Eritrean Coach Nahom Ghidey: Transforming international Soccer stars at Sweden’s AIK. Interview with Eri-international Sports blog.
He was recently featured on a Swedish national magazine as one of the people who has played a huge role in the development of young international rising star Alexander Isak as well as other players whom he has helped making headlines all over the world.
Nahom has also mentored other Eritrean players in including the likes of Tesfalidet Tekie and players of many different nationalities throughout Sweden. He has the potential to be a great coach maybe someday leading top-flight teams as a Director and in the process helping the Eritrean national program to grow into its rightful place as a top soccer-playing nation. Eri-international sports blog brings you Nahom Ghidey of AIK.
Questions for Coach Nahom Ghidey of AIK Stockholm,
1. First of all when did you start playing soccer/football, could you take us back to when you started and where you started to play the sport?
I started to play football like most people at a young age in my neighborhood in Asmara Eritrea. I grew up in a football playing family, football and music was part of family. I had the chance to learn and play football with and from my big brothers who were very talented football players. Joel Ghidey who was playing in the German 2nd tier league (may be you know him from Eri-TV music contest program “Shingrwa”) and Natnael Ghidey.
At the end of 1970s we came as refugees to Hannover (Germany) and of course I continued to do what I loved to do and that was playing football. During that time we did not have dreams to empower ourselves and to be a professional football player, rather our dream and focus was to see a free and independent Eritrea. Football was more a hobby and we played it for fun. Every minute, hour and day we spent our time playing football. We grew up in a war (Sewra) time and we were the first Red flowers (Keyahti Imbaba) outside of Eritrea in Germany and our focus shifted to playing music as well. We were very dedicated to music and we played every weekend in almost every city in the world for about 15 years sharing the music for Eritrea and EPLF. So football took a back seat and became even more of a hobby!!
2. How long were you a player before you got into coaching and if you could be kind enough to share what teams you have played for in the past?
I played actively for over 25 years at different levels and with teams in Germany. In addition every summer I also had the chance to play in a big Eritreans tournament like Bologna and other gatherings.
3. Living in Europe were you able to improve on your knowledge of the game at a high level and how so?
Of course, football in Europe is extremely at a higher level than most places, I saw daily that the development of the game goes fast. Technology, physiology and fitness are a part and parcel of modern football. One does not have to just be a good football player, in order to be a good coach. One has to master many aspects of the game. When I decided to work with football, I understood that the only way to be good or survive in football business was to get an education. I was obsessed to learn everything about football. I went from one course to another, reading books, analyzing football games and traveling to a lot of countries to learn from other teams.
The more I learned the more I became aware that to be a complete coach requires continuous education. Because I also have patience, I was given an opportunity by a professional team, I am grateful to AIK (my Swedish team) for helping me with all the growth process and allowing me many different opportunities to contribute to their club.
4. How did you get into coaching in general and coaching youth teams for AIK Stockholm one of the top teams in Sweden?
I continued playing music with my brothers. In the early 1990’s we started a band known as Admas band and we were focused in the music business. So, after Eritrea’s independence, we decided to make our dreams true and we moved back home to Eritrea to start Admas Studios in Asmara and Khartoum Sudan. Because I was responsible for the distribution of the music we produces, I stayed in Germany to work on behalf of the Studio. One day on a vacation I met my wife who lived in Sweden, and later on we were blessed with two kids. I decided to move to Sweden. In Sweden, the youth football system is directed mostly by parents. I never thought or hoped to be a football coach. However, because I was on the sidelines of the field/pitch where I followed my own kids playing an opportunity came along. One day at an event there were too many kids and few coaches and the coaches there asked me to help, I responded by apologizing for not speaking Swedish, one of the coaches said you don’t need to talk just let them play. That day was the starting point of my coaching career that has lead me to be a coach at AIK. Today it as you can see it is my profession.
5. You are one of the coaches for helping develop Eritrean-Swede teenage sensation Alexander Isak when he was in your under 9-13 age group, could you tell us what it was like to coach a great player in his younger days?
First of all I want to congratulate Alexander Isak and his family, congratulations to AIK and AIK academy. Alexander was a very talented player; his strength was to combine individual techniques with extremely good game understanding. He loved playing football. He listened very carefully and learned very quickly. He was not big in size but had a great balance and timing in his movement. He really was a good striker. I could see that he had that little extra ability but it was difficult to see how his future would be.
