Dutch newspaper Volkskrant article about Simon Kjær
News · 22 November 2022

Dutch newspaper Volkskrant article about Simon Kjær

On 22 November 2022 Dutch newspaper Volkskrant published an article about Simon Kjær and his Danish hometown Lund, where he grew up. Read the full English translation below.

Simon Kjær, the undisputed captain of Danes, always wants to be the best

Simon Kjær was not a great talent with the clubs at the start of his career. Through hard work, the Dane developed into a leader, the tournament starts for him against Tunisia on Tuesday.

In the Danish village of Lund you don't have to go far to see a match shirt of the national captain Simon Kjær. In the supermarket, nine hang in the entrance hall, above the tulip rack and the container with onions, courgettes and lettuce. One for each club where Lund's most famous son has played - and a bright red one from the national team. "Received with great pleasure and pride from our local football hero," it says, next to a photo of Kjær and the supermarket owner.

The same shirts adorn the walls of the football canteen of Lund IF, the club where the central defender started playing football at the age of four. “He always sends one,” says Mads Busk Larsen, 37, an active member of the club, as he helps his three-year-old son change for training. At the bar behind him they sell typical football canteen food: fries and toasted sandwiches.

Of course they are proud of the achievements of their club hero here. The website opens with a picture of Kjær signing a shirt on the day of the Simon Kjær Cup. Under his sweater, Larsen wears a gray T-shirt with Kjær's image and the text: 'Part of us'.

Worldwide respect
The admiration does not only have to do with the football performance of Kjær, who was active at clubs such as Wolfsburg, Sevilla and now AC Milan. Kjær earned worldwide respect last year for the way he reacted when teammate Christian Eriksen went into cardiac arrest during a match at the European Championship. Kjær sprinted over to Eriksen and tilted his head to clear the airway and keep him from swallowing his tongue.

Then, under his leadership, the players formed a circle around Eriksen so that the team doctors could do their job undisturbed. He later comforted Eriksen's devastated husband. In the following weeks, Kjær led his team to the semi-finals. The actions of the captain and the doctors were regarded by experts as an example of how to act in the event of a cardiac arrest. Kjær and the medical team were honored by the FIFA football association. Eriksen recovered and returned to the national team seven months ago. Both he and Kjær will probably be in the starting line-up for the match against Tunisia on Tuesday. Kjær, just back from injury, is the undisputed captain.

It all reflects a bit on Lund, the small village of three thousand inhabitants in Central Jutland, near the medium-sized town of Horsens. Families often move from this city to Lund because of its small-scale character, says product designer and entrepreneur Larsen, who has three children. The village has grown considerably in the last ten years. “When Simon played here, the club was much smaller. There was one clubhouse, built by volunteers. There were about 150 children playing football, now there are 250.'

New artificial turf field
The terrain has also been expanded considerably. For example, in addition to a new artificial turf field, a complex with two halls was built, where other sports are also practiced, such as handball - the other major sport in Denmark.

Kjær often played football on the club grounds in his spare time, says his youth coach Johannes Poulsen, who puts his mountain bike in his shed a little further on. “But he also often played with the ball in front of the house, a few blocks from here. Actually, he was always playing football.” Poulsen trained Simon from the age of six, together with his father Jørn Kjær, who was a team manager in professional football. “From day one he wanted to be the best. He was full of football and knew he didn't want to do anything but that. You also saw that at school, he wasn't very good at that', says Poulsen. According to Poulsen, Kjær was not a super talent, but you could see that he was good. "We sometimes gave him an extra challenge, because he sometimes had it too easy."

In 2000, when Kjær was 11 years old, Lund IF and AC Horsens, the nearby club that played in the Danish premier league, started a partnership. Talents could train in Horsens for a while to see if they were good enough. So is Kjær. "He trained a lot there, but they didn't want to offer him a contract, he wasn't good enough for them."

Doubt about qualities
Four years later, Simon's father got a job at FC Midtjylland, one of the biggest clubs in Denmark. There they had just started a small youth academy in 2004. Jørn Kjær asked if there was a place for his son. Although the club had doubts about his qualities and the football school was already full, the 15-year-old Kjær added at the last minute. Poulsen: 'They didn't think he would go far, that was clear. But Simon worked hard and developed very well.” Poulsen cannot remember having a leading role as a youth player. "He developed that later. When I coached him, he was just a child.' At FC Midtjylland they did notice his captaincy at the time. "Kjær describes himself as a headstrong player with good leadership skills - he always takes charge," said a 2006 report on the club's website.

At the age of 17, two years after joining the club, Kjær made his senior squad debut and became a youth international. In 2008 he makes his first transfer, to the Italian Palermo. It was the start of a successful, but also restless career in which Kjær wore out no fewer than seven different clubs.

Through all those transfers, Kjær is still doing his old club in Lund a service. According to FIFA rules, clubs where football players have been trained from the age of twelve are entitled to a (small) part of the transfer fee. Lund IF therefore receives about 1 percent of the transfer amount with every transfer. So when Kjær was bought by Sevilla for 12.5 million in 2017, about 125 thousand euros flowed into the club's coffers.

Luxury problem
With this, Kjær saddles the club with a luxury problem. “We just don't know what to do with the money,” says Larsen, who was previously a youth coordinator. The club used part of the money for a small artificial turf training pitch - the Simon Kjær field. And last year the club treated three hundred members to a visit to the match Denmark - France (2-0), paid with transfer money. The club did not have to spend much more large amounts, because the new sports hall fell under the municipal budget.

Don't start about that at the AC Horsens club, Larsen knows. Because he only trained there but was never registered, that club receives no money. “We have sometimes given them something out of solidarity,” says Larsen with a smile.

Kjær's parents have since moved and the defender is not often in Lund anymore. He sometimes comes to special events, such as the tournament named after him. Otherwise, he sends a video message, says Larsen. "Since he has children of his own, he shows more warmth for his old club. He now seems more aware of where he comes from.”

Many thanks to author Jeroen Visser for providing several additional photos.

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