We had the pleasure of speaking to Keld Bordinggaard, MIP board member and ex-Silkeborg IF and Denmark International and now owner of ‘Bordinggaard Football’
Keld gives us a greater understanding of his journey from being a young footballer in Denmark, to becoming a Danish International, then transititioning to the coaching side of the game. Then finally, he gives us a great understanding of his time on the UEFA MIP course and his current role within the football industry.
How long was your footballing career and where did you play?
Keld: “I came in to football late, I was a handball player and originally played football in the street. However, the biggest club in my area, Odense BK scouted me and I was offered a professional contract at 18. I was subsequently named player of the year in my second year. Then I played for my country (Denmark) at the age of just 20. It all happened very quickly!
I’ve been involved in professional football ever since, I also played in Greece, USA and other Danish clubs. After I stopped playing myself, I knew I wanted to become a coach, so I was head coach in the Danish SuperLiga and then Assistant Coach for the Danish national team and after that Head Coach of the Danish Under-21’s.
I have always wanted to stay working in football as it is my passion and my love. I have been lucky enough to stay in the game after my professional career ended.
What position did you play in?
Keld: Initially, I was an offensive player. I learnt much of my attacking skill from playing in the streets as you learn to play in small, tight areas. I think this kind of football helps to develop a special kind of player. I sometimes wonder ‘Why do so many talented players come from unorganised, non-structured settings.’ Some clubs can develop these sorts of players but most cannot. We need to improve our training methodologies to develop players with more universal characteristics. The modern game game demands good decision-making as space and time have decreased.
You mentioned you were the Assistant Manager of the Danish National Team what was that like?
Keld: It was a dream come true for me. Coaching top level players was a professional dream and to work alongside Morten Olsen very inspiring. He is a brilliant coach. It really was a great learning opportunity.
You then moved on to being Manager of the Danish Under-21 National team, how did that differ from being an Assistant Manager with the Senior Team?
Keld: It was a difficult task as at the time we created and implemented a new player development strategy as we were struggling to compete with other teams in Europe and so we had to develop players in a different way. My key task with the Under-21s was to develop this model system along with the Player Development Directors at the Super League clubs. We wanted to win of course, but we were also looking to develop players for the senior team in the future. It was a very challenging time but looking at the talent pool that has now made the Senior team it was worth it. We had players such as Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Thomas Delaney and Christian Eriksen all came through the system. One of the saddest things, is that we weren’t able to help Nicklas Bendtner reach his full potential as he has amazing ability.
What career path are you currently following?
Keld: After leaving the MIP course, I was filled with inspiration and I wanted to build my own football consultancy business, ‘Bordinggaard Football’ which is involved in projects across the world. I am currently working with Bayer Leverkusen helping to create an overview over the Scandinavian player market and re-think their academy strategy. As an added bonus I get to work with fellow MIP alumnus, Simon Rolfes, who is Director of Development there. I’m continuing to build my company and grateful to the MIP network for helping to provide opportunities for me and my company.
Due to your previous roles, would you say your expertise is with developing young players and making them excel as senior professionals?:
Keld: I never worked with youth players but have always been concerned with building teams which can win today and also compete better tomorrow. The managerial issue here is football strategy, it takes resources to compete but strategy to win. I help clubs and organisations develop and align strategies so that resources can be used in the most impactful way. That was actually the basis of my MIP project, which raised the question: Are we winning by chance or by strategy? This is particularly important for small and mid-sized football clubs and organisations to allow them to compete with larger and richer clubs.
You were part of the first group of MIP graduates, could you tell us what learned on the course and how it has helped you to develop?
Keld: I had the opportunity to learn about and discuss parts of the industry that I had never previously experienced. I had never studied topics like strategy, management, competition structures, stadium management, etc. It was an inspiring group with love and passion for the game as common denominators. We were also all willing to continue to learn and we want to contribute to the game after we have retired. It was an extremely inspiring time.
Do you think MIP has helped you to develop as person who wants to work in the football industry and also as a person in terms of life skills?
Keld: Absolutely! When you step outside your comfort zone, you have the opportunity to develop; as a person and professionally. Each person on the course is given a mentor and the MIP staff were brilliant they were always happy to help during the programme. On a personal and professional level, I learned so much. However, it is vital that you are proactive to truly excel on the programme.
