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By Mikael Forssell, is a striker Finnish footballer that has played both in the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga, at Chelsea and Borussia Mönchengladbach, among other clubs. 

My name is Mikael Forssell. Without going into too many details about my career in football, in my top moments, I have played both in the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga. In addition, I have also played in the Finnish A-national team making 88 appearances and scoring 29 goals.

I am a striker (forward). Since I first touched a ball I have known that I wanted to play football professionally when I grew up. To clarify that, I not only did want to become a professional footballer, I wanted to score goals…loads of them! Even though I generally always loved football, for me growing up watching football was all about watching the game “through the eyes of a striker”, meaning that I was only interested in seeing goals. Often when watching a 90-minute game I have felt bored. I rather went training and playing on my own and watched highlights and goals afterwards, which were summed up in a few minutes. I never liked the slow building up of the game, nor when games were slow in pace or defensive-oriented. That still frustrates me to this day.

‘I have always believed

that the more you train

the better you become’

Since I was young, I have always believed that the more you train the better you become. Nothing in life comes for free. Growing up in Finland (I was born in 1981, just turned 37) was not always the easiest regarding individual training and developing as a player. To the ones that do not know, Finland is basically covered in snow and ice up to six months of the year. It is virtually impossible to train outside. This meant that finding training facilities during the winter was really hard, especially when growing up in the middle of the city back in the 1980’s. The closest indoor football hall was one hour away by bus.

What I have always prided myself in is my ability to use time in the best way possible. Here, I had the choice to sit in a bus for two hours (one hour there and one hour back) to go and train, but I knew that I would have lost two hours of training-time sitting in a bus. So, I decided to look for other places closer by and other options where to train.


My dad always told me: “Play with the ball! The more you play with the ball the better technique you will get, and the better player you will become!” I always believed in this and used it as my guideline. I believe thoroughly in the rule of “10.000 hours of work and you will master anything in life in the best possible way”.

I started to look for places to train in the city in freezing cold conditions. I was only 7 years old when I found the perfect place to train: the drive-thru from the street to the inside yard of our house block. Basically, it was a “hallway” for cars to enter the yard. It was an area of around 4 metres x 20 metres that had a “roof on top”. This meant it could snow, rain or be freezing cold but the concrete floor was not covered in anything. There, I spent most likely hundreds of hours training with the ball, working on my technique and learning to master the ball in small spaces doing turnings, dribbling and faints while the ground “outside” was covered of snow and ice. I believe that by having trained in such small spaces it has benefitted me handling the ball in tight spaces in between defenders and strengthening my faith in my ability to control the ball in difficult situations.

‘This is what has always intrigued

me in football: being a hero or a zero.

You get cheered or booed at’

Another aspect of my childhood that has been part of my development, is what professionals these days would call “mental training”. For me, the word “dreaming” was always a part of training alone. I was always dreaming before training sessions and games that I was going to score goals that day. I visualised going past defenders and even around the goalkeeper to score goals. I did that constantly, many times a day since I was a kid. It was systematically programmed in me. Before any event, I had dribbled away opponents and gone through different situations many times in my mind’s eye, always to my benefit. Later on, in my career as a professional player, I have understood that I actually have had a unique, natural gift. Many players, even on the top, struggle with the mental side in sports.

For strikers, the mental side is extremely important, without taking away anything from any other position. But for a striker, for example, not scoring or missing opportunities can be a real burden. To bring understanding, it is not only about having a bad patch, it can seriously have an impact on the career of a player as it is expected that a striker scores goals and brings the wins for the team. This is what has always intrigued me in football: being a hero or a zero. A hero or a villain. You get cheered or booed at. I have always loved this part. Maybe it is something related to my personality: I either want to put all in or I don’t do it at all. I don’t like walking the middle path.



I like setting concrete goals and concrete plans about how to achieve them. I have always known what I have wanted in life. This might sound a bit arrogant, but this doesn’t mean I always achieve my goals. I just think that when you believe in something that gives you inspiration, set up a plan for it, and work hard, you have the best chance of achieving those goals. It is the combination of blind belief and hard work. Although this might sound a bit extreme for someone, I can now confirm that there is some truth in my way of thinking.

Especially in Finland, many players these days are asking:

“What does it take for me to become great

and take the next step to becoming a professional?”

