Welcome to a continuation on the regular series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are fans of football, a number of questions to get to know them better! The majority of the questions will differ for each person, but the final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI providing they give a reason for their inclusion!
The twenty-ninth instalment of the series is with the Nordic Football Podcast, a regular podcast that discusses all the news, headlines, results and fixtures from both the Norwegian Eliteserien and the Swedish Allsvenskan. Presented by the knowledgeable duo of Steve Wyss and Jonathan Fadugba, they are two men who certainly know their Nordic football and continuously produce excellent podcasts, as well as often having interviews with some of the biggest names in Norwegian and Swedish football also!
I spoke to Steve from the podcast, and wanted to know how the Nordic Football Podcast first came about, the main differences between Swedish and Norwegian football, the players to watch out for coming from the Allsvenskan and Eliteserien, as well as Sweden and Norway’s potential chances in the forthcoming European Championships. Finally, I wanted to know their all-time, favourite eleven players.
Q. Thank you very much for taking part in Starting XI! Firstly, how did your excellent “Nordic Football Podcast” all come about and first get started?
Myself and co-host Jonathan Fadugba had worked together on projects before, mostly on other leagues such as French Football. I had personally always been an avid follower of Norwegian football since the mid 2000s whilst Jonathan kept a keen eye on the Swedish game. At that current time he was living out in Sweden and it just made sense to combine our knowledge and start up a podcast to talk about leagues we really enjoy!
Q. The pod has done a number of excellent interviews with people involved in Nordic football. What has been your favourite interview so far, and who would you like to interview in the near future?
I really enjoyed talking with utility player Amin Askar (now at Kristiansund) who was great fun and another interesting guest was Molde striker Leke James. We have had a number of great managers and coaches on the show. Special shout out to Shaun Constable who is now head coach at Swedish club Brommapojkarna and has joined us on multiple occasions. In the future we are open to any guests really, sometimes it’s the lesser names who can be unexpectedly good. Of course, it would be great to get someone like Zlatan Ibrahimović on for an appearance though!
Q. Are there any particular or notable differences between games played in Norway and Sweden? E.g. The atmosphere, the supporters, etc.
The Swedish Allsvenskan is better supported in terms of attendances. In 2019 the difference was 2.10 million spectators as opposed to 1.30 million in Norway. Having bigger stadiums helps the cause. The rivalries in Sweden are more intense too, not least in Stockholm where there is great hatred amongst the three main teams AIK, Djurgården & Hammarby. The Swedish league is arguably of better technical quality, slightly less physical and more pleasing on the eye.
[NOTE: You can read about my initial delves into the Swedish Allsvenskan HERE and the Norwegian Eliteserien HERE]
Q. What has been the best game you have watched since you started the pod? Is there any particular game you would like to see in the future?
I can’t really call it one specific game but the last round of the 2019 Allsvenskan season was totally wild! Three teams all had a genuine chance to claim the title in what was an absorbing nail-biting race for the gold medal. Add into the mixer plenty of drama at the bottom of the table and it was an absolutely mental end to the campaign. There were loads of twists and turns throughout the 90 minutes with Djurgården eventually claiming glory. In the future we always love to see the teams from both leagues go well in Europe, so it would be great if someone drew a massive name in the Champions League or Europa League. To see Norway or Sweden represented in the Champions League group stage again would be fantastic.
Q. Obviously the Nordic countries have produced some excellent players over the years, with Erling Håland being the most recent addition to that list. However which players in the Eliteserien and Allsvenskan should the readers keep an eye on? Who are the next potential big stars from the two countries?
In the Allsvenskan, Östersunds Nigerian striker Jordan Attah Kadiri is worth keeping an eye on. He’s looked razor sharp in pre-season and could really launch himself this year. Over in Norway Chilean striker Niklas Castro tore up the second tier OBOS Ligaen for Aalesund last season and could make an immediate impact at the top level. Could see him getting sold to mainstream Europe as early as the summer transfer window. In terms of an upcoming Norwegian talent, 19 year old Vålerenga goalkeeper Kristoffer Klaesson is a potential star in the making. He has recently been named as the #1 choice for the season and was linked with clubs such as Leeds United back in January.
Q. If any of the readers wanted to venture over to Norway or Sweden for some football, where would you recommend the best places or venues to watch football there?
In Norway if you want to try something totally off the beaten track then a trip to Tromsø, right up inside the Arctic Circle might be interesting. Until their relegation last season they held the record for being the most northerly top flight club in the world. It can be bitterly cold in the winter up there with snow regularly affecting matches. Over in Sweden, Jonathan recommends Gothenburg as both a great city and fantastic place to watch football.
Q. If you could make any changes or improvements to the Eliteserien and Allsvenskan, what would they be and why?
I personally had a major gripe with the scheduling of Norwegian football. In certain years the campaign started in mid/early March which was way too early. Conditions were too cold, pitches in a bad state or even unsafe. It looks like the powers that be have now listened and are including more rounds during the summer. Another interesting point is whether the system of a relegation playoff match is effective. Perhaps just a straightforward 2 up and 2 down, or 3 up and 3 down would be a better solution rather than the added on 2 legged ties at the end of the regular season.
Q. How do you think Sweden will do in their UEFA 2020 Euro group, and do you think Norway can get through the playoffs to join them in the Euros?
