Dutch amateur soccer players move to Sweden for last chance as prof

“The bus trip was quite tough: three and a half hours to Stockholm! I wasn’t home until 02:30. I’m really not used to this. I already went crazy when we had to go out to TEC in Tiel. My teammates said this is nothing.”

Lovette Felicia has the floor. The 25-year-old striker was actually supposed to play soccer for second division player Excelsior Maassluis this season, but it turned out differently. He had a clause in his contract that he was allowed to leave a professional club. And Felicia, to his own surprise, got it from Sweden.

So Jong Sparta’s former player has been playing football for IF Karlstad Fotboll since August. That team reaches the third level, but Felicia experiences it as professional football: “It’s not nothing. You train twice a day. I start the day with strength training, followed by field training. We even have our own gym”, he tells the regional broadcaster Rijnmond.

Dutch enclave

In Sweden the football pyramid is different than in the Netherlands. There clubs of the first five levels have a professional status. According to Felicia it’s easier to break through as a professional footballer than through amateur football in your own country. And more footballers have that idea. According to the KNVB, at least ten players recently made the switch to Sweden.

They hope for a career like that of Mohamed Buya Turay. In three years, the 25-year-old striker from Sierra Leone went from fourth level to Sweden’s premier league. He is currently playing football at the highest level in China. In between, Buya Turay was also under contract with Sint-Truiden at the highest level in Belgium.

So Sweden can be a turnoff for Dutch footballers on their way to succeed as a pro. For example, at the fifth level of Sweden a Dutch enclave is active at Eskilstuna City FK. Jรถrgen Gomes, Amien Jeddaoui, Can Memisoglu and recently also Nidal Hammaoui are allowed to show their skills there.

Jeddaoui (20) played last season with first divisionist FC Dordrecht. He had an amateur status there, so only his travel expenses were reimbursed. Now he sits with Gomes in an apartment and they can eat in a restaurant of their Swedish club Eskilstuna City. “A five-star restaurant”, that’s what Gomes calls it. They also have a shopping card at Eskilstuna City, with which they can do free shopping.

Long light

Jeddaoui and Gomes both ended up in Scandinavia with the help of fiduciary Jazzley John. John thinks that Swedish clubs playing at a lower level are more professional than clubs playing at a similar level in the Netherlands. The Dutch at the lower professional levels in Sweden don’t get paid very well, but they can make a living from the money. They see the Swedish adventure above all as a sporting investment in themselves and have the plan to quickly climb up to higher playing clubs.

So did Jeddaoui, who went to secondary school without a diploma. He had missed too many lessons, because he often had to train with FC Dordrecht. Jeddaoui has no distractions at Eskilstuna City, doesn’t have to work and can fully focus on football in Sweden. Jeddaoui would have preferred to play soccer with an Under 21 team of a Dutch club.

Jeddaoui admits that he had to get used to it when he came to Sweden. For example to the fact that it is long light. That almost put him on the wrong track: “In the beginning my sleep rhythm was bad, because it didn’t get dark here. It got dark late and light early. In the night I woke up once, then it was already light outside. I was afraid I was too late for training.” Meanwhile Jeddaoui is grounded in Sweden. “I’m glad I did this,” he says to Rijnmond.

The Swedish football adventure seems to be a last chance in professional football, especially for the older Dutch. “If it hasn’t worked out in Sweden and they’ve done everything they can, the players know that they can start a family in the Netherlands or focus on their social career,” says John.