The flight of talent abroad, the persistent trend in Football Finland: Confined life in Portugal or Italy scared Isak Vidjeskog – the first time in safe Sweden was still a shock

Isak Vidjeskog opted out of a closed football life in Portugal or Italy. Instead of imagination in Southern Europe, it became a reality in Kalmar. There he wants to penetrate through football’s needle eye.

Where is the next generation of Finnish A national team players?

Impossible to say exactly, of course. Over the years, many players have been influential in junior national teams and given talents to build hopes around – but almost as many have disappeared along the way.

The thinning is both solid and natural, the step from junior football to senior games is a pinhole. Who can?

Yle Sporten went to Kalmar and asked one of all the blue and white promises that have chosen games abroad to develop. An early move has become a common way forward in recent years – the junior national team is currently filled with players with club addresses in everything from Italy and Germany to France and Denmark.

For the U18 national team’s midfielder Isak Vidjeskog, the club choice fell on Kalmar FF on the Swedish east coast. It has been a couple of years since he invested in Kalmar rather than Benfica in Portugal or Spal and Bologna in Italy.

– It was very cool with those clubs. I have dreamed about it and it was very fun – but somehow also a little scary. I saw that I could assert myself and it gave a good experience, but it was also tough as a fifteen year old and maybe a little too big a step.

– Kalmar was realistically a better alternative, especially socially. I know the language, many recommend Sweden. The other clubs felt almost like fantasy – even though I was involved in football.

U-national team players abroad today

Jaro was not an option

Evidence of how good the environment Vidjeskog was invited to is this winter’s Uefa Youth League – a tournament in which Europe’s best U19 team can participate.

Winner? The players he trained with Benfica.

– It gives proof that this is not an impossibility.

– The test game also showed how demanding it is. All focus is on football. You felt trapped, like in a small cage. It was food, exercise, food, exercise, food and then the day was over. I mostly called home because I was bored – but I can guarantee that you will be a good football player in those environments.

When the alternatives were on the table, it was quite clear that I would not stay in Jakobstad

Vidjeskog is football-educated in Jakobstad and played in JBK and Jaros B-juniors 2019. He never had time to make his debut in Jaros A-team in division 1. In 2020, the move to Kalmar was completed and in the beginning, his father Niklas followed.

– Jakobstad was my safe point. I had coaches who believed in me and they had a clear plan, but they also understood that I want to take this opportunity. When the alternatives were on the table, it was quite clear that I would not stay in Jakobstad.

Completely different intensity in Sweden

Right now, Kalmar FF’s U19 team is Vidjeskog’s first team, but he trains a lot with the A-team and made his debut in the men’s Swedish last autumn and started a match in the cup last winter.

– In a way, I am in an intermediate position right now. In the U19 team, I get a lot of responsibility – but when I am with the A-team, it’s mostly about gaining experience.

– I have grown a lot and have to make sure that my body is physically ready. The step from junior player to established Allsvenskan player is a bit bigger than from JBK to Jaro.

After being a dominant midfielder in Jaro’s juniors, he describes his first time in Swedish football as a shock.

– It really became clear how many max runs to do during a match. It is a different intensity here than in Finland.

Isak Vidjeskog photographed in Kalmar in the spring of 2022.

Caption
Isak Vidjeskog turned 18 in March and attends high school in Kalmar alongside football.

Photo: Mats Ahlnäs / Yle

This spring, a discussion in Finland has been about the lack of speed in the football league. Many matches lack a high tempo – in the long run a problem for how younger players in Finnish football develop and a reason why great talents instead choose to move abroad.

Sweden is one step up in terms of play – even though the Allsvenskan is also clearly behind other leagues. You only need to cross the Öresund Bridge to find faster football in Denmark.

– We talk a lot about all this in the national team and how players have chosen different paths. You work abroad in a different way. More intense, better, more running focus. The player training is incredibly good, but the competition is very high.

– It is difficult to get into the A-team in a larger football country. But if you succeed and get to play in the Bundesliga, for example, you are basically finished as a player.

Best brother Vidjeskog?

Vidjeskog has his everyday life in Kalmar, but he also has a keen eye on Finnish football – much thanks to his brothers. One brother Axel plays league football in Ilves and the other brother Adam is in Jaro.

– I often talk to them, a lot about football and everyday life. I have benefited greatly from having them as brothers. It could get hot at home sometimes, but it was still nice.

Joona Toivio and Axel Vidjeskog in close combat.

Caption
Axel Vidjeskog is on loan from KuPS to Ilves this season.

Photo: Matti Raivio / All Over Press

And you’re the best in the brotherhood?

– Axel would hardly agree to it… But you ask me and I think I have the majority on my side. Most people think I’m a little better than Axel and Adam.

– But we have different qualities. Adam is a strong defensive player, Axel is skilled in the offensive game. They have taught me a lot.

Allsvenskan within three years

Then maybe it’s also time to call in Isak Vidjeskog’s qualities in midfield.

During his years at Jaro, he was an offensive midfielder – or false nia as it is called in modern football Swedish – but in Kalmar he has had both a more sedentary role and a box-to-box role.

– On the pitch, I have a good understanding of the game and am basically two-legged. I can threaten the last third with my passing game or via breakthrough play if I’m higher up the track.

If I play in the Allsvenskan in three years, I will be 21. It would be a successful development

That answer comes without him blinking.

Throughout the interview, the 18-year-old appears to be down-to-earth and insightful, but above all to be very determined in his football. Vidjeskog is at Real Madrid and is a midfielder, so when he reveals that the favorite player’s name is Sergio Ramos, it is the biggest exclamation point of the conversation.

– A common reaction, says Vidjeskog and laughs.

And what does the plan look like for the next few years?

– I have one year left on the contract here and the idea is to enter the Allsvenskan with Kalmar FF. I want to establish myself in the Allsvenskan and then try something else abroad.

– But I’m not in a great hurry. If I play in the Allsvenskan in three years, I will be 21. It would be a successful development.

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