On Monday I had the absolute pleasure of an interview with football manager Sven Goran Eriksson.
First of all Sven thank you so much for the interview, it’s a real privilege. Q: You started your management career in your homeland Sweden, had you always planned to go in to management?
A: I came in to my management as Tord Grip randomly asked me to be his assistant manager (at Degerfors IF) of course I took the job and thats where it started.
Q: You led IFK Goteberg to the European cup, becoming the first Swedish team to win the competition, how proud did that make you?
A: It was very very big at that time, the first time a Swedish team and still now the only Swedish team to win a European title. Of course it was very big, it was very surprising. It was also the ticket for me to leave Sweden and go abroad to be a coach.
Q: Speaking of managing abroad you’ve had success all over the world and in particular in Italy, which would you say is your favourite spell in Italy?
A: No doubt, Lazio. We had a fantastic team, a fantastic club and three and a half beautiful years.
Q: After you left Lazio you managed England. How did you find the reaction to be becoming England manager?
A: I guess some of the press they didn’t like the idea of having a foreign manager. I think after a while, most of them accepted it and enjoyed it and suffered it as well depending on the results. The fact I was a foreign manager after a while was not the big issue any more.
Q: Your career has taken you around the world and to three teams in China. How did you find your first spell in China at Guangzhou R&F?
A: I came in during the middle of the season and the team was not doing very well. First of all I liked it, it’s a new country, I liked the city, I liked the team and the club were very fair to me. I came in and we played in a good way and during the season I think we became better but during my second season I think we were great.
Q: You took them to the Asian Champions League for the first time, that must have been amazing?
A: Yeah for sure. It was a huge achievement for the club.
Q: After you left Guangzhou you went to SIPG, you led them to the Champions League as well even reaching the quarter finals. You’ve managed in competitions in Europe and China, what makes qualifying for these competitions so important?
A: You know that football in China of course is old but football in China has never been that popular. One of the reasons for that is that the grassroots football in China has never been big, not big at all its been very very small. With all these transfers of coaches and in particular players has raised interest in China amongst the fans in the short term and will continue to do so in the long term. Today in Chinese schools, they play football and I have said it and i’ll say it to you China will be a super power in world football.
Q: Do you still keep an eye on Chinese football?
A: Yes of course, the new league has just started and I have kept an eye on all of it. I really believe that China in 15 years will be a super power.
Q: Why 15 years?
A: You have to wait for the youngest generation because if you play football in every school in China which they are now, that means that every girl and every boy will be playing football. How many great talents will you find? Its also important to know one thing about China. China is famous in many many things and great in many things and when China decides to do something, they do it.
Q: Thats a great point, they have a huge pool to choose from.
A: Yes, these young people now are 8,10 or 12 years old it will take some time to find the talent but it will happen for sure.
Q: Going back to foreign signings, now with the rule meaning clubs pay the same in tax the CFA are doing the right thing?
A: I think all of this has been very important for Chinese football but I think the most important thing for Chinese football and its future is that everyone plays football, every boy and girl.
Q: You’ve managed Shenzhen in league one as well as the two sides in the CSL, how do you compare the two leagues?
A: Well, its quite different. I was at two very good clubs in the Super League and they are run almost like European sides. When you’re going one division lower its different. The pitches, the stadiums you’re going to playing away are not that good. I felt that I took a rather big step backward when I went to Shenzhen. It might have been a mistake on my part but I have tried it now.
Q: How did you find the travelling for away games?
A: Well if you didn’t know before that China is big then you realise when you arrive there especially when you’re at Shenzhen because you have a lot of games in the north.
Q: You speak with a real passion for Chinese football, why is that? I’m in a small minority in this country that can see more to Chinese football than just the money, explain how you view it.
A: I think if the press in your country if they go back a few years ago they are right but today they are wrong, it is not only about money it is about making Chinese football big. China is top class in many sports around the world so that’s what they want to achieve also in football, they will invest a lot of money in coaches, players, pitches and grassroots football. This has nothing to do with buying players like Hulk for so much money, it’s totally different. The real work is done at the schools or by the FA. This will all make Chinese football great i’m sure and i’m sure China will not change direction on this. China is big, China is big in everything and they want to be big in football as well.
Q: The Chinese football project is obviously something you’re passionate about?
A: Of course I’m proud to be have played such a big part in it and to have helped build the football for the future.
Q: Shanghai SIPG have progressed even further in the last couple of years, how do you view that?
A: SIPG is a young club and the strategy when I went there was very clear, this is a young club but we want to win as quickly as possible. Overall though it is a very long project but they will create one of the biggest clubs in China. They have a very good team and Evergrande or SIPG will win the league this year, no doubt.
Q: Do you see yourself managing in China again?
A: Oh good question! If something interesting comes up why not? I would not say no, I was happy there for four years so yeah, we’ll see. China is a nice place to live, absolutely.
Thank you once again to Sven for this interview, please leave any thoughts in the comments below!