I always try to tell them that you have to be great at something. It’s not enough for a player to be good at everything. Nowadays that is not enough. I can’t put enough emphasis on the word GREAT! There are only a few players in the world that are many times great at everything. But when we exclude them from the equation it comes down to the following:

What are your strengths,

and how will you become great in those qualities?

Let’s look at some examples. When thinking back on Oliver Bierhoff who played for Udinese, AC Milan, and the German National Team – was he quick? No. Did he have quick feet? No. Was he especially good technically with the ball? No. Was his shot great? No. So what was he great at? He was unbelievable at heading the ball! I tried to google how many goals he scored with the head for Udinese in the 96/97 season, where he became the top scorer of Serie A. I couldn’t find the data, but I would bet it was an understatement saying he scored at least half of his 27 goals that season with his head.

Going back to the young Finnish players asking me how they can become great footballers, I always try to tell them: “Know your strengths and weaknesses and work on them both. But know what you, in your own opinion, are great at and perfect that skill. This might be a bit radical to be said because as a footballer you need so many aspects in order to succeed. You need to be strong, quick, agile, technically good, have a strong shot etc., but the beauty is, you can be extremely short (read Messi) and be the best player in the world.

One thing is for sure – many young players do not understand what the definition “work ethic” means. You need to work hard every day on becoming a better player. It’s not enough to think you have done enough. It’s about knowing you have done enough. Going back to myself (remember I’m a selfish striker and I love to talk about myself), one thing that I loved to do when it was a horribly rainy day in the middle of the summer when you could hardly see forwards in the rain if you went outside: I used to pick up the ball and march to the closest pitch and practice on my own. Why was that satisfying for me? Because I knew, that most likely, none of my teammates or opponents would be out training and I would gain an advantage over them. One more session I had done, and they had not. I used to love the feeling! This is only one small example of my detailed plan to become a professional footballer.

‘Know your strengths and

weaknesses and

work on them both’

Another example: if I had to do 100 sit-ups, instead of 100 I did 102. This meant I have always done 2 more sit-ups than planned which over years mounts up to a massive addition. I have used this principle in all training sessions, and it gives me immense pleasure knowing I have ticked the box of completing my planned training, but always done a little more, and never under the required amount.

Becoming a footballer demands a lot of things of you, and I can add that luck, the politics in football and timing all have a massive impact on a player’s career. But in my opinion, it is important to recognize that as a player, you have no influence over those factors. The only factor you can influence is how hard and with what kind of quality you do your work. If there is a will there is a way. I thoroughly believe that you create your own luck.

Many times, in their youth, the players who have been the most talented and skilful ones have eventually not been able to make their breakthrough. I believe it is because they have never embraced the phrase “hard work over a longer period of time”. Those players have had a talent, but they have stayed inside their comfort zone. In their youth, they were the best players, which did not give them any incentive to do additional work. There lies the dilemma. You should never compare yourself to the closest ones to you and assume that this is the whole truth. I believe that you should find out about other markets (players) and what it takes to be successful.





10-years ago today ⚽️⚽️⚽️💙@bcfcofficial #KRO #BCFC #hattrick




A post shared by Mikael Forssell (@mikaelforssell9) on


When I was young, I used to imagine that when I eventually would go abroad to train with a team (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany) the players there were going to be amazingly good and talented and I needed to be super strong mentally, physically and skilfully in order to challenge them. To my surprise, they were not! I was so extremely prepared to face the best players in the world (at the age of 14) that suddenly I noticed that they also had weaknesses and that I was actually ahead of them. I succeeded in my training camp and understood that I had prepared myself in the right way! That week abroad gave me reassurance that I had a chance to succeed. However, I want to put emphasis on the word “chance”. Nothing in life is given and nothing is certain, but if you work hard and believe in the way you are working, most likely good things are going to happen.

I believe that the biggest reason why many people have not been successful is the fact that they often put the blame on exterior things. They blame circumstances and other people like coaches, managers or directors for not succeeding. At times, this can also be true. But it is not the reason why they are not succeeding in the long run. As an example, many young players might not be picked to the first team because the coach lacks faith in them because of their young age. But the biggest question is how many of these players react. When the coach is not hearing it, many start moaning and complaining about how the older players are not any better than them or that they should be playing because other players are bad in training.

‘Young athletes have to

accept any situation.

