The Newly-Wed Christian Schäfer Continued To Search For His Future Home
The last three months had been somewhat hectic for myself. On the first day of September, I had made the biggest commitment of my life. The contract I had signed confirmed my marriage with Ida Lindström, a Swedish-born teacher. We had met while she was studying, and later teaching, German in Dresden many years ago and had been close friends since. My return to Germany from Madrid had prompted a rekindling of our friendship, and the rest became history.
While we had only been romantically involved with one another for three months, our previous friendship and understanding of each other stood in good stead, and we were more than comfortable with settling down and tying the knot. It was certainly an exciting moment for both of us and while the ceremony itself was a quiet one, we rejoiced with friends and family.
Ida, two years my junior, had degrees in teaching Swedish, German and English. She was quite the linguist, and our shared interest in learning new and interesting languages brought us closer, as we traveled the world together. We embarked on a journey which brought us to Istanbul, Washington D.C., Liverpool, Copenhagen, and many more centers of world culture.
While we thoroughly enjoyed our experiences in a number of these cities, we still had not found a place where we felt fully at home. We wished to settle down and locate long-term jobs which would allow us to spend time together, which was certainly a big ask for a football manager and a teacher. Never-the-less, we continued our search for what we perceived as the perfect home, and we never gave up on this quest.
Christian Schäfer And Ida Lindström Tied The Knot In September
Our journey brought us to Ida's birth home of Stockholm, Sweden. It was a truly remarkable city, if not somewhat cold in the latter stages of the calendar year, and the people were of the kindest nature. Upon our visit, we were greeted warmly by Ida's family and friends, and great suppers were enjoyed each evening.
During my time in the Swedish capital, I took it upon myself to become accustomed with the many traditions of the city, and the country, and I explored the culture of one of Europe's finest cities. I strolled through the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, the old town district of Stockholm, and I took in my surroundings with great respect. I visited major landmarks, such as the royal palace of Kungliga Slottet, and I sampled local cuisine.
In terms of employment opportunities, a variety of major football clubs were situated in the Swedish capital. Djurgårdens IF and Hammarby IF were Stockholm's footballing pride, while AIK, Malmö FF and Helsingborgs IF also stood in good stead in Swedish football. Finding a job in this country would not have been a problem for a manager with my CV.
Unfortunately, teaching opportunities were somewhat limited at the time, especially for those who have spent significant spells working outside of the country, as Ida has. Ida had not lived in Sweden for many years, and Swedish teaching policies prohibited teachers who had not spent the recent years in the country, absorbing the culture. Personally, I had many qualms with this policy, but there was nothing I could do to alter the country's culture.
Stockholm Was A City Full Of Exciting Traditions And Culture
Following our visit to the Swedish capital, we set our eyes on another Scandinavian country; Norway. Inter-Scandinavian flights were certainly cheap, as we embarked on yet another trip, this time to Oslo. The Norwegian capital was located in the south of the country, similarly to Stockholm in Sweden, and was just as beautiful as Ida's home town.
We explored every nook and cranny of the city, leaving no stone unturned. Traditionally a trading place, the many markets of Oslo attracted tourists from far and wide to its enthralling culture. We indulged in the fine Norwegian cuisine and explored the many museums which dotted the city. A venture to the world-famous Oslo Opera House did not go unappreciated, as a fine show of musical talent took place.
However, the trip to the Norwegian capital was not solely to enjoy the available attractions, and our job hunt continued. While there were plenty of teaching jobs available throughout Norway for Ida, and several potential jobs available for myself, such as at Molde, Rosenborg and Tromsø, the country itself was very stretched out and this would require many hours of travelling between fixtures, which was not of interest to myself.
Oslo Was Home To The World Famous Oslo Opera House And Many Museums
Our final venture in Scandinavia brought us to Helsinki of Finland. The city itself was very similar to Stockholm, and the people and culture certainly drew comparisons with that of the Swedes. Just like Oslo and Stockholm, Helsinki was located in south of its country, beside the sea. Its beauty matched that of Stockholm and Oslo, and felt as homely as any city I had set foot in.
Unlike Sweden and Norway, Finland did not have a rule of monarchy. The history and traditions of the Finnish was somewhat different, but equally as exciting. Exploring Helsinki brought great joy to Ida and myself, as we delved in to a culture and way of life which was similar to others, yet completely different at the same time. The National Museum, Parliament House and Kiasma contemporary art museum were fantastic pieces of architecture with great shows of history and tradition, and we explored each fine detail of the Finnish capital in tremendous depth.
Job opportunities throughout the culture were certainly more welcoming. Ida had no problem locating potential job openings at schools that welcome foreign nationals with experience teaching abroad. In terms of football management, the standard of club football in Finland was certainly lower than the level of Swedish or Norwegian football, but the job opportunities were there. The potential of a low wage offer did not frighten me, as I was certainly on a very generous pay at Real Madrid, Brazil and Dynamo Dresden.
There were a number of Finnish clubs in and around Helsinki, such as HJK, HIFK, FC Viikingit and Atlantis FC, while there were many more spread across the country. Travelling between fixtures seemed more feasible in this country than in Norway, with the vast majority of top flight clubs based in the central and south areas of Finland.
Helsinki Was A Center Of Cultural Difference And Home To An Attractive Lifestyle
Upon completing our tour of these three major cities, Ida and myself began the process of discussing where our future home would be. We had enjoyed our stay in each city and wished to delve further in to the cultures which surrounded each country. The three Scandinavian countries had certainly caught our fancy, and we did not consider any other region in the world.
Potential job opportunities played a key role in our decision making. While employment in Sweden would be hard to come by for Ida, working in Norway was not a feasible prospect for myself. This left one country to be considered. Helsinki had impressed us and having discussed the country as a whole with residents of the city, there was plenty more to discover outside of the capital. Opportunities to work in this country were endless for both Ida and myself and while the standard of football was considerably lower than that of other countries, I was more than comfortable with the idea of managing there, having won my fair share of major trophies in the past.
We officially moved to Finland in November, where we moved from hotel to hotel in search of jobs in the same vicinity as each other. Ida was fortunate to receive several offers from schools based in Helsinki, Tampere, Jyväskylä and Kuopio. A teacher with her qualifications had no problem with earning employment, and she was eager to throw herself in to working in Finland.
This left myself in the job hunt and there were two managerial vacancies which I considered; FC Ilves and JJK Jyväskylä. The former had been enjoying a spell in the Finnish second division, Ykkönen, since 2021, while the latter had just been promoted to Ykkönen from the Finnish third division, Kakkonen.
I applied for both positions and received an interview offer from one of them. With great excitement I journeyed to the club to attend the interview and to, hopefully, begin a new chapter in my career. The prospect of managing in Finland had never crossed my mind when I began my managerial adventure in 2015. However, in 2024, it seemed like the right thing to do.
I sat outside the chairman's office, across from a young secretary who was hard at work. I read over notes which I had prepared prior to the interview, hoping to have a reasonable amount of knowledge of the club's history, and I focused myself. At 14:05 local time, the secretary lifted her head and announced that the chairman, Markus Knuutinen, was ready to meet me.
I stood up and re-positioned my tie, which had been swept to one side by a gust of wind on my way to the office. I took a long self-assuring breath before stepping towards the chairman's door. I knocked twice before entering, closing the door behind me on my way. Another chapter of my career was about to begin.
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