Henriksson: How soccer can take lead in climate change fight

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Gus Henriksson and the Bluenoses drew their first European trophy in 1972 It is not just the format of the trophy that is being threatened by TV sets…

Henriksson: How soccer can take lead in climate change fight

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Gus Henriksson and the Bluenoses drew their first European trophy in 1972

It is not just the format of the trophy that is being threatened by TV sets in Africa.

Basketball and football can both lay claim to innovation – just look at the size of this cake when the whole thing sits on the head of a spinner.

Gus Henriksson is a Swedish computer scientist who’s the chief scientist at the UNFCCC International Panel on Climate Change.

He’s also a legendary club player with legendary playing style. It’s a strange combination of humility and brains – and that must make him a rare man indeed.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption No, none of this is real (controversially, there are snails, too)

Henriksson, 62, studied under prominent Swedish physicist, Swedish Athletics Association and World Masters’ Football administrator, Professor Karl-Erik Gustafsson. He’s married to a scientist and childless by choice.

Sport gave him more than a degree – it allowed him to have the experience needed to develop solutions to climate change and make it real.

Henriksson and the Bluenoses were one of the few European side who could consistently make an impact in the European Cup.

Having been to the last eight in 1972 they lost to Rangers, AC Milan, St Etienne and Ajax – the last time Ajax won.

“We were lucky – nobody else was able to do it,” he told me.

Gus Henriksson celebrates a goal with Ingolf Haarmann in a game against Heerenveen in 1977

Many of us, of course, don’t reach such heights. For us they are simply mid-table or below.

The University of St Andrews academic – who advised West Ham about flood walls in 2003 – also happens to be a fan of the Bluenoses, who used to play at nearby Copenhagen old ground, Brondby, and he still has a ticket for the coming match against Heerenveen.

“I’ll be watching the Bluenoses in the second half and I might even start shouting at the TV,” he told me.

As a fan of a current domestic standard, which struggles to challenge the standard of Olympic football, he laments the tendency of footballers to stand in too long in the box or score goals via “passes” when they should be involved in creating chances.

“Footballers are good at trying to create goals and getting shots on goal but they get nowhere near the level in creativity of some athletes in other sports,” he told me.

“But you don’t want to shoot at the wrong time in front of an empty net.”

Without equivocation, he has a message for the FA: “A football game in Maytime will be less exciting than a hockey game in Augusttime.

“We need more football without making it boring. I think that football has a great chance to lead by example to show that it’s the sport that can have the power to lead the world, not just in the field of football but in other fields, too.”

That approach must put an end to the soft treatment often shown to the demands and concerns of footballers.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption He understands the players need to adapt to such realities

Henriksson’s role is vital in a world where the leading sporting bodies – FIFA, the IOC, the AIF, UEFA and IFAB – are dominated by men, both male and male alone.

A woman such as 39-year-old Tonya Harding – of ABC TV’s reality TV show, The Proposal – could surely transform the powers of change within these organisations.

Perhaps as a result of her time on the show, Harding could negotiate a deal with Henriksson.

I asked if the league could be launched at the same time, with each league having two teams each.

“If they did it, they’d still have the equivalent of half of the broadcast money,” said Henriksson.

How would that not be a positive move for the environment?

“If we become dynamic enough and mature enough to deal with each other, then why shouldn’t they?” he asked.

And why shouldn’t we?

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