Sweden have a knack of surprising people in major tournaments, such as their run to the quarter finals in the 2018 World Cup. It’s hard to see them toppling Spain in their group but you would expect progression in some form. Maybe a trip to the quarter finals would be their ceiling though. Norway have a tough test against Serbia in the playoffs but if they can come through that you would certainly fancy success versus Israel or Scotland. With Erling Braut Håland in sensational form right now who would bet against them?
Q. What are your future plans for the Nordic Football Podcast?
We will continue to provide excellent content throughout the year. It’s important we stay at a consistent and dependable level. The Podcast, in association with Just Football, have a partnership with Wyscout which enables us to dig even deeper into statistical analysis. Look out for more content along that sort of line in 2020.
Q, Finally, who would be in your all-time, favourite XI and the reasons for your picks?
So here goes! I’ve opted for a 4-3-1-2 formation and included a couple of older names and hopefully a good mix of interesting players!
Goalkeeper – Gordon BANKS
World Cup winner and one of the best goalkeepers ever. Growing up and seeing ‘that save’ played over and over again thousands of times always stuck in my mind.
Left back – Roberto CARLOS
The player who pretty much changed the role of a fullback into an offensive juggernaut. Those great runs roaming down the left and fearsome shots which were struck like a cannonball! He was one of the great icons of the Brazilian team around the late 90s/2000s picking up 125 caps for his country. Absolutely loved watching the razzmatazz and excitement this guy produced.
Centre back – Lucas RADEBE
Absolute legend and a colossal figure at the back. Won the 1996 African Nations Cup with South Africa which is always well remembered. Truly inspirational leader and captain. He was one of my favourites at Leeds United in the 90s and perhaps an underrated player in the Premier League era.
Centre back – Rio FERDINAND
Changed the depiction of what an English centre back should be. Great on the ball and elegant with fantastic balance, moving in what could be described as a gliding motion. Definitely one of my favourite defenders to watch, very pleasing on the eye and also a high quality performer.
Right back – Duncan EDWARDS
In the area I live I’m surrounded by mostly Leeds or Manchester United fans. One name that always gets mentioned by the elder contingent is Duncan Edwards. He was tragically killed in the Munich air disaster aged just 21. Sir Bobby Charlton once said he was ‘the best footballer he ever saw’ and could play nearly all positions on the field. I’ve always had a fascination with Edwards and a sense of sorrow in what might have been.
Central midfield – Patrick VIEIRA
Absolute man-mountain powerhouse in the middle of the park. Amazing physical specimen with one hell of an engine and hard as nails. I loved watching Arsenal in that early Wenger era. They played fantastic football. Whilst there were a ton of great players in that period, the Frenchman always stood out to me as the main man and heartbeat of the team. He’s basically my perfect idea of a midfielder.
Central midfield – Paul GASCOIGNE
The best England player I’ve ever seen in my own lifetime. Just a complete footballer in every aspect. So naturally gifted. Passing was second to none, he could score goals – many of them spectacular and of course he was the type of character many of us could associate with. As an England fan, his goal against Scotland in Euro 96 was truly memorable. It simply doesn’t get any better than that really.
Central midfield – Zinedine ZIDANE
World Cup winner and one of the best there’s ever been. Was an absolute privilege watching him in those Juventus and Real Madrid teams. Fantastic swagger and elegance about his game and a technical wizard. Strong dominant character who you wouldn’t mess with either.
Attacking midfield – Jay Jay OKOCHA
I’m including Jay-Jay partly as a tribute to my cost-host Jonathan. I know the Nigerian is one of his favourite players ever! But he should be high up on most people’s list to be honest. Technically amazing with brilliant flair. An incredibly fun and entertaining player to watch and also a great character.
Striker – Tony YEBOAH
Has to be the first name on my teamsheet. Scorer of possibly the two best goals EVER in Premier League history! The Ghanaian didn’t do tap-ins and was absolutely lethal upfront.
Striker – Zlatan IBRAHIMOVIĆ
This is the Nordic Football Podcast favourite XI, right? In that case Zlatan certainly has to be included. I know Jonathan is a huge fan and whilst back in the early days he wasn’t my favourite figure, you can’t argue with his class and quality. Plus, he’s something a bit different isn’t he? Things are never boring with Zlatan around and he’s totally box office. Living Swedish legend, even if he isn’t the most popular with Malmö fans these days…..
A massive thank you to Steve for answering my questions on Norwegian and Swedish football, as well as providing us with the pod’s all-time favourite eleven players. There are some excellent choices in the XI, and that forward line-up is pure power with Tony Yeboah and Zlatan up front – guaranteed scorching strikes from those two, especially if they were being fed by Jay Jay Okocha! Also bonus points for Lucas Radebe – a vastly underrated player!
To find out more about Steve, Jonathan and the Nordic Football Podcast, the links to their podcast, social media accounts, and Patreon (should you wish to support what they are doing) can be found below:
- Podcast: http://nordicfootballpod.libsyn.com/website
- YouTube: Nordic Football YouTube Channel
- Twitter: @nordicfootpod
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nordicfootballpodcast/
- Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/nordicfootballpodcast
To read or catch up on the previous Starting XI episodes, they can all be found at the following link HERE.
If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at email@example.com! It would be good to hear what you think about the series, and what have been your favourite episodes so far!
Finally, I am currently into the third month of doing a charity challenge of staying sober for the entirety of 2020! It’s not easy but I am hoping to raise a lot of money for the mental health charity, MIND. So if you would like to see how I am progressing in my challenge, or even be kind enough to add a donation, the link is here: