Kim Kallstrom on ‘the greatest fifteen minutes of my life’

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You have to check out this thread on Reddit, in which user Zhongda transcribes a radio essay from Kim Kallstrom. Thanks Zhongda!

The Swede talks about his brief time at Arsenal, how the loan move came about and was nearly scuppered, and the moment he stepped up to take a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against Wigan.

I look like a boy as I walk across the grass, with the ball under my arm. Well-groomed side-parting, a clean red shirt, white sleeves, and a golden cannon on my breast. I’m a man past thirty years of age, in a boy’s dream. It’s the semifinal of the English FA cup, against Wigan, with 82,000 people on the stands of Wembley Stadium, among which 50,000 root for us.

They are loud and starving fans that hunger for a title. They haven’t won anything for nine years, which is an eternity for a club that is considered one of the greatest in the World. They have the most loyal fans, gooners. By strange and unexpected detours, I’ve ended up at the top club Arsenal, in north London. With straight legs, I bend down and put the ball on the spot.

I throw a quick glance at the keeper. I’ve already decided where to place it. I try not to smile. The moment is here. I’m here – in the middle of the latin motto of the club: Victoria Concordia Crescit. Victory grows through harmony. I can’t help myself but smile slightly. I haven’t even played half an hour for Arsenal. I debuted against Swansea, for eleven minutes, and now I was substituted on in extra time when it was to be decided. Fifteen minutes of a footballer’s life, which changed my story.

“I got a call from my agent, Roger Ljung [World Cup bronze medalist in ’94]. ‘Do you want to be loaned out to a club in the Premier League?” “No.” “Do you want to be loaned out to Arsenal?” “YES!”

It was transfer day and a rumour of a new player had leaked. The training facilities were filled with supporters, journalists and tv was transmitting live. When we arrived at Heathrow, we had to drive to a field and switch cars so that no one would recognise the vehicle. Everyone was nice to me, and I get training clothes and number 29. I was sent to a team physician for the obligatory medical exam.

While the physician is going through the tests, I’m sitting in the cafeteria, drinking a cup of washy English coffee. I’m dressed in the club colours, in the civilian outfit of the professional football player, meaning a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Players pass by on the way to today’s training. I knew a few of them, as they were French, and we small-talk a bit. The physician fetches me, and I’m driven quickly to a hospital for a X-ray exam. Something’s wrong. We return to the training facilities. I’m put in a situation that reminds me of a talent show on tv.

I’m standing in front of a jury, in Arsenal clothes, the cd with my X-ray images, and bad posture. In front of me sits the team physician, the sporting director, and the powerful manager Arsene Wenger, who has run the club with an iron fist and a low-key attitude for almost 20 years. The physician starts speaking. He understands that Arsenal is a big thing for me and that my hopes have been lit, but the back problem is too bad, and he’s sorry. He lays down the facts. There are three cases of vertebral fractures, and I’m out for atleast 4-6 weeks.

I’m shocked – disappointed, but I understood. Against the evidence of the X-ray images, neither boyhood dreams or arguments help. I understand. ‘If you’re injured, you’re injured’, I say, but in truth I was angry as hell. There’s silence in the room. Wenger hasn’t said anything. He hasn’t even looked at his colleagues as they inform me of their logical verdicts. He thinks for himself. I wait for him to say something. He sighs, and says ‘The transfer windows shuts in a few hours. It’s impossible to find a replacement. Either I take you or no one.’

Surprised, the others turn to the big boss. No one knows how he’ll continue, but they know that his words are law. It’s evident that he has not anchored his decision among the rest of the staff. Wenger decides. “You’ll stay, heal, and train. I’ll take you when you’re fit.”

“Now, the next circus starts. I could follow the events in real time, as the media started writing and friends contacted me. In spite of a time difference of four hours, and the Russian football association being closed, the transfer was done. The contract was signed in the last hour. I had left Spartak Moscow when everyone was asleep; I was just gone the next morning. I got a few good luck texts, but other than that, Russia was over for this time.”

“I train like a mad man in England. I’m good at that. One day at the gym, Wenger stops by. When he enters a room, everybody sort of stops, as if they’re waiting for a signal. He has that effect on people. I keep peddling on the exercise bike, as I’m trying to beat a certain time. Wenger is watching with his French, slightly casual, yet serious, gaze. We small-talk and we’re on the right track. I felt like I was building confidence with the leader, without having kicked a ball yet.

After five weeks of hard rehab, and the uncertainty whether my back would be restored, I’m suddenly back on the pitch. It was a long time since the club had won anything, and the British capital is boiling, with the tabloids as directors. We’re favourites against Wigan in the semi-finals, but we only manage to achieve a draw at full-time. The clock ticks, without anyone ending it. I’m sitting on the bench without any personal expectation. There’s seven minutes left and I’m suddenly substituted for an exhausted Aaron Ramsey. The ref blows the whistle.

