal. Football is not futsal’s father, they are siblings who can coexist and learn from each other. That is my definite view.

Some children do not dream of becoming a new Ronaldo, some want to be the new Ricardinho.

Let them have a dream of being that without adding value to it.

Here I am, for the first time as a Key Instructor for Gothenburg Football Association.

As many of you know if, I have no Head Coaching duties this season. For the moment I am on parental leave, which of course is both fantastic and fun. What happens next season, I do not know yet, and I must admit that it begins to itch in the fingers and that I would like take over a team sometime in the future. But until then, I try to combine my maternity leave with a couple of minor tasks and some of them I intend to present for you now with this blog post.

It is no secret that I have been thrilled with the sport futsal. Last winter, I made the coaching course on the matter and in January I had the opportunity to utilize my skills when I was asked to be an expert commentator for a game in the Swedish top flight for men. After this, the carousel has rolled up properly and after awhile I was asked to be an expert for Futsalmagasinet, Sweden’s largest portal about futsal. There, I write a blog which is focused on coaching. I write about tactics, training schedules, game philosophy, leadership and a lot of other subjects that is about coaching.

This blog is in Swedish and can be found at this address:
http://www.futsalmagasinet.se/category/blogg/taktiktavlan/

I’ve been asked if I would be interested in taking over a team in futsal, which I must admit is interesting. Futsal is an interesting sport in many ways, and has great potential, not at least here in Sweden. I’ve actually had a few inquiries, but nothing that feels really hot so far. It is required that there is a sufficiently high sporting level and that there is good potential to grow as a club for me to be interested. But I close no doors yet, of course.

I still coach football / soccer though. A while ago, I was asked by the Gothenburg Football Association to become a Key Instructor. A mission that means that I coach at talent training sessions (what is now meant by the word “talent” is an entirely different discussion, but more on that matter eventually) and raises the educational level of both players and leaders in the Gothenburg area. Obviously a very flattering mission which in any case at the moment does not take much of my time, which fits perfectly with my obligations as a parent and an expert at Futsalmagasinet.

Yesterday was my first day as a Key Instructor, one day that actually offered sun and a lot of fun memories. Some brief reflections on my part is that it was incredibly fun to get back to the training ground. I’ve been missing it for almost half a year. It was also nice to know that I still can coach with high energy and commitment, although of course it goes down a little after a day out on the pitch. After all, we coached hundreds of players for nearly five hours, you get tired after that.

Other reflections I did after my first day is how important the organization is. As I said, hundred of player trained at Heden and then you need to have the logistics to work so that the training does not suffer. Another factor that is important is to be studious as coach. I am thinking primarily of the coaching process. It is striking to me that many of the prejudices I have unfortunately was confirmed when many young players feel it is important to do things quickly rather than to do them right. Several times yesterday, I noticed players who several times tried to rushed to do things quickly, but instead of doing it right it becomes wrong. There is a difficult balance here for a coach.

Should I look the other way and praise when it’s right, or point out the shortcomings and try to get them to do the right things?

For my part, it becomes clear that there is no point in doing things quickly if it is wrong, so I’m more for the way to do it slowly and properly. Then it is easier to increase the speed and difficulty. It’s not about cutting players, it is about giving them the right tools to succeed so they can be as good as they can be.

Are you starting to cut corners with the simple things, then what will happen when you do difficult things? No, it’s better to do it properly from the start. Of course, you make a difference between what is important or not, but basically everything must be done properly – From hitting a pass on the right foot to pick up the balls after a shot exercise.

Proper behavior creates winners, that is what I think. But more on that subject in another blog post for the future…

Another thing that struck me is that the skill level of young players is incredibly different. Another may have come incredibly far in his / her development, another lie far behind. It is a challenge to adapt the training session so that everyone gets something out of it. But the important thing is not always trying to do things to the maximum, but optimally. A setting that I think you will get far with.


In addition to this, it was a brilliant day that I will remember for a long time.
It will be interesting to see how it unfolds as I get warmed up, but right now it’s a good feeling.

