Emil Forsberg – Growing up on a street of sport (Game-Play-Learn)

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Emil Forsberg is a Swedish international footballer who plays for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga

Despite its modest booklet format the new updated version of Spela, Lek och Lär (1) roughly translates as Game, Play, Learn- is very much a central part of the Swedish FA’s new coach education program. The booklet is connected to an online web portal containing some very interesting videos about child-youth football discussing the values that all football in Sweden should stand for. The purpose of this excellent booklet and web-portal is to help promote a common mind-set within all football clubs in Sweden based on 5 simple principles.

  • Football for all children and young people
  • Focus on Joy
  • Effort and Learning
  • Sustainable Sports
  • Fair Play

One of the most insightful and impactful videos on the web portal is an interview with Swedish International and RB Leipzig Bundesliga player Emil Forsberg. For me Emil Forsberg was a key player in Sweden’s successful qualification for the World Cup. His intelligent and hard- working performance against Italy helped Sweden to defy both odds and critics to deny Italy for the first time since 1958 (ironically held in Sweden) a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The following is a translated transcript (3) of Emil Forsbergs interview from “Spela, Lek och Lär”. Emils words give us much to reflect on when we consider:

  • Child-youth development in football and the emergence of the “race to the bottom” culture


  • The commercialisation of child-youth sports (2). How child-youth sports has become an attractive market for private companies. This varies from initiatives specialising in early and earlier commercial ventures to give your child a so called “head start” to companies specialising in offering the services of their “professional coaches” and “individual styled leadership and coaching” for your child. These commercial alternatives can of course be a complement but it is still difficult to foresee their long -term impact on the democratic culture that child-youth football should be. This should not be overlooked and it remains to be seen how NGB’s, associations, parents and young athletes will navigate through this changing landscape.

My Street

“For 4 or 5 of us (on our street) it was football direct. But it wasn’t just football. We played tennis, table tennis, floorball, ice hockey. In the street I grew up it was mainly ‘sports families’, it became a ‘sports street’ and this is how I got in to sport”.

Many Sports

“Take part in as many sports as you can as long as you can. I think that it is wrong to focus early on one sport. Maybe at 13 you think that Ice hockey is something that you want to focus on but then when you are 15 you may think that despite all the time and effort it was not such a good idea. These days there is a far too early focus on only playing football. I played football and floorball until I was 17 nearly turning 18. I thought it was perfect but maybe not always optimal but I felt that at 17 that football is something that I wanted to focus on”.

Professional Career Abroad

I began my career as a professional footballer outside of Sweden quite late, just as I was turning 23. I never really felt stressed, I just thought that is it happens it happens. I live for the day and I think that I must be as professional as possible as a footballer. It should be fun and you should think that it is fun to play football. You shouldn’t stress.

Swedish Football

Swedish football education is good. You can get a good footballing education within Swedish football and you should dare to try your best. The quality in Swedish football is very good. Many good players have come through the ‘Allsvenskan’ (Swedish Premier League). We should believe in Swedish football.


Most importantly children should not stress, leave children be children, be free and again it is very import that they have fun. That is something that I have learned since I was a small child. Have fun, do what you feel is good, don’t let others push you in one direction. You should choose for yourself what you want to do”.


(1) Spela, Lek och Lär (SISU Idrottsböcker)

(2) https://utbildning.sisuidrottsbocker.se/fotboll/tranare/tranarutbildning/fsll/Allt vanligare med kommersiell barn och ungdomsidrott (‘Idrottsforskning” , Karin Redelius & Andreas Svensson, October 2017)

(3) interview with Emil Forsberg /Swedish only) https://utbildning.sisuidrottsbocker.se/fotboll/tranare

5 thoughts on “Emil Forsberg – Growing up on a street of sport (Game-Play-Learn)

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