June 30, 2011 / 12:05 AM / 7 years ago

RPT-FEATURE-Soccer-Goitom takes Spanish "tiki-taka" to Sweden

(Repeats feature first moved at 0002 GMT)

By Philip O’Connor

STOCKHOLM, June 30 (Reuters) - The dazzling play of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winners has been the benchmark for soccer brilliance for more than 40 years, but recent Spanish dominance at club and international level is drawing favourable comparisons with Pele’s old masters.

As players and coaches around the world seek to emulate what they see on television, the influence of Spain’s “tiki-taka” short-passing style is spreading, as evidenced by a newly-born suburban club in Sweden’s capital.

Kista Galaxy have been formed by a Swede with first-hand experience of what current Spanish soccer is all about — Henok Goitom of Almeria, who last season lost four times to Barcelona in cup and league, scoring once and conceding 19 goals.

Goitom, who was born in Stockholm of Eritrean extraction, has played in Spain for the last six years and appreciates how Spanish soccer has transformed itself, ending years of under-achievement with victories in the World Cup, the European Championship, the Champions League and last weekend’s European Under-21 championship.

All this success has come through a golden crop of players employing their short-passing “tiki-taka” style, which reached stunning heights at club level when Barcelona destroyed Manchester United in last month’s Champions League final to become European champions for the third time in six seasons.

When Goitom looked around for a club in Stockholm that played the kind of technical football he admired he could not find it. So he started one himself. The idea was more about philosophy than results, but the results have not been at all bad.

“If we in Sweden have accepted that Spain or England or Italy are better, why don’t we try to copy their style? That’s what I’m trying to do here,” Goitom told Reuters in an interview.

Together with his family and friends, Goitom started Kista Galaxy with the intention of harnessing local talent and teaching them to play fast, technical football.

“We started it to play football as we want to and train exactly as we want to, and no one can say to us ‘this is wrong’ or ‘that is wrong’. If we succeed or not it’s up to us, we don’t have to take anyone else into account.

“Take the example of the Barcelona or Arsenal model — even if it’s very difficult to teach, you can at least try. If you fail that’s another issue, but you should at least try. “

BOTTOM RUNG

Having entered the Swedish League pyramid on the bottom rung, Galaxy currently sit atop the table following an unbeaten run through the first half of the season.

Eight promotions lie between them and the top-flight Allsvenskan but, as clubs such as Wimbledon in England and Hoffenheim in Germany have shown, there is nothing to stop small, ambitious clubs reaching the top one day.

Goitom has played for Real Murcia, Ciudad de Murcia, Valladolid and Almeria in Spain and believes that Swedish football can learn a lot from the game there.

“I’ve seen these kids that play here (in Sweden), there are talents and what they need is the right leadership. The thing is not to try to be best in Sweden, but to try to be more like Spain.”

When most players would be relaxing on a beach before the coming season, Goitom has been on the pitch in the shadow of the suburban apartment blocks where he grew up, teaching the skills he learned in Spain.

“I try to do that because Spain is where I have played most. We shouldn’t be thinking ‘we are best in Sweden, and that’s enough’ — it’s not enough. You have to go out into the wider world.”

Despite his desire to make changes, Goitom believes that there is much to admire in the Swedish set-up too. Asked if Swedish football had the coaches and leaders to produce quality players, Goitom nodded.

“I grew up here in Husby and I turned pro, so obviously there are leaders who can do it. There are an awful lot of pros in Sweden.”

UNCLEAR FUTURE

With Almeria being relegated last season, Goitom’s own future remains unclear.

“I have a two-year contract with Almeria, pre-season starts July 6 so I’ll be there. If clubs or offers come in I’ll sit down with the agent and Almeria and take it from there.”

Wherever he ends up playing next season, the 26-year-old is adamant that he will return to Sweden as a coach when his playing days are over.

“It will be in Sweden. Whether it’s higher up in the Allsvenskan I have no idea, but I like young people and challenges. With young people they’re not finished players and you can still change a lot.”

As he goes to lock away the training kit, Goitom is teased by the local youngsters about Almeria’s 8-0 defeat by a rampant Barcelona in La Liga last November.

“Welcome to the ‘hood’,” smiles Goitom, before good-naturedly confronting his tormentors.

“Brother - when you play at the Camp Nou and Messi shakes your hand at the end of the game, you be sure you call me, okay?” he says, towering over the children.

“We will! We will!” comes the reply. With Goitom’s “tiki-taka”-influenced coaching philosophy now available at their local pitch, one day they just might. (Editing by Mike Collett and Clare Fallon)

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