We’re at Twickenham Stadium today, how have you gone from being an MIP graduate to now presenting your Masters report to the 2nd group of MIP students?
Keld: It was great to present my Masters report so that the next cohort of MIP graduates can understand more about the process of undertaking their research project.
You’re an MIP Alumni board member. What are your aims for the board moving forward?
Keld: We want to play a role in football off the pitch. The first set of graduates was a strong group, and now we need to develop the network with the second set of graduates. We want to play a positive role and be a voice for ex-professional players from inside the game and help with the governance of the game, particularly as the past decade has been a tough time in the world of football. I would like to think that the MIP alumni can be another voice protecting the game and working in the name of the game.
Do you think that people who truly have a passion for football and have learned academically but also through their own real-life experiences will be added additional expertise?
Keld: I have no doubt about this. Insight, integrity and passion is a strong combination. Every person I’ve met who has either graduated or is on the course at the moment, carries the game in their heart. Adding academic learning and insight will provide the tools to us to be a positive advocate for the game.
Do you speak to your fellow MIP graduates often?
Keld: I speak to them regularly, not only on a professional level but on a personal level as well. If you don’t continue to grow your network it can disappear. Use it or lose it!
You are working at Bayern Leverkusen due to your personal relationship with a fellow MIP graduate, Simon Rolfes to you think connections on the course have helped to expand and develop your business?
Keld: The football business is a very difficult business. It is a business is based on trust. On the MIP course we spent 20 months working together and learning from each other and as a result, we trust each other implicitly. Part of the reason Simon contacted me was because he trusts me, he knows I have integrity.
What would say to a retired footballer who is thinking about joining the MIP course? What recommendation would you make?
Keld: To a recently retired player, read about the course be aware of it but take your time, spending a few years reflecting, doing internships and then apply as you will know if you want to join the programme and if you want to stay in the business.
If you want to stay in the business, I can’t recommend a better programme. It will allow you to gain insight, learn a great deal, network and allow you the opportunities that MIP does.
What do you think about how global the MIP course is? You have graduates from Brazil, Caribbean and Burkina Faso. Do you think that it’s good to have different cultures?
Keld: Thinking about it, I think this means there is no limit to the network. We already have graduates from all around the world and the network will continue to keep growing. So, I don’t know where it ends!
Which session did you find the most interesting on the MIP course?
Keld: I really enjoyed the strategy sessions in Munich. Barcelona was great as there were a lot of hands-on exercises. It was interesting to visit New York, we got a completely different perspective on the game and also the business of football. As the American session allowed us to study a different football business model and view football through completely different eyes.
How good is it to have close, personal relationships with senior administrators such as the Technical Director of Barcelona and Director of Development for CONCACAF – from MIP Alumni – who may have a big impact upon global football moving forward?
Keld: It is very valuable. Not because of the power of a top position but because they are in these central positions for the right reason: To help their club or organization grow while working with integrity in the name of the game. It’s inspiring to be around people who are committed to life-long learning, who want to contribute and have passion for the game. It’s valuable on a professional level, but even more so on a personal level. It enriches my life greatly and I like to consider many of them as personal friends.
What do you think the MIP alumni board can do in the next year or two to be more impactful?
Keld: The first important step is to create a strong alumni foundation, so that we can take care of the next group of graduates. We need to create a foundation for the alumni, to play a role in football moving forward. We don’t do this for ourselves but for the good of the game. We must create this foundation in the next 2 or 3 years. We look forward to inviting some of the next group of graduates to join the board.
What do you like most about the MIP alumni network?
Keld: I love the openness, the accessibility, the honesty. The insights that we are all willing to share amongst our network. It is a gift, and we must make sure that it never stops giving.
Another positive of the MIP graduates is the impact they are having upon the women’s game, what are your thoughts on this as they are playing a major role in a new brand of football worldwide.
Keld: I completely agree. It’s so important for the growth of women’s football. It often surprises me how the women’s game has been neglected, and still is. We must pay attention to women’s football and it shows the world of football that the MIP alumni are here to grow the game positively, to protect it and develop it for the future. The impact that Bianca Rech, Jessica Landström and Bruno Cheyrou are having at Bayern Munich Ladies, grassroots football in Stockholm and PSG Ladies helps to prove that.