FC Nordsjælland: The Homegrown Team with an Average Age of 21On November 15, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Things are done differently at FC Nordsjaelland.
a modest Danish club based in the small town of Farum. The club’s ethos is one of
integration, development and sustainability, and
they are perhaps one of the leading examples of building a team the right way. FC Nordsjaelland made a strong start to the
Danish Superliga this season,level on points with the far more illustrious Brondby IF after
10 games. And though the team has since dropped back into mid-table after 15, they have managed
all of this while fielding a team with an average age of just 21. The aim, eventually, is to boast a starting
XI made up entirely of academy produced players, half of whom will be from Africa. This unique
strategy has been in place since 2016, when Tom Vernon, the founder of Ghana-based academy
Right to Dream, took over at FC Nordsjaelland. He quickly implemented his vision, bringing
in the most talented players from Ghana and offering them an ideal environment to develop,
to learn and to play at a professional level. So far, it has been unquestionably successful.
FC Nordsjaelland operate within their means, building their team around youth. They are
proof that it is not always necessary to spend lavishly in order to achieve. In the 2017/18 season, FCN finished third
in the Superliga, qualifying for the Europa League.
Vernon’s impact was immediate, and supporters quickly bought into his philosophy.
But his intention is not simply to progress at FCN. Vernon’s focus is on growing Right
to Dream and finding more prospects in Africa who might otherwise not make it into the
professional game. And he is conscious of doing good away from the pitch, too. “Every kid that is in the Right to Dream
academy in Ghana and every kid at the FCN academy in Denmark is working on a give-back
project appropriate to their age,” Vernon said in a 2017 interview with Sky Sports.
“There are a multitude of projects going on. One player even rebuilt the mosque in
his hometown. “We have got 14-year-olds in the Danish
academy, for example, who have been going to the
same bus stop for the past few years and seen the same homeless guy sat there. They
decided to do something about that and invest in getting him back on his feet.” FCN continue to thrive thanks to their partnership
with Right to Dream. Several Ghanaians – amongst them the likes of Abdul Mumin, Clinton
Antwi, Mohammed Kudus and star striker Godsway Donyoh – are regulars in the first
team. And the development of these young players
is in large part down to the work of the club’s head of academy, Jan Laursen, who has revolutionised
the way youth teams are coached. Financially, they rely upon funds generated
by the sale of players produced by their academy, but there are hopes to find other sources
of income. “We should have a business model that works
outside the football transfer market,” CEO Søren Kristensen told the Sustainability
Report earlier this year. “And the only way to
achieve that is to build commercial value around the values that we have. There has
to be a value in doing what we’re doing, and showing
it; because we are something unique, something different. That is the commercial
territory that we have to explore – and I believe itis something that is speaking
to a lot of companies.” FCN have, since 2016, been visited by a number
of Premier League and Bundesliga clubs, all keen to learn from their unorthodox methods.
They are innovating, going against the trends of the modern game, and providing hope for
youngsters thousands of miles away. FC Nordsjaelland may not be winning trophies
or making millions from lucrative sponsorship deals.. But in the long term, their work alongside
Right to Dream could prove more rewarding and more important than any success on the