Fredrik Risp: Göteborg, Gençlerbirliği and playing with Zlatan

You retired from professional football in 2013. How are you enjoying retirement and how is life for you away from the pitch these days?

It has been a couple of years now since I stopped and I had a pretty decent plan in place during the last few years of my playing career of what I wanted to do so for me it was easy to make the decision to stop playing even though I retired at 33 years of age and that is earlier than most professional footballers but I felt that I had already accomplished what I wanted to do and I also had some minor injury problems towards the end of my career which played a part in my decision.

It was not an easy decision to make but I will eager to get going with my new profession as a football agent and ever since then I have never looked back and I have never regretted my decision to retire early from professional football. I have enjoyed my retirement so far to be honest.

You had two spells for IFK Göteborg in your native Sweden. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

I had a great time playing for IFK Göteborg. I grew up supporting the team as a child so to be able to enter into that team and play with some of the stars of the early nineties in the Champions League era was special. It was great for me to go from watching those games as a fan and then go on to play with some of those players and that was a massive thing for me to achieve.

I had fantastic years at IFK Göteborg having arrived as a youngster and I spent one year in the youth academy before making the step up to the first team squad. IFK Göteborg helped to develop me not only as a footballer but also as a human being because that was the first time in my life that I moved away from home town and I was able to take care of myself. IFK Göteborg educated me well.

Credit: Mangan2002

You had a two season spell with Gençlerbirliği. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories and highlights from your time in Turkey?

I had some really good spells throughout my five years in Turkey. Before I arrived in Turkey I had a loan spell at Chievo Verona in Italy and then I returned to IFK Göteborg before coming to play football in Turkey and from my experience in Italy I felt that I was ready to take the next step but then it took my one and a half to two more years before I was able to get the chance to play abroad again and when the chance came with Gençlerbirliği I felt that it was a chance that I had to take.

I felt that if I did not take the chance maybe the chance would not come again and back then they were not so many Swedish players playing in the Turkish League only Kennet Andersson and Roger Ljung were the only players before me that had played in that country so I spoke to Kennet to get a clearer picture of how Turkish football is and what I could expect living in a country like Turkey.

He had only good things to say about it and I had a really good impression of Gençlerbirliği and the capital city of Ankara so my family had a really good one and a half years in Ankara especially at Gençlerbirliği and during my time at the club we had quite a successful time even though we did not fight for the title we were still involved in fighting for the European spots and I had maybe the best three years of my career in that period. I would say that they were my best years football wise and then I later moved on to one of the bigger clubs in Turkey with Trabzonspor.

You have been capped by your country of Sweden. How do you look back on representing your country and what are your highlights and memories of playing international football?

It is a big honour for every footballer to represent their country. Unfortunately I was only capped three times and I was really unlucky that during my early years representing the under 21 team that in the senior team back then we had really strong central defenders so the competition was massive back then so that blocked me for a few years but I was always in and around first team squads so I always kept on trying to achieve the best that I could in order to be selected I look back on being capped three times and I was also very close to being in the Swedish squad for Euro 2008.

In was part of the squad during the final cut when we were in London playing against Brazil and I was part of the last squad before they selected the final 23 players so that was the last time I was involved in the Swedish national team and although I did not play and after Euro 2008 I felt that my time in the Swedish national team was over and I also felt that I had peaked career wise but I looking back I am very fortunate to have been able to represent my country. It was something that had driven me for many years to try and get into the Swedish national team and it helped me in my daily motivation as a player.

Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Lesula

I made my debut at the age of alongside Zlatan Ibrahimović against Faroe Islands and it was a gathering of the Nordic Swedish players playing in Nordic countries but it still counted as a senior international cap. It has been great to look back on the career that Zlatan has had and we made our international debut together in a indoor international game in Sweden in the year 2000 and many of my under 21 teammates were able to make our debut in that game.

You mentioned the likes Kennet Andersson and Zlatan Ibrahimović, could you say who were among the best players you played alongside when you look back on your career?

Yes, I have played in many different countries and teams and of course there are a few players that were extraordinary obviously Zlatan Ibrahimović was one of the top players and they way that he was able to perform at the top level for many years is a great achievement. Even through my spell at Chievo Verona was very short we had some fantastic players such as Oliver Bierhoff who was in the last season of his career so I was really fortunate to be with him during the last six months of his career.

Credit: Thomas Holbach

He was a great player and even though it was his last season I remember our final game away to Juventus and we lost 4-3 and he scored a hattrick so that says something about the quality player he was to do that in his final game as a professional footballer and I rate him very highly, both he and Zlatan had star quality Also in the same Chievo Verona team we had Simone Perrotta who was a really good midfielder who went on to join AS Roma and be part of Italian national team. I also played with some excellent players at IFK Göteborg when I came up through the ranks as a youngster.

Goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli who was a Swedish World Cup legend in 1994 he was also in his final years as a professional player,Stefan Pettersson who also played for Ajax, he was tremendous for IFK Göteborg in the nineties. There are several players who I was fortunate to play alongside in my career and I look back with fond memories.

Finally Fredrik, I can imagine in your position as a defender that you played against some very difficult opponents through the years, when you look back on your career cpuld you say which opponents stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?

Credit: Vulkahn

During my time in Turkey there were many stars coming and going in the top teams so there were several players where it was always special to play against them and as a central defender the strikers were the main players. The Turkish legend Hakan Şükür of Galatasaray was always a special player to play against, it was always tough to play against him, he was a string striker who was really got inside the 18 yard box and I struggled at times playing against him but when the game was over we always had the gentleman’s agreements of a handshake even though we had tough tussles in the game we were always friends afterwards.

There was also a fantastic Brazilian attacking midfielder at Fenerbahçe called Alex de Souza who was always trying to put the final pass through to the strikers. I made my debut in the Turkish league in a home match against Fenerbahçe and the coach Ziya Doğan gave me the instruction not to let Alex de Souza turn with the ball and told me to mark him the whole game. I remember the coach telling me if Alex de Souza goes to drink water you go and drink water as well so that gave you an idea of how close I had to mark him.

The match finished 0-0 so it was mission accomplished in that game. A lot a great players came to the big teams in Turkey at that time such as Nicolas Anelka and Roberto Carlos at Fenerbahçe , I was really fond of Harry Kewell during his short spell at Galatasaray and Milan Baroš too. I have crossed paths with many players especially in Turkey as that is where I spent half of my spell abroad.

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