Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Thor and Joakim: One Coach, One Player, 25 Years

Swedish coach and player pair, Thor Guttormsen and Joakim Andersson, have undergone a long journey from new acquaintances to close friends, collecting accolades along the way and even attracting the attention of Zlatan Ibrahimovic!
Two men in team kit stand next to a pink, human-size display poster that shows the Grunden Bois logo.
Football coach Thor Guttormsen and player Joakim Andersson first met when Andersson was a teenager and have now worked together for more than two decades.

A lot can happen in a quarter of a century. Twenty-five years ago, when he was 15 years old, Joakim Andersson first walked into a training session at Grunden Bois, a Special Olympics Sweden football club based in Gothenburg. There he met coach, Thor Guttormsen, and a bond was formed.

Thor Guttormsen has witnessed Joakim Andersson transform from a shy teenager into a confident young adult and later, a man with a clear vision for his role in the world.

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

A male football player in a blue kit kisses his jersey after scoring a goal at an indoor pitch.
Free kicks and corner kicks are Joakim Andersson's biggest strengths as a player.

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

“In that time, he was a shy little boy,” Guttormsen recalled. “He has grown as a person and gained self-esteem, self-confidence and an identity as an athlete and as a person.”

A coach-player bond beyond free kicks and corners

After 25 years together, Guttormsen knows all of his star players’ strengths and weaknesses—and can share some laughs about them too.

“He shoots hard, but he doesn’t like to run,” the Grunden Bois coach said with a laugh about the player who has been nicknamed ‘Grunden-Jocke’ for his loyalty to the Gothenburg club.

Andersson concedes that Guttormsen’s analysis is accurate.

“I'm not the fastest player,” he said. “But my strength is to shoot free kicks and corners.”

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

It is a relationship that extends beyond the football pitch.

“We call each other almost every day and talk about what we do and what plans we have in Grunden Bois for the future,” Andersson said. “I’m also going out with Thor to meet sponsors and give lectures about Grunden Bois.”

Andersson’s advocacy efforts are part of his role as the club’s chairman.

Despite the high position, once he is on the football pitch Andersson follows Guttormsen’s coaching plan without question.

A male coach smiles while sitting on a bench in a darkened locker room, 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.

“He is good and correct,” the athlete said. “He gives good tips and lives for the trainings and matches.”

There is no special secret to developing such a trusting relationship with an athlete, according to the veteran coach, but mutual respect is necessary.

“I always try to see Joakim and every one of the athletes and have them grow as athletes and people. I want them to believe and trust in me,” Guttormsen said. “A coach should be responsive and provide tools which make everyone grow as a player and human being.

“I don’t think it’s special to be a SO [Special Olympics] coach,” he added. “Humans are humans, regardless of disability or not.”

The connection between “Grunden-Jocke” and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Guttormsen and Andersson’s longtime partnership has yielded multiple accolades for Grunden Bois. The club has competed for the Gothia Special Olympics Trophy every year since its inception and won gold several times.

Two males in casual business attire stand in front of an audience, with one holding a microphone to speak.
As Grunden Bois chairman, Joakim Andersson often accompanies Thor Guttormsen to public talks about the club.

While the Gothia Special Olympics Trophy is an annual highlight for Andersson and for Grunden Bois, it is not the only moment that stands out.

Andersson’s transformation through football has spanned years.

A man wearing glasses and a white football jersey smiles as he shows a dark blue Grunden Bois tattoo on his upper right arm.
Joakim Andersson got the shield of his football club, Grunden Bois, tattooed on his arm in 2020.

“My life has changed a lot. I got friends and fellowship,” Andersson said. “Suddenly I could have a match shirt and become ‘Zlatan’ as I always dreamt about.”

As it turns out, the dream to get closer to the famed Swedish footballer became a reality in 2018. When Grunden Bois was chosen as the recipient of scholarship “Number 10,” the scholarship’s patron, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, joined Andersson on stage at the national football gala to present the award of one million kroner, together with his national team jersey.

The occasion was further proof for Andersson that Grunden Bois was the club to be in. Two years later, the player proudly got Grunden Bois’ shield tattooed on his right arm and is now looking forward to his club taking part in the 2024 edition of the Gothia Cup.

Throughout it all, Guttormsen has been 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,” Andersson said.

Recommended Content

UEFA 2024: UEFA EURO 2024 Volunteer Tandem Programme kicks off in Cologne

The following is an excerpt on UEFA’s Euro 2024 Volunteer Tandem Programme that is inspired and based off of the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 Host Town Program.
1 Min Read

Being a Leader Means Bringing a “Fighting Spirit”!

Speaking at his team’s Gothia Special Olympics Trophy debut in Gothenburg, Special Olympics Sweden athlete, Joakim Lantz discusses what it takes to be a good leader.
1 Min Read

The Power of Youth Leadership: Driving Unified Sports in Sweden

In 2019, Isak Langfors and Olle Ekman from Uppsala in Sweden had a simple dream—to ensure that young people with intellectual disabilities in their city could experience the joy of football.
2 Min Read