Although of course I miss being a Head Coach, it is not bad to be a futsal expert and a key instructor in anticipation of something good.

Is this how a good coach looks like?

Is this how a good coach looks like?

A few days ago I received a question that I still do not know how to answer. It was an old player I had in a previous team, which now is a student of the new football / soccer coach education, who wondered “what is a good coach”. Despite my years as a coach, I have to admit that the question caught me off guard.

What is a good coach?
A few years ago I would have been much more sure about the answer.

When I started my career, the answer was plain and simple that “a good coach is a coach who win games”. Rather one-dimensional, I think today, but I thought so then. Then, I thought that football / soccer was only about winning. Today I’m older, maybe not necessarily wiser, but more versed in how complex the issue really is. Above all, I have encountered coaches who I thought were skilled instructors, but they have not always succeeded on the pitch. The same goes the other way, I have met some coaches which I thought was incompetent, yet time and again manages to win games.

Obviously I no longer think that it is enough to win games to be a good coach, but I would still like to throw in a disclaimer. What is a good coach is to some extent a subjective question. Different people respond differently depending on the role one has in this context. A player certainly has a completely different view of the matter than a coach colleague, to take one example.

However, I want to write a nuanced post of what a good coach might be.

Far too often, I end up in discussions where people compare resumes and titles with each other to decide who is a better coach. Is Brian Clough better than Lars Lagerbäck? Clough has won two European Cups, but on the other hand, Lagerbäck made brilliant results with small resources in the national teams as Sweden and Iceland. Clough has never coached a national team, Lagerback has not coached a club team at top flight level. It differs 30-40 years between their two greatest triumphs. Can you even compare them?

These discussions have a tendency to stick to the number of trophies, but is it really just the price cabinet that decides whether you are a good coach or not? Should not conditions, or what level you are on, play a part here? Or what the purpose is of your coaching deed? Is it better to win titles in a team like Manchester City, with virtually endless resources and huge potential, than to remain in division 3 with a team that does not even own their own football / soccer pitch?

Many issues, of course, that creates shade to the main issue. It is not quite as simple that a good coach is a coach who win trophies, there must be other factors as well.

Let’s say we have a coach who works with children. This coach cannot win any Champions League trophies or World Cup-medals. Is it just that the coach should be compared to? Or are there other values? Maybe that many children continue with their football / soccer well into the adulthood, or that the children learn something new about football / soccer on the next training session?

Play with the idea that we compare Pep Guardiola with a football / soccer coach for children aged 6-9 years. Although both have the same title on their business cards (football / soccer coach), it is in many aspects different jobs. The other one coaches elite players at the highest top level, the other one coaches toddlers at the grassroots level. You cannot compare them. But both can still be good football / soccer coaches.

I read a study a few years ago on what the adult players wanted from their coach. It was all kinds of possible options they could answer. A tactical genius. A good educator. And so on. However, what stood out was that the most important characteristic was that the coach would be socially competent. It was by far the most important point. On a good second place, but still far from the first, was that the coach should possess football / soccer knowledge.

To be “socially competent” or “possess football / soccer knowledge” is a very vague concept, but it’s still interesting answers, although the survey was not very scientific and is a few years old. But somehow it testifies that there is not a clear answer to the question of what a good coach is.

For me, the leadership philosophy is important here (you can read mine here on my website), a document that I think all serious coaches should write. A text describing what you think is a good leader, an idol image after how I should act in my role as a coach. It is obviously extremely personal, but then you at least have a map and compass of what you think is a good coach.

So, after all this waffle – What is a good coach?

My answer is that there are probably as many answers to that question as there are people on earth. So it is very subjective. Some want a socially competent coach, others want a clear instructor while someone wants a tactician.

But one thing I want you to take with you after reading this post – When you compare coaches, define first what you think is a good coach. And understand that the issue is much more complex than to simply discuss the size of the prize cabinet.