I know it is hard’

Right or not, there is a rule in football – and in sports generally – that young athletes have to accept any situation. I know it is hard. Really hard. I have had the same thoughts as any young athlete not getting his chance when he/she should have gotten it. But the mistake I see young players do most of the time when not getting their chance is that they start slacking off with training as a consequence. They do not stay doing extra work after team training sessions because they want to show the coach that they are not happy with him and thus will leave immediately. They think that by moaning and showing their discontent this will change something.

The fact is, it will change nothing, on the contrary. The right way to react would be to stay focused and keep working hard. This might sound like a cliché, but the crux is that many do not follow this simple rule. I keep telling young players: “If this coach doesn’t want you, the next one in your new team after this season might! You should work double as hard now to be ready for a new team. Forget about this coach. In fact, forget about this season! You have to think forward. You do not have any time to waste. Work hard to be in the best shape of your life after this season if you are not getting a chance here!”

‘The football world

is not as romantic

as it seems’

The most important advice I would give to a young player is that the football world is not as romantic as it seems. There are many factors, like politics, money, and other external circumstances which influence a team and any player that a player should ONLY focus on him/herself, keeping working hard and focusing on being in the best possible shape.

I have experienced many situations where I thought I was being done wrong, like after the season 98/99 in Chelsea when I broke into the first team. I scored goals at 17 years-of-age and showed I could play at that level. But instead, what happened the following (99/00) season? Chelsea bought Chris Sutton from Blackburn Rovers for 10 million£ (which at the time was a massive amount of money), and I eventually had to sit on the bench. Sutton scored ONE Premier League goal that season. But he had to play because of the money that had been paid for him. This was a situation I could not comprehend: I was young, I was the future, I had just played an amazing “rookie-season” and was supposed to be the main striker for the coming season. Oh, how wrong I was.

This is something young players have difficulties to cope with, but there are two choices in such a situation: adapt or die. It sounds harsh, but football is a fast-moving business where players come and go and many times it can be ruthless, in the sense that players can feel that clubs, coaches and managers do not care for them. I believe this is partly true, but what can a player do? The only way to win is to play the game! To adapt. Don’t let the game dictate your future. Be smart by accepting what you cannot change, but do not either accept that a coach, a club or a situation is correct in terms of evaluating you as a player or your situation and future! This will only tar on your confidence and motivation.

‘You have had to cope with undesired

feelings and events which will

eventually make you stronger!’

But do not fool yourself thinking you will get anything for free. Work hard every day and let things happen. Set yourself goals, but don’t expect the football world to match them in your timetable. Disappointments are part of any person’s evolution. And that’s a good thing because when you eventually conquer those disappointing situations, you notice that you are a stronger person and player. You have had to cope with undesired feelings and events which will eventually make you stronger! This is my analysis.

Many players compare themselves to others and that is, in my opinion, the biggest mistake. There are always different situations, personal agendas by clubs, sports directors, managers and coaches, and if you are one of the lucky ones whom “they prefer” at the moment – great! But if you are not, the situation might be and become difficult. We all have our own road to walk. Although there might be disappointments across the way, the only thing you have to do is work hard and create your own luck. The most difficult time is the one where things are not going your way.

I always say that it is SO EASY being on top because whatever you do or touch turns into gold! The difficulty is staying at the top, as eventually, we all hit obstacles and encounter disappointments. Those have been my proudest moments in football when I have risen from at first being on top, then going down because of injury and certain circumstances, and finally worked hard believing “I can still do it” and eventually climbing back to the top! Those moments have made me prouder than “just working hard and making it to the top”.

‘Persistence and

hard work will

eventually pay off!’

Nobody in life is perfect. We all set our own standards. I love to hear other people’s stories as I believe we have a lot to learn from each other, especially from our different “mindsets” and beliefs. I like to read autobiographies, and I also love to idolise certain players (Brazilian Ronaldo, Swedish Ibrahimović and Argentinian Maradona), because they give me the strength to continue fighting for anything I believe is important in my life. I always try to take the best aspect and things away from other people’s stories.

I have for the last five years studied full-time and should finish my master’s degree in Sports Management in the coming weeks. Now I am married to my beautiful wife and we have 2 small children (daughter 3,5 years and son 1,5 years). They mean everything to me. Although football will always be part of me, I now try to teach my children how they will make the most out of life. Sometimes it is frustrating as they keep fighting and challenging me with everything…but like in training, to become a professional footballer, it doesn’t differ at all from the challenge: persistence and hard work will eventually pay off!

Thank you for your time!


Mikael Forssell



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