Kalmar FF may be champions of Sweden but they are underdogs to win this year's Allsvenskan – something which captain Henrik Rydström, no ordinary top-flight footballer, revels in.
Rydström, for instance, has no problem with the critics who, down the years, have called Kalmar many unflattering things – 'peasants' and 'boring Kalmar' being frequent examples. "Being called boring can be a compliment," the 33-year-old midfielder told uefa.com. "You don't want opposing teams to enjoy playing you, so I don't mind if opponents call us boring. But I think the general public now appreciates us and people can see we play an attractive passing game."
Despite Kalmar winning their first Swedish title in November, few experts believe they can successfully defend their crown. "I can understand that," Rydström went on. "Look at the players we've lost since last year – [2008 Allsvenskan top scorer] Patrik Ingelsten, Viktor Elm, Patrik Rosengren, Artur Sorin. And midway through last season, César Santin had already left us. That's helped us keep the underdog tag."
Rydström is clear, however, about the benefits of that outsider status. "The pundits have written us off ever since our last promotion in 2004," he said. "People said we'd be relegated that year, but we finished fifth. Then they said we couldn't match fifth place the following year, and we ended up third. In 2007 we finished second and last year first."
Rydström himself has gained a reputation as a highly effective defensive midfielder during 13 seasons as a Kalmar first-teamer. He has also made a name for himself as a newspaper columnist and blogger, becoming the most sought-after player in the league for the media. He is nothing if not articulate and opinionated. "I like to boost the profile of my team when I get the chance in interviews," he said. "At the same time, I've noticed that it's double-edged. The more I appear in the media, the more other teams want to beat us. They sometimes run up to me after they've scored, cheering to my face."
His fluency, both verbal and written, attests the fact he has a university degree in literature. He is also one of the few Allsvenskan players with a job outside football – teaching Swedish literature at a Kalmar high school to three classes a week. "I'm from the old school of Swedish players," Rydström said. "When I started playing, everyone had a job. You couldn't survive on what football paid. Also,
I never wanted to be just a footballer, I never wanted people to see me only as that. It's important to go against certain preconceptions of what a footballer can do."
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