Two men dressed in team gear stand next to a human-sized pink display poster showing the Grunden Bois logo.

Football coach Thor Guttormsen and player Joachim Andersson first met when Andersson was a teenager, and have now worked together for more than two decades.

Photography by Thor Guttormsen

A lot can happen in a quarter century. Twenty-five years ago, when he was 15, Joachim Andersson walked into a training session for the first time in Grondin-Bois, Special Olympics Sweden Football club based in Gothenburg. There he met coach Thor Guttormsen and a bond was formed.

Thor Guttormsen witnessed Joachim Andersson’s transformation from a shy teenager into a confident young adult and, later, a man with a clear vision of his role in the world.

Anderson, who turned 40 in April, said of his decision to start playing football: “I have always enjoyed football and I heard about Grunden Boas and from the first training, I knew it was the right place for me.”

A soccer player wearing a blue kit kisses his shirt after scoring a goal on an indoor field.

Free kicks and corner kicks are Joachim Andersson’s biggest strength as a player.

Photography by Thor Guttormsen

The club’s coach and director, Guttormsen, was there to welcome the teenage boy to his first training session. Over the next 25 years, he watched his student gain not only prowess on the soccer field, but also valuable life skills.

“At the time, he was a shy little kid,” Guttormsen recalls. “He has grown as a person and gained self-esteem, self-confidence and an identity as an athlete and as a person.”

The relationship between coach and player goes beyond free kicks and corners

After 25 years together, Guttormsen knows all the strengths and weaknesses of his star players, and he can also share a few laughs about them.

“He shoots hard, but he doesn’t like to run,” Gronden-Boas said, laughing, of the player nicknamed “Gronden-Jock” because of his loyalty to Gothenburg.

Anderson admits that Guttormsen’s analysis is accurate.

“I’m not the fastest player,” he said. “But my strength lies in taking free kicks and corners.”

This kind of banter is a feature of the close relationship Guttormsen and Andersson have developed over the years and decades together.

It’s a relationship that extends far beyond the football field.

“We call each other almost every day and talk about what we are doing and what our plans are for the future in Grunden Bois,” Anderson said. “I’ll also be going out with Thor to meet the shepherds and give lectures on the Grunden Bois.”

Anderson’s advocacy efforts are part of his role as club president.

Despite his high position, Andersson, once on the football field, follows Guttormsen’s training plan without question.

A coach smiles as he sits on a bench in a dark locker room, with a football lying on the floor next to him.

Grunden Bois coach and manager Thor Guttormsen said his greatest reward as a coach is watching his players grow on the sports field and as human beings.

Photography by Thor Guttormsen

“It’s good and right,” the athlete said. “He gives good advice and lives training and matches.”

There is no special secret to developing this relationship of trust with the athlete, according to the veteran coach, but mutual respect is necessary.

“I always try to see Joachim and each of the athletes and make them grow as athletes and people. I want them to believe in me and trust me,” Guttormsen said. “The coach has to be responsive and provide tools that make everyone grow as a player and a person.

“I don’t think it’s special to be a Special Olympics coach,” he added. “Human beings are human beings, regardless of disability or not.”

The relationship between “Grunden Jock” and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The long-standing partnership between Guttormsen and Andersson has yielded numerous awards for Grunden Boas. The club has competed for the Special Olympics Gothia Cup every year since its inception and has won gold several times.

Two men in casual business attire stand in front of the audience, one holding a microphone to speak.

As president of Grunden Bois, Joachim Andersson often accompanies Thor Guttormsen to general talks about the club.

Photography by Thor Guttormsen

While the Special Olympics Gothia Cup is an annual highlight for Anderson and Gronden-Boas, it’s not the only moment that stands out.

Anderson’s transformation through football has spanned years.

A man with glasses and a white soccer shirt smiles as he shows off a dark blue Grunden Bois tattoo on his upper right arm.

Joachim Andersson got his football club’s shield, Gronden Bois, tattooed on his arm in 2020.

Photography by Thor Guttormsen

“My life has changed a lot. I have made friends and fellowship,” Anderson said. “Suddenly I could get a match shirt and become the Zlatan I always dreamed of.”

As it turns out, the dream of getting close to the famous Swedish footballer became a reality in 2018. When Gronden Boas was selected as the recipient of the “No. 10” scholarship, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the sponsor of the scholarship, joined Andersson on stage at the national tournament. A football ceremony to present the million kroner prize with his national team shirt.

This occasion was further proof to Anderson that Gronden-Boas was the club he would join. Two years later, the player proudly tattooed the Gronden-Boas shield on his right arm, and is now looking forward to his club’s participation in the 2024 edition of the Gothia Cup.

And through it all, Guttormsen was by his side.

“(He taught me) to grow as a person and dare to do more things on the football field and in life in general,” Anderson said.


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