Former Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller on the job in his native Denmark - InfoNews

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Former Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller on the job in his native Denmark

Canadian Women's National Team coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller looks on during a training session in Reims, France, on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. While Canada continues its search for his replacement as women's coach, Kenneth Heiner-Moller is back at work in his native Denmark. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
September 10, 2020 - 1:23 PM

While Canada continues its search for his replacement as women's soccer coach, Kenneth Heiner-Moller is back at work in his native Denmark.

His home in Fredensborg, just north of Copenhagen, is available again — the person who had been renting it in his absence moved out this week — but the family furniture won't arrive until Oct. 15.

"We've got a lot of time to re-decorate and paint and everything, so that's all right," said Heiner-Moller, seeing the glass half-full.

As head of coach education for the Danish Football Association, Heiner-Moller will have his hands on all levels of Danish soccer. But the 49-year-old plans to spend more time on the field than in an office.

"I want to work on the pitch, I want to go visit the clubs," he said. "I want to work next to the coaches. I want to have that insight because I think I'm decent at working in an office but I'm good at working on a pitch alongside someone that I can both ask questions to and learn from and potentially give a few hints (to)."

Heiner-Moller, who started his new job Sept. 1, was on hand to watch the 16th-ranked Danish men tie No. 4 England 0-0 and lose to No. 1 Belgium 2-0 in recent Nations League play.

Despite the pandemic, Heiner-Moller says things are becoming more normal in Denmark. Football Association employees are back working out of the office and coaching courses are up and running — as are matches, albeit without spectators.

Denmark, a country of some 5.8 million, has had some 19,000 COVID-19 cases with 628 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country has reacted to spikes in the numbers, tightening restrictions as needed.

"It seems like we're doing OK. Everything is sanitizing. If you go by public transport, you have to wear a mask," Heiner-Moller reported. "But it's all right. It seems a little bit like B.C. where I came from — people are actually doing pretty well and being very cautious."

Schools are open and Heiner-Moller's daughters — aged 11 and 13 — are both back in the classroom — with restrictions on where they can go and who they can be with.

Heiner-Moller says his family misses Canada, calling Vancouver "probably one of the most beautiful places on this planet."

"Like all of us, all four of us, I'm missing that so much. I got totally hooked on hiking, on mountain-biking, on skiing, on kayaking and all the outdoor life. And being active. We're still active here, but it's not the same. We don't have mountains. So we miss Canada a lot and also the environment that we had there.

"We're going to be back at some point for sure, but only as tourists I guess."

His first month on the job overlaps with Peter Rudbæk, the man he is succeeding.

"My work has been close to normal, which is fine," Heiner-Moller said.

"Right now my first three months will be out with the clubs, being around the national teams," he added. "So what do the coaches need? What do the clubs need?"

After getting the lay of the land, he will map out in December his plan to impact coaching education.

Canada Soccer made the surprise announcement in June that Heiner-Moller was stepping down effective the end of August. A combination of the pandemic, Olympic postponement and the job opening in Denmark prompted the hard decision to leave.

Heiner-Moller took over as Canada coach in January 2018, succeeding John Herdman, who left the women's team to take over the Canadian men. He had served as Herdman's assistant at the 2016 Rio Olympics, helping the Canadian women win bronze.

The Dane left with a record of 20-10-5 as head coach and the Canadian women ranked eighth in the world. They were fifth when he took over, having risen up the rankings in the wake of the Rio medal.

Following the charismatic Herdman is a tough ask. But Heiner-Moller, with a dry sense of humour and easy way about him that belied a hard edge underneath, enjoyed a smooth transition.

The appeal of his new job is the influence he can have "on everything, every aspect on every age group in the country."

"That excites me so much," he said.

The Danish women are currently ranked 16th in the world, although he believes they are better than that ranking. Some 90 per cent of the squad plays abroad, compared to 10 to 20 per cent four years ago.

The Danish men, he says, are a "great mix" of youth and experienced players from good clubs with a "courageous" coach — Kasper Hjulmand — who espouses attacking football.

"I think from a national-team level, both men and women, and also from a club level, we're in a very interesting place at the minute," he said. "And then there's a lot of very interesting things happening in the (Danish football) organization as well — trying to modernize everything, young people coming in with a light in their eyes and in their hearts. You can see the passion for the game.

"It's interesting. Very interesting. It's very different from when I was here 10 years ago."

The Danish women will watch the Olympics from the sidelines next year, with Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden representing Europe in the 12-team field. That leaves Heiner-Moller able to cheer whole-heartedly for Canada.

"For sure, I will," he said. "I've been texting players and sending players messages.

"It's going to be an exciting time but also a hard time for me to get through. This (Canadian) team and these players have been around me and in my heart for years now."

"I know they have the ability to deliver one of the biggest performances potentially in Japan," he added.

As for his successor in Canada, Heiner-Moller is too diplomatic to share his opinion, saying only he hopes the job is filled sooner than later.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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