Now, one of the finalists must be decided by a penalty shootout. A simple and brutal way to end things. Now, understanding of the game, tactics, and physical prowess are meaningless. Now, there is only a confused mess of nerves and chance. Penalty shoot-outs in football crown kings, and always a scapegoat. You must score. All the pressure is on the taker. I hear Wenger shouting in French: “Kim, do you take penalties?” “Yeah, I’d be glad to take one.” “Good. You’re second.” I decide early where to shoot it.

When I walk alone to the spot, in a stadium with three times as many spectators as there are inhabitants of my hometown, Sandviken, I must suppress my smile. It’s a long way to walk across the pitch. I’m relaxed – perhaps happy. I put the ball on the spot. Now, I just have to back up and find the right distance to the ball, run up, and strike the ball hard and high to the left. Just do what I usually do, what I know, and always have done. I’ve done it a thousand times before, and there’s no nervousness.

The keeper goes early, in the opposite direction of where I had decided to put it. When I watch the penalty on Youtube, the feelings return. The calm and the joy, but I’m surprised where the ball ended up. The ball ended up in the lower left corner, opposite of how I remembered it. I had decided to put it high to the left, but I remembered it as I actually put it low to the right.

I’m confused, but the ball ended up in the net. We won the final and we’re praised by over 200,000 supporters on the streets of London. Although my contribution was small in the 120-year history of the club, it was a highlight for me. The greatest fifteen minutes of my life, and it turns out I don’t remember what happened. Where was I in that deciding moment?

Trance, shock, delirium, coma, nervous breakdown, call it whatever you want. The only thing I know for sure is that sports and football are incomprehensible. That’s why we love it. As long as that penalty continues to end up in the net, my experience is true. I’m sure of it.”

And here’s that penalty again.

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AllGunsABlazin

Arsenal legend.

IamaGoober

If you read the whole interview/article its quite interesting to hear him recall how he signed for Arsenal, and how it was totally out of the blue and he was never expecting it. Especially interesting the part when he talks about getting driven to the hospital for the X-ray thinking that all was totally fine, and then he gets the news he has a fracture in his vertebrae, and all of a sudden his dream move could be off, but because there is hardly any time in the window left, Wenger made the call, and decided to keep him.

Its also really interesting to hear him speak about Wenger, and get a tiny insight into how his opinion is held in such high regard around the club.

Cornelius P. Snuffington III
Cornelius P. Snuffington III

Great read. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had a laugh at how the Kallstrom thing played out, but reading this from him puts it in perspective:

“Although my contribution was small in the 120-year history of the club, it was a highlight for me. The greatest fifteen minutes of my life, and it turns out I don’t remember what happened. Where was I in that deciding moment? Trance, shock, delirium, coma, nervous breakdown, call it whatever you want. The only thing I know for sure is that sports and football are incomprehensible. That’s why we love it.”

I’m happy for him that he got that moment.

A Different George
A Different George

I also thought his description of taking the penalty was a really interesting insight into how pressure works. He was calm, confident, everything went perfectly–but it turns out he put the ball in the opposite corner than he intended–and that he remembered. I don’t think I ever missed a penalty in the park on a Sunday. But I never took one at Wembley in front of 80,000 people.

Gandalf
Gandalf

Who ya gonna Kallstrom

KingHenry
KingHenry

All Hail The Kim!

H
H

Greatest 15 minutes of his life was when he won me the European Cup on CM 01/02 from 3-0 down. It’s a crying shame he doesn’t remember it.

Niall Shannon
Niall Shannon

Haha, what happened in that match?

kaius
kaius

you guys are too fucking funny

gammhunn
gammhunn

“I got a call from my agent, Roger Ljung [World Cup bronze medalist in ’94]. ‘Do you want to be loaned out to a club in the Premier League?” “No.” “Do you want to be loaned out to Arsenal?” “YES!”

You just have to love this…

Shim Shallstrom
Shim Shallstrom

I couldn’t imagine taking a penalty in that situation. All the pressure, and weight of expectation would be enough to break ones back…

Juan Cornetto
Juan Cornetto

It seems a bit weird that our second choice penalty taker in an FA Cup semi-final should be decided in the same way that we do it in my 5 a-side team.

haveanicesummer
haveanicesummer

There’s a strong belief among some that confidence in the moment is more important than statistics or observations from training. You just can’t replicate the pressure often enough to really know who you can rely on. I would never have bet on Ozil to miss any of his recent ones because his technique is so amazing. Ask him to pass to a player in those high pressure situations and he’d never miss I honestly believe. Something about the mentality of penalties in high pressure situations is just fundamentally different and harder to predict so player confidence might be as good a measure as any.

