Constantin Eckner and Abel Meszaros sit down with some of the most interesting people in football, from players to coaches, journalists to directors giving you insight into the wonderful and colorful world of football. So if you are interested in meaningful, long-form conversations with people who shape the landscape of football on or off the pitch, The Football Pod is for you!
Episode 5 with Jan Åge Fjørtoft
Today’s guest is Jan Åge Fjørtoft, a living legend of Norwegian football and a connoisseur of the European game. The 54-year-old has decades of perspective with a playing career from his homeland to Austria, with Andreas Herzog at Rapid Vienna, before reaching fan favourite status in England with Swindon Town and then the likes of Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough and Fabrizio Ravanelli before the move to Eintracht Frankfurt. The indelible image of his stepover finish that kept Eintracht in the Bundesliga have been etched into the minds of German football fans and elevated Fjørtoft to cult hero status. After finishing out his playing days in Norway, he has stayed close to the action, with a stint as a sporting director and advisor to the national team. For the last two decades, he has also been working as a television pundit and analyst/reporter for various European outlets, besides running a communications company.
Our conversation began with the media side of football before turning onto Norwegian football and of course Erling Haaland. Fjørtoft offers us unparalleled insights on the Norwegian sensation at Dortmund, reveals some secret qualities and tells us the moment he knew Haaland would be a superstar. In addition, we explore the reasons behind Norway’s new golden generation, what it means for Norway in historical context and how they differ from his World Cup generation. Finally, he dishes some career advice to Martin Ødegaard, talks Jens Petter Hauge and other prospects.
Don’t miss this chance to hear from one of the more entertaining and insightful voices on the global game and a host of other interesting topics.
Episode 4 with Jesse Marsch
Today’s guest is Jesse Marsch, head coach of Red Bull Salzburg. The 47-year-old is an American original, having started his collegiate career at Princeton University under Bob Bradley with whom he would reunite multiple times during his illustrious playing career, which saw him win three MLS titles and four US Open cups. After putting an end to the 14-year-old run as one of the league’s originals, alongside Jaime Moreno and Steve Ralston, Jesse would dive into the world of coaching. He began as an assistant coach for the USMNT during the 2010 World Cup - witnessing THAT Landon Donovan goal against Algeria - before taking over at expansion side Montreal Impact as head coach. After a cathartic family sabbatical which included multiple soccer stops along the way and a brief return to Princeton, Jesse found success at Red Bull New York, becoming the club’s all-time winningest coach. Having become part of the RB family, a move to RB Leipzig followed, working with Ralf Rangnick, whom, as he discloses to us in the podcast, he came to meet years earlier. Since July of 2019, he has enjoyed enormous success at Salzburg, winning everything on the domestic level while also breaking an 11-year drought of not qualifying into the Champions League group stages.
Despite the busy schedule of a head coach in preseason, amidst preparations to defend their league title as well as facing Villarreal in the Europa League next month, he took time out for a refreshingly candid conversation. We began by talking about the winter break before moving onto the challenges of an American coach in Europe. In addition to giving us unparalleled insight on the cultural and environmental differences, Jesse also speaks with enormous honesty about his career as a coach, his fit inside the Red Bull empire and what his future holds. Don’t miss this special chance to hear from one of Europe’s top coaches discuss his outlook on the game!
Episode 3 with David Sumpter
Today’s guest is David Sumpter, a professor of applied mathematics, known in football circles for his seminal work, Soccermatics and for consulting with several top European clubs. His latest book has just been released in October: The Ten Equations that Rule the World, explains key mathematical equations that have revolutionized our world. In addition it reveals "the softer side of math", showing the reader how these equations influence your everyday life from understanding YouTube algorithms calculating insurance, sports betting, learning, or making career decisions amidst uncertainty.
David also works as the data scientist for Sweden’s Hammarby IF, interacting and influencing decision-making based on math in everyday football operations. David is in a unique position as both a football outsider (as a math professor) and an insider (working with clubs). Moreover, as a public intellectual, he has also been influential in the football analytics sphere, writing articles, holding lectures and courses, as well as being active on Twitter.
Our discussion begins with his new book, before taking stock of the use of math, data and analytics in football from the media to the professional side, discussing xG, event and tracking data and randomness in football. In addition, we asked David for “the next big thing” in football, whether football needs its Moneyball as well as for his advice for budding analysts. We hope you enjoy this stimulating conversation, as much as we did.
Episode 2 with Gabriele Marcotti
Today's guest is ESPN senior writer, Gabriele Marcotti, one of the most insightful and informative writers in football journalism both in print and online. Gabriele has covered sports since the 1996 Olympics and rose to prominence writing about the Premier League in the 1990s. He's also authored books with Gianluca Vialli and on Paulo Di Canio, Fabio Capello and Claudio Ranieri.
In addition to his written work which you can read in English and Italian, Gab has been a TV\radio expert on most major UK and US outlets. Gab has been podcasting since 2006, having started it at the Times, which he left after 16 years. to join ESPNFC's coverage. He is one half of The Gab & Juls Podcast with Julien Laurens and also writes the Marcotti's Musings column, which if it isn't already should be your one-stop shop for all the important things that took place over the weekend of football. It's not only a mix of smart observations/takeaways from all the games he watches (and he watches them all!), but a measured commentary on the global game.
For those reasons, we thought he'd be the perfect guest to talk about the larger issues football faces right now: from COVID-19 to its footballing and financial implications inside and outside of stadiums, the threat of a European Super League, Project Big Picture, TV money and government intervention. Don't miss an hour of lively conversation full of Gab's encyclopedic knowledge, unique insights on football's pressing issues!
Episode 1 with Grant Wahl
Today's guest on The Football Pod is a true titan in (football) media and journalism. Grant Wahl had covered the biggest names for Sports Illustrated for over two decades - including Lebron James in high school - becoming one of the leading voices of US soccer journalism. He has written a book on David Beckham's MLS stint and even ran for FIFA president in 2011. He is currently the host of a fascinating podcast called Futból with Grant Wahl, where he leads conversations with the most interesting people in the world's game.
In this illuminating episode, we talked to Grant about the brief history of Americans in Germany and the Bundesliga and how the Christian Pulisic generation differs from that of Landon Donovan. In addition, Grant gives us his thoughts on Bundesliga graduates from Pulisic to Weston McKennie, before dishing on the likes of Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Chris Richards and Josh Sargent. We finish the episode by discussing two rising American coaches in the European game, Pellegrino Matarazzo and Jesse Marsch, as Grant tells us the differences between them and assesses their qualities.