Before Kick-off by Gordon Glasgow
One hour before their World Cup qualifier against Hungary, the starting eleven for the Danish Men’s National Team perform their pre-match routines.
Kasper Olafsson likes to close his eyes and pretend he’s a little girl, aged somewhere between six and eight. He imagines himself as this little girl, in a state of complete innocence, walking through a small village she’s never been in before, taking in the new scents, colors, and images of people she (he) has never met. Kasper Olafsson breathes in and out through his nose and, for a second or two, really becomes a little girl in a provincial, foreign place. Finally, after around 45 minutes of this, he feels relaxed enough to walk out onto the pitch and play a match that will be televised to millions of people around the world.
Mikael Norgaard butters freshly baked bread from his favorite bakery in Copenhagen. When he has away games, he takes frozen loaves with him, has an assistant or intern defrost them, and one hour before kick-off slices a few pieces and butters them. It doesn’t matter where the butter is from, so as long as it is butter and not margarine. He also makes sure never to eat a piece of the bread, which might negatively affect his performance. It is merely the act of slicing and buttering, smelling and remembering, that calms Mikael before a big game. His locker is always stocked with cutting boards and serrated knives.
Joachim Christensen does 200 jumping jacks and then tries his best to defecate. When his bowels refuse to move on command, which for Joachim is rare, he urinates as much as possible. After the excretion and/or urination, Joachim takes a deep breath and feels ready to go out in front of the world.
Martin Dalsgaard gels his hair and looks into the mirror, sometimes doing a kissy face. For Dalsgaard, one glance in the mirror is enough of a motivation for just about anything.
Patrik Wass phones his mother and tells her he loves her. He has done this before every game, for both club and country, throughout his entire career. Wass, known to his teammates as the ‘Wassing Machine,’ routinely fears for the day that his ‘mama’ will die, praying it is after he retires. But luckily, on this day, in the critical match vs. Hungary, where only a win by a one-goal margin will secure World Cup qualification, Patrik’s mother is alive and well, answering the phone:
‘Indecipherable Danish having to do with love.’
‘Indecipherable Danish having to do with luck.’
Rasmus Jønsson calls his father to tell him he loves him. Rasmus does not call his mother because she is dead. When Rasmus was 5 years old, in the small town of Holstebro, his father left him with the neighbors and went to Stockholm. Rasmus thought his father had abandoned him. Little did young Rasmus know, his father went to find a scout who would be willing to watch his son play. And two weeks later, his father returned with a Rolodex of connections.
Jacob Larsen masturbates to a photo of whoever he is dating at the moment and then texts them before the game to make sure they are watching.
Yussuf Gytkjær has no particular pre-match routine. Although he has become one of Europe’s best strikers, Yussuf Gytkjær’s favorite sport is baseball. To Yussuf, becoming a world-famous, prolific goal scorer was more destiny than a passion. An effortless athlete from the start, naturally better than everyone else in school and then academy, it all just sort of happened for him. He never even had time to join an amateur softball league. And if success in something you’re not passionate about is so clearly written in the stars, in the script of fate, Yussuf Gytkjær hardly has a thing to worry about before playing an important game.
Lucas Knudsen leaves the stadium to find the closest bodega, corner store, or 7/11 to have a little chat with whoever’s working at the register. No matter where he is in the world, he will always do this before a game. It is actually written into his contracts, in the ‘right to leave stadium three hours before kick-off to stop and chat with a grocery store clerk’ clause. As soon as Lucas Knudsen finds out the date of the storekeeper’s birthday, he feels relaxed enough to play the match. To this day, both Lucas and a large team of psychologists do not know why this is what he needs, merely trusting the adage of, ‘if it works, it works.’
Jens Skov puts on a helmet to feel safe. When he was seven years old, he crashed his bike into a tree and got a concussion. Even though he is healthy, putting on a helmet for 15-20 minutes is a form of meditation, giving him the illusion of both safety and control.
Riza Vestergaard stretches.