Cyprus The Immortal Gooner
Cyprus The Immortal Gooner

First thing that crossed my mind reading this…

Matt
Matt

Great signing, on a par with Chamakh, Sanogo, Santos……

Jagger
Jagger

Great comment, on par with Owen, Merson, Savage…

Neder
Neder

You forgot Murphy…

The demon Seaman
The demon Seaman

Danny Dickhead Mills

Olujedai
Olujedai

How could you manage to be underwhelming?

Karma is de-Bitch-y
Karma is de-Bitch-y

The KIM in the North !!!

Copelandão
Copelandão

Cult hero status

Little Mozart
Little Mozart

That penalty made me so happy. He was so cool despite the enormity of the occasion. I would have liked him to stick around for a full season.

Walcott's left footed curl
Walcott's left footed curl

Him scoring that penalty earned me a beer at Fat Boy’s in Brussels for being a Swede. Cheers, Kongo.

Squiggle
Squiggle

Lovely to read. I was glad when he was signed and he turned out to be a very positive, though brief, addition to the team.

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/excellent-story-picture-kim-kallstrom-consoles-frightened-autistic-boy-before-sweden-v-germany/

Arsene's zip
Arsene's zip

Holy shit, that’s beautiful.

Lord Bendtner
Lord Bendtner

I love how it’s like Wenger knew nothing about him, like “hey can u take a penalty? Have u ever taken one? Could someone go and check in the backroom if we have a jersey for Kurt here.” ‘Uh.. it’s Kim.’

Reality Check
Reality Check

Also that they were so sure of beating Wigan that they didn’t prepare for the possibility of penalties.. say a lot about how we go about our preparations.

Sideshow _bob
Sideshow _bob

Haha this is possibly the best thing I’ve read in a while. It’s like he’s written his movie script ?

steve
steve

Forgot henry, pires and Vieira lol Kim is the man!!! Joking aside I enjoyed his time at the Arsenal

Olujedai
Olujedai

Thank you Blogs for making me smile. Been having a stressful day.

kafka
kafka

I liked Kim Kallstrom.
However, signing an injured player to cover for injuries mid-season. Typical Arsenal, typical Wenger.
I almost feel like the tune is changing slowly, as it does each season. “don’t forget, we have X and Y and Z who did not play today.” “I am surprised by the quality shown in this pre-season game by this youngster who we signed for the future.”
There has been a small added caveat about being in the market for a forward, and same about a defender. Wenger usually does not say this at all. However, it might be a power struggle being played out in the press through passive aggressive messages between Gazidis and Wenger. Or, it might be the two of them working together to create enough ambiguity about things to pursue a common agenda at the end of it. And we know what that agenda is, money in the bank and a poor squad competing for CL places on the pitch.

They act like we are idiots without memories, or maybe they are only catering to the people who decided to take an interest in Arsenal this year.

kafka
kafka

I have to say, he does seem to be suppressing a smile. That’s so endearing, a guy who is in the moment, and is smiling at how big the crowd is and what an occasion it is for him. Truly enjoying life as it happens.
And that little image set with the child with Williams syndrome nearly brought me to tears. There’s so little compassion in the world today.

Gooners & Roses
Gooners & Roses

Yeah, it’s funny to watch the vid after reading the article.

John Stepanovs
John Stepanovs

Last night I gave her the best 15 seconds of her life.

Boris Becker has nothing on me!

santori
santori

A pity we did not get him into the squad ealier in his career.

Thierry Ennui
Thierry Ennui

Shim Shallstrom sounds very erudite for a footballer.

They build things differently in Sweden

Bendtner's Ego
Bendtner's Ego

Key takaway from the article:

If the greatest fifteen minutes of his life is playing for Arsenal, then playing for Arsenal is better than sex.

Can’t say I disagree with him.

Chris O.
Chris O.

Kallstrom was a class player. You could see why Wenger held him in high regard. He’s the sort of guy who’d been an Arsenal legend if he’d signed with us 7 years earlier.

Katy.
Katy.

I remember the smile. I rememberr thinking, he’S trying not to laugh! He seemed so brimming with confidence you knew it had to be a goal. Excellent read. Thanks, Blogs, for taking me back to that moment.

Henrik J.
Henrik J.

It was me who produced the show “Sommar i P1” (Summer talk) with Kim for Swedish Radio. We are very happy for all your nice words. Thank you thank you and good luck upcoming season. See you all at the Emirates. Yours sincerely Henrik Johnsson.

Super Joshi

Takk!