It was not always possible to trust the three Anders Hojlund boys to play beautifully when they are together on the same court.
Rasmus, Emil and Oscar grew up about half an hour’s drive north of Copenhagen and often trained with their father at the amateur club Horsholm-Usserod Idraetsklub (HUI), a short walk from the family home.
But sometimes the brothers became so loud and competitive with each other that these family moments had to be cancelled. The balls, cones and bibs would be packed away. Anders would walk all three home.
However, the training did not end there. “He then came back and spent an hour with one of them,” recalls Christian Mouroux, UI sports director. “Then he would go back, pick up the next one, one hour.” So it’s the same with the third.”
These evening hours were often three times longer than they should have been, but a few more hours made little difference when Anders and their mother Kirsten’s days were already about one thing: the boys’ love of soccer.
“Football has filled almost everything in our lives, some would say it was too much,” says Anders Athletic. “But this has been our togetherness with our children.” Everyone’s enthusiasm and passion.”
It was also time well spent given that there is now a chance that all three boys could play on the same pitch again – not at Horsholm this time, but at Old Trafford.
While Rasmus will almost certainly lead the line Manchester Unitedhis twin brothers are two of Copenhagen’s most promising young players and both desire more opportunities in the first team.
Oscar, an energetic box-to-box midfielder, has already made seven appearances this season since his debut in July, when he came on as a 90th-minute substitute alongside his twin brother.
Emil, on the other hand, is a central defender like Rasmus who has had to wait patiently since bowing out at the highest level in March last year. But he has started the season brilliantly at youth level, with six goals in five games.
Both are still only 18 years old, among the most talented young players in Copenhagen’s youth system and have every hope of matching their older brother’s rise.
Copenhagen U-19 head coach Alfred Johansson has worked with all three Hojlunds and notes a common trait the twins share with Rasmus: namely ambition and the work ethic to back it up. “Other than that, there are some differences in personality.
Oscar is as extroverted as Rasmus, a loud and playful presence in the dressing room. “Everyone is always laughing at him because he’s the guy who forgets his boots,” says Johansson. “Sometimes it feels like he’s the younger brother, even though he’s not.
Mouroux worked closely with the twins at HÍ and always admired Óskar’s tenacity, even as a boy. “He’s a bulldog. He has such a winning mentality, always grinding.”
He also has compassion, says Johansson. “If you ask the younger players who have played with him, they always mention him as one of the guys who helped them a lot, who is constructive with feedback on the pitch and helps tactically.
Emil is the quieter of the three but has the football intelligence to be Johansson’s eyes and ears on the pitch. “He can organize the team in structure, he can organize the team in pressing and train the other players while he is playing himself.”
Johansson is reluctant to draw too many comparisons between striker Emil and Rasmus, except to say that Emil is the ideal contact number 9. “He’s an impressive player,” says Mouroux. “You see a lot of vision in his game.
Emil and Oscar both played a year above their age group at UI, in one of the most talented groups the club has ever produced, and Mouroux has always rated the twins as more natural talents than their older brother.
“If you compare them to Rasmus at the same age, they were a bit more advanced,” he says. “Ahead when it comes to the technical, tactical aspects of the game.”
It’s the kind of comment that could spark a lively debate between the three boys themselves. As expected, the brothers have healthy sibling rivalry.
“Rasmus is going to say he’s the guy who taught them everything.” They are going to say the same thing. That’s how they are,” says Johansson. “If you ask them directly what’s going on back home in the basement of fame, there’s been a lot of rivalry going on down there.”
This is a reference to the indoor court – 10 meters long, six meters wide, with goals at each end – that Anders built in the basement of the family home. He had to. After years of moving furniture to make room for them to play indoors, the boys’ kick fights had become too unruly for the living room.
Raising all three was sometimes chaotic, sometimes expensive – Anders regularly told the boys’ coaches how expensive the family’s grocery bill could be, “a lot of pasta, meat and vegetables and in large quantities,” he says – but it was a home full of care and support and that environment has affected their sons.
For all their competitiveness, they are brothers at the end of the day. “They love it when others are doing well. They are really happy with each other and very supportive in that way,” says Johansson.
Rasmus might be extra protective of the twins growing up. One story says that when he used to bring cakes to school for his classmates on their birthdays, he would save two pieces for Emil and Óskar.
Had things gone differently, all three Hojlunds could still be part of the same Copenhagen team at Old Trafford, but Rasmus quit when he was Emil and Oscar’s age, having become frustrated with first-team opportunities.
Anders has previously made his own thoughts clear. When asked if his son had had enough opportunities in the Danish capital, he told Frihedsbrevet: “I don’t think so at all.”
Now when one imagines the potential of all three sons on the same field, there is a hint of regret that it hasn’t already happened in a Copenhagen shirt. “Two years ago, we had the belief and hope that it should have been the same color jersey,” he says.
But if Rasmus’ talents were slightly underappreciated by the senior staff in Copenhagen, they were certainly admired by Sturm Graz. “We were completely convinced both in terms of content and character,” says head coach Christian Ilzer, who seized the opportunity.
Despite his limited minutes in the Danish capital, Ilzer and the Graz hierarchy identified Rasmus as a player who could develop into elite talent, “showing incredible speed and agility when driving through space”.
“His energy and determination allowed him to burst into the box and it was obvious to us that he was an excellent striker,” says Ilzer.
Even then, Ilzer says the negotiations were “careful.” Graz had to make presentations to Rasmus and his agent to convince him of the move. Leaving his boyhood club was a big decision: it meant not only leaving the club he called home, but also his family.
The presentations proved convincing. “We convinced him and his agent about our style of play, training methods and the opportunities we could offer,” says Ilzer. Rasmus has hardly looked back to his Copenhagen days since. Until this The Champions League group competition, i.e.
It’s a tie that has tested Anders’ ability to keep up with his three boys, despite years of practice chasing them.
Take September 20 for example. While Rasmus was in Munich preparing for his Champions League debut with United, Emil and Oscar went to Istanbul.
Anders headed to Bavaria in the morning but before boarding he found an airport bar showing Copenhagen’s UEFA Youth League match against Galatasaray U19s and watched an impressive 5-1 away win, with Emil scoring the second.
After landing in Munich, there was a quick stop at United’s team hotel to wish Rasmus the best of luck, followed by a trip to the Allianz Arena to find a place to drink draft beer, eat currywurst and watch Group A Copenhagen vs Galatasaray on their phone. .
There was only one problem: a low battery. “I got really nervous because I didn’t have my phone charger with me,” he says, “so I shut down the game about 10 minutes before the whistle. Oscar was introduced as a substitute in the 90th minute.
Anders only found out about Oscar’s debut in the Champions League after a message from Kirsten. But at least he was there to witness the Hojlund family’s first Champions League goal, with Rasmus netting in United’s 4-3 defeat later that evening.
The ordeal, first reported by Danish website Frihedsbrevet, was still the proudest day yet for the parents of the Hojlund boys, although these meetings between United and Copenhagen over the next fortnight will be even more special if all three make it to the same ground. at the same time.
“We all have dreams,” says Anders. “We’ve had many at home around our dining room table, this has been one of several. But there will be no disappointment if the night is not the night.
“The most important thing is that they do something they enjoy and pursue their dreams,” says Anders. “Until it’s not possible or fun anymore, we don’t have a plan B. Our philosophy is work hard for your dream and maybe it will work out.”
And in that sense, the Hojlund brothers are already achieving what they and their parents have always wanted.
Additional reporting: Laurie Whitwell
(Top photo: Eamonn Dalton for The Athletic, photos: Getty Images)
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