Anders Hojlund’s three sons can’t be trusted to always play well when they play together on the same field.
Growing up half an hour’s drive north of Copenhagen, Rasmus, Emil and Oskar play with their father at their local amateur club Horsholm-Userod Edratsklub (HUI), a short walk down the road from their family home.
But sometimes these family gatherings had to be abandoned because the brothers would quarrel and compete with each other. The balls, cones and balls will be sealed. And they took all three of them home.
But the training did not end there. “Then he would come back and spend an hour with one of them,” recalls HUI athletic director Christian Mouroux. “Then he goes back, takes the next hour. Then it is the same with the third.
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Those evening sessions were usually three times longer than they should have been, but when Ander and their mother Kirsten’s days revolved around one thing, a few extra hours didn’t matter much; Their sons love soccer.
“Football filled almost everything in our lives, some would say it was too much,” Anders told The Athletic. But we were united with our children. Everyone’s wants and needs.
Time is well spent as all three boys are likely to play on the same pitch again – this time not at Horsholm but at Old Trafford.
Rasmus will certainly lead the line for Manchester United, but his twin brothers are two of the most promising young players in Copenhagen and both are itching for more first-team opportunities.
A box-to-box player, Oscar has made seven appearances this season since his debut in July, coming on as a 90th-minute substitute alongside his twin brother.
Emil, on the other hand, is a centre-forward like Rasmus who has been waiting patiently since making his senior bow in March last year. However, he has started his season in great form as a youngster, scoring six goals in five games.
Among the most talented young players in Copenhagen’s youth set-up, both are just 18 years old and are hoping to match their older brother’s rise.
Copenhagen Under-19 head coach Alfred Johansson has worked with all three Højlunds and notes common traits the twins share with Rasmus: a desire to support and a work ethic. “Besides, there are some personality differences.”
Oscar, like Rasmus, is a loud and animated dressing room presence. “Everyone always makes fun of him because he’s the one who forgets his shoes,” Johansson said. “Sometimes he feels like he’s the little brother, even though he’s not.”
Mouroux worked closely with the twins at HUI and always admired Oscar’s tenacity, even as a child. “He’s a bulldog. He has such a winning mentality, always grinding.
He also has a compassionate side, says Johansson. “If you ask the young players who have played with him, they always mention that he has helped them a lot, giving them feedback on the pitch and helping them constructively and tactically.”
Emil is the quieter of the three but has the football knowledge to be Johansson’s eyes and ears. “He can organize the team by building, he can organize the team by pressing and he can coach other players while playing himself.”
Johansson is reluctant to draw too many comparisons between Emil and Rasmus’ central attacking play, other than to say that Emil is a good link number 9. “He’s a brilliant player,” says Mouroux. You will see a lot of sight in the game.
Emil and Oscar both played at HUI a year over their age, in one of the most talented squads the club has ever produced, and Mouroux always rated the twins as having more natural talent than their older brother.
“If you compare them to Rasmus who was the same age, they were a little bit better,” he says. “Forward to the Technical and Strategic Aspects of the Game.”
It was the kind of comment that could spark a heated argument between the three boys. As you might expect, the brothers share a healthy sibling rivalry.
“Rasmus is the man who taught them everything,” he said. They are going to say the same. That’s how they are,” says Johannes. If you ask them directly what is happening at home in the famous basement, there were many competitive games.
That’s 10 meters long, six meters wide, with goals at either end – a reference to the indoor pitch Anders built in the basement of their family home. He had to do it. After years of moving furniture around to set up an indoor play area, boys’ balls have become 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 was, “lots of pasta, meat and vegetables and lots of it” — but it was a home filled with care and support, and that environment rubbed off on their children.
For all their competitiveness, at the end of the day they are brothers. “They love it when the other is doing well. They are very happy for each other and in that way they support each other very much,” says Johannes.
Rasmus can be particularly protective of developing twins. A story goes that when he brings cake to school for his classmates on his birthday, he saves two pieces for Emil and Oscar.
All three Højlunds could still be part of the same Copenhagen squad at Old Trafford had things gone differently, but Rasmus left Emil and Oscar frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities at his age.
Anders has already made his thoughts clear. “I don’t think so at all,” he told Freiheidsbrevet when asked if the boy had been given enough opportunities in the Danish capital.
Now imagining the prospect of all three boys on the same pitch, there is a hint of regret that it didn’t happen in a Copenhagen shirt. “Two years ago, we had faith and hope that he would be wearing the same color jersey,” he said.
But if Rasmus’ talent was underappreciated by the senior staff in Copenhagen, it was certainly appreciated at Sturm Graz. “We were completely confident in both content and character,” said head coach Christian Elzer, who got the opportunity.
Despite only a few minutes in the Danish capital, Ilzer and the Graz hierarchy identified Rasmus as a player who could develop into an elite talent, saying, “He shows incredible speed and agility when moving positions.”
“Energy and determination allowed him to get into the box quickly,” Ilzer said.
Even then, Ilzer said the negotiations were “sophisticated.” Graz had to make offers to Rasmus and his agent to convince him of the move. Leaving his childhood club was a big decision: not only the club he called, but also his family.
The presentations were found to be convincing. “We convinced him and the agent about our game, our coaching approach and the opportunities we were going to give them,” Elzer said. Rasmus hasn’t looked back since his days in Copenhagen. Until this Champions League group stage, that is.
It’s a picture that tests Anders’ ability to keep up with his three children as they pursue their practice over the years.
Take September 20 for example. As Rasmus prepares to make his Champions League debut against United in Munich, Emil and Oscar travel to Istanbul.
Anders was also headed to Bavaria in the morning but before boarding the flight he found an airport bar showing Copenhagen’s UEFA Youth League Under-19 game against Galatasaray and scored his second Emil as he watched them win 5-1 away from home.
After landing in Munich, he made a short stop at United’s team hotel to wish Rasmus luck and went to the Allianz Arena, where he drank draft beer, ate currywurst and watched Copenhagen’s Group A clash with Galatasaray on his phone. .
There was only one problem: a small battery. “I was really worried because I didn’t bring my phone charger with me, so I switched off for the game with 10 minutes to go,” he said. Oscar was introduced as a 90th minute substitute.
Anders learned of Oscar’s Champions League debut after Kirsten’s message. But at least the Højlund family were there to see Rasmus score his first Champions League goal that evening in a 4-3 defeat by United.
The ordeal, first revealed by Danish website Freiheidsbrevet, was still a proud day for the Hojlund boys’ parents, although the pair’s meetings with United and Copenhagen in the next fortnight will be even more special if all three are on the same pitch. at the same time.
“We all have dreams,” Anders said. We’ve got many at home around our dining table, this is one of the many. But if not tonight, there will be no disappointment.
“The most important thing is that they do what they think is fun and chase their dreams,” Anders says. “As long as it is no longer unattainable or exciting, we have no plans. Our philosophy is to work hard for your dream and maybe it will come true.”
And in that sense, the Hojulund brothers are achieving what they and their parents always wanted.
Additional reporting: Lori Whitwell
(Top photo: Eamonn Dalton for The Athletic, Photos: Getty Images)