Now we can see that he is a great player with a big future. Many of our academy coaches had the chance to work with Alexander and they all had some impact on his football. He even had a good personal coach prepared for him for a professional level when he was between the ages of 14-16. We all are very happy as a team and me personally as an AIK coach and as an Eritrean I am very proud to be a part of his life and career.
6. As an Eritrean diaspora you also helped develop many other good players some who are playing in Sweden and other places, how does it make you feel to see your former players now?
It is a special feeling to see your own “KIDS” that you worked hard to develop making it to the top, and you become encouraged and want to see more success. Personally when such kids are also from my home country, my vision of making a great Eritrean national team becomes vivid and I believe this will become reality soon. (with a very hard work and dedication).7. I recall meeting you in San Diego in 1999 when a very awesome Sweden team came to America to play in the Eritrean Sports Festival, as a member of that team I never got a chance to praise you but your team was incredible despite losing to Team Alexandria in the finals, what memories do you have from that time?
Ha! Ha! Of course, I remember the tournament, what a great lifetime memory. It was a fantastic tournament with so many talented players from many places. For us “Team Sweden” it was an adventure to come to the USA and play against really good teams. It was an unbelievable experience. The team we played on was also known as “Team Dahlak”. It was a great mix of everything you like to see as an Eritrean. Love for country, your people, their unity and the passion for football was an amazing experience. It was a great time and I have great memories of that time. We enjoyed the games and the way it was organized and hosted. I would like to thank you and the organizers and host city for that moment.
8. I had a chance to sit and watch the game in the booth with Eritrean, Asian and Middle East legend Ahmed Abdella of (Club El Ain) and he was impressed with your team from Sweden, where are those players now & are they still involved with the sport of soccer?
Well they played on top teams in Sweden and other places but unfortunately they did not become professionals, however their fundamental love for the game and sports helped many other young Eritreans become successful these days. Thanks to their guidance and an invested interest to see successful young Eritreans their contribution helps a lot in making sure the future for Eritrean soccer players is bright.
9. Do you have future goals to help build a strong national Eritrean team by contributing some of your knowledge, skills and ability?
Yes definitely! From day one of my coaching career I had a dream to go back home to Eritrea and build a football academy and support our national team. I will be very proud to work and contribute my knowledge to my country Eritrea. I hope that one day I can be part of our national team in a coaching capacity and to help Eritrea participate at the African Cup of nations and win. That is my dream and goal in the future.
10. I understand that you contribute some assistance to soccer teams and individual groups in the motherland of Eritrea, and you are very passionate about your birth country, can you talk a little bit about it?
Per my previous answers to your question, I have a small business with my family in Asmara (Admas Club), and I love my country and want to be part of the nation building process and development in Eritrea. I would love to contribute something to this great nation. Because of my work in Sweden and specially AIK, I am very limited with time. Also, when I’m in Eritrea I help my family. The time I have for football is very short. However, last December, I had the chance to see a Grass Roots (Eritrean academy) boys and girls age 13-17 at Asmara’s Cicero stadium. I noticed great talent and a fantastic atmosphere. It is a good way to start building a new strong national team for the future. I was very happy and made a promise to myself to take a step forward to help them in some capacity. I wish I can even help more and I will do everything to help even as I continue to become busy with AIK.
11. What will it take to create a strong Eritrean Red Sea Camels according to your thoughts?
This is a good question Mike, First of all we have to work on the following four important points.
– Vision and Philosophy,
– Technical Approach
We have to work with long-term programs and goals and build a solid foundation. Youth Academies and youth development are the starting points. If we can develop strong football Academies with highly educated coaches, we will have well educated football players. The results will be that we can produce strong individual players and a well-organized collective result.
We need to change the way we think. Seeing the number of players making the transition from academy to professional players will help us get better and we can form a stronger and better Eritrean league. We must focus on the structure of our leagues and their long-term vision.
We must be engaged in recruiting and involving highly educated Eritrean football coaches who are able to help out. To educate better Eritrean coaches we must involve people like Eritrean national team member Henok Goitom and others with international level knowledge, experience and game understanding if we are to take Eritrean football to a higher level.
12. Eri-International sports blog would like to thank you for conducting this interview; do you have any last thoughts?
First of all I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. And I can tell you and everyone that the unconditional love to our country will make our dreams come true.
Thank you! & Good luck in all that you do Nahom.