We have achieved much in a few years. But our ambitions go further. India holds great potential, even when it comes to football talent, and we are pleased to have found a partner that matches FCM’s philosophy and commitment, and who have experienced success in its field in India.” – Bo Olesen, President of FC Midtjylland

Record winners of the I-League title, Dempo announced a tie-up with Danish club FC Midtjylland on 4th April, 2011. After several rounds of communication between officials of two clubs, a deal was finally struck. This is not the first time an Indian club is entering into a tie-up with a foreign club. Previously, there has been partnerships between East Bengal-Leciester City or JCT-Wolverhampton Wanderers – sadly these tie-ups have yielded little of no result, for both footballing and non-footballing reasons. Does that mean that Indian football fans should not be optimistic about this deal? Definitely not. In fact, in sync with Dempo’s well managed approach to football, this deal also looks good to reap rich benefits in future. FC Midtjylland is a unique club – let us take a look at what makes them unique.

A Brief History of FC Midtjylland

Established on 6th April, 1999, FCM is a relatively new club in the Danish Superliga. FC Midtjylland was formed after two clubs Ikast FS and Herning Fremad were merged. The club was promoted to Danish Superliga at its very first attempt at promotion. Since getting promotion in 2000, the Ulvenes (Wolves), as they are nicknamed, have never been relegated from top division. FCM made a strong impression in their debut season by finishing 4th in 2000/01 Superliga, thus going into UEFA Cup. In 2001/02 season they did even better – finishing 3rd. After two indifferent seasons, when they finished outside top five, Midtjylland came back strongly to finish 3rd in 2004/05 season.

Their best performances came between 2006 and 2008 as the club finished as runners-up in the Danish Superliga in successive seasons. In 2008/09 season, FC Midtjylland finally made its mark in the European stage as they defeated the mighty Manchester City in City of Manchester Stadium. This was City’s first ever home defeat in a European match. They were eventually knocked out after penalty shootout but they made headlines nonetheless.

The club has also done well in Danish Cup in last two seasons. They reached the final on both occasions, sadly losing out to the same team, FC Nordsjælland, on both times. Last season they lost 2-0 in extra-time and this season they fell to an injury time goal from Christensen to lose by a 3-2 scoreline. This season they finished 4th in Superliga – thus qualifying for Europa League qualification round.

FC Midtjylland and Youth Football

FCM is making its name as one of stronger clubs in Danish football but they are already a frontrunner in Denmark when it comes to youth Academy. Started in July, 2004, FCM’s youth Academy was first of its kind in Denmark. Over the years FC Midtjylland has reaped rich rewards from its Academy.

The most successful and famous graduate from Midtjylland’s Academy has to be Simon Kjaer. Kjaer grabbed headlines with his consistent performances in Palermo’s central defence in seasons 2008/09 and 2009/10. Kjaer also represented Denmark in 2010 World Cup, before his lucrative transfer to former German champions FC Wolfburg last season. Another successful Midtjylland graduate is New Zealand international Winston Reid. The 22 year old year old defender scored a late equaliser against Slovakia in New Zealand’s opening game in 2010 World Cup to earn his country its first ever points in world cup. Reid eventually played all three matches for a critically acclaimed New Zealand defence. Magnus Troest has also tasted success with Parma in Serie B.

Kjaer (left) and Reid (right) are two successful FCM graduates

FC Midtjylland has youth teams in three underage levels – U15, U17 and U19. The students who get enrolled in FCM’s Academy stay in academy premises in Sportcentre Ikast. These boys are given accommodation, in addition to football lessons. Students undergo exercise sessions between 8:00 to 10:00 AM in the morning and then in the afternoon every day – this includes aerobics. Each player is subjected to two separate types of trainings – a group training to enhance his technical and tactical abilities and individual sessions for self-development. FCM provides ultra-modern facilities to its students. Ten highly qualified coaches who hold UEFA A-License degree take care of the footballing side of business. There are also groups of well-trained sports psychologist, doctor, physiotherapist and masseurs for the youngsters. More interestingly there are scientists who work with the students, performing physical tests which are needed to excel in modern football.

FC Midtjylland is a steady contributor to Danish National youth teams. Recently Denmark performed extremely well in Euro U17 held in Serbia. Denmark reached semi-final before losing 2-0 to Germany – their best ever performance in Euro U17. In that tournament, Denmark won all their games in a group containing France, England and hosts Serbia. Three players from FC Midtjylland were part of this Danish squad – Oliver Koch, Viktor Fischer, Lasse Vigen. Goalkeeper Koch was one of the best players for Denmark – keeping a clean sheet in the crucial match against England. Striker Fischer is already a star player in his age group. In 25 matches for Denmark, he has scored 19 goals, including two in U17 Euro. He also scored an important goal against Republic of Ireland in Euro qualifiers. The starlet is being heavily linked with a transfer to Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.

Will Dempo benefit?

Indian football fans will be only concerned about how this deal will actually help Dempo. From early assessment, it looks like Dempo has chosen wisely and this deal may help them out in future.

FC Midtjylland is a club which specializes in youth sector. Indian clubs have tied up with the likes of Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers or Sheffield United – none of these clubs are well known for their youth policy. A big deterrent for Indian players to get into any club in England was the rule which prevents players from lower ranked countries to play in their league system. In Denmark there are no such rules and an Indian player, if he does well, is eligible to be a part of the Danish league.

Oluwafemi Ajilore won a silver medal in Olympics

The Danish club has a tie-up with F.C. Ebedei in Nigeria and FC Midtjylland Maamobi United, Ghana. In last few years a number of Nigerian players have made their way into FC Midtjylland’s first team. FCM follows the Nantes model of youth development, in which clubs import players from different parts of the world through affiliated clubs. Defensive midfielder Oluwafemi Ajilore was a product of Ebedei – Midtjylland tie up and went on to have a successful career – winning a silver medal for Nigeria in 2008 Olympics. Adigun Salami has turned into a reliable player for Midtjylland after joining them from Ebedei in 2006.

East Bengal’s tie-up with Leicester City was negatively impacted by their partner’s financial problems and frequent change of ownership. FCM, on the other hand, is financially more stable. In 2007, the club announced a financial expansion plan worth 10 million Euros and frequent forays into European football will further help its cause. The onus is now on Dempo to properly co-ordinate with FC Midtjylland in future. If Dempo can properly utilise this tie-up, then that day is not far away when we will see Indian players playing in Denmark.

With inputs from Lars Aa. Pedersen

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