Eljest- The magic word behind Ostersunds' rise

Swedish side Ostersunds gave Arsenal a run for its money in their Europa League clash on Thursday, but this wasn't the first time the tiny club based 240 miles from the Arctic Circle has punched above its weight.

Ostersunds was in the fourth-tier of the Swedish league in 2010 but has had a remarkable turnaround since that saw it get promoted to the top-tier of Swedish football, clinch the Swedish Cup trophy in 2017 and qualify for the Europa League.   -  AFP

Little-known Swedish club Ostersunds gave Arsenal a run for its money by springing a surprise 2-1 win in Thursday's reverse-leg Europa League  fixture at The Emirates, but it wasn't enough as the Arsene Wenger-led side progressed on aggregate.

However, this wasn't the first time the tiny club based 240 miles from the Arctic Circle has punched above its weight.

Known as the Swedish giant-killers, the side has had a remarkable run in the Europa League. It got its campaign off to a spectacular start by thwarting aside celebrated Turkish side Galatasaray in the second round of qualifying and then went on to defeat German side Hertha Berlin in the group stages to finish second in its pool and qualify for the knockout round, where it set up a clash with EPL heavyweight Arsenal.

Given where the club was eight years ago, no one would have predicted that this side, which was relegated to the fourth tier of Swedish football in 2010, would bounce back in such fashion.

- A short film on Ostersunds by Copa 90

 

“We were relegated to the fourth tier of Swedish football, the lowest you can go,” says Daniel Kindberg, who took over as the club's chairman six years ago. “We had a handful of players, no manager, no staff, no ideas. We started with an analysis of the football world and came to the conclusion that if everybody trains the same, plays the same and organises the same and we do exactly the same, we will end up in a number’s game and we would be exactly where the money takes us – and we don’t have money.”

Kindberg soon roped in Englishman Graham Potter as coach, who knew he had a challenging task at hand. “We’ve got no history, no tradition, no culture here and not the finance to attract players,” he says. “Therefore you’re looking for the ones who have been discarded – the ones where conventional football has said: ‘No, no, no. He’s not good enough.’”

Kindberg brought about the magic word that changed the club's fortunes -- Eljest. Eljest is a Swedish word that roughly translates to be different.

That decision, simply to be different, has reaped rich benefits. Ostersund has since been promoted from the lowest rung of Swedish football to the top-tier, clinched the Swedish Cup trophy in 2017, qualified for the Europa League and has beaten big names like Galatasaray, Hertha Berlin and now, a one-off win over Arsenal.

Apart from operating in a "different way" on the pitch, Kindberg and Potter adopted a completely different method promote decision-making on and off the field through a "Culture Academy". The culture academy is a mandatory annual arts workshop that's held in front of a huge local crowd,  with an aim of pushing the players and support staff out of their comfort zones. The club has written a book, performed a play and a dance routine over the years.

Ostersund's mercurial rise – on and off the pitch – has been phenomenal, all owing to its quest to be different.

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