Michael Kallback asked himself: ‘What if my daughter becomes as interested in football as I am. She will ask: “Why does daddy only work with men?”’
Michael Kallbäck was working as an obscure agent in Scandinavian football when, in November 2014, he became a father for the first time. He describes the birth of his daughter, Charlie, as “an epiphany” which transformed his life. Apart from inspiring him to work in women’s football, where he is now an influential agent, the arrival of his daughter encouraged him to discover the secrets of his own extraordinary past.
Nadia Nadim, the first female footballer to work with him, remains the client to whom he is closest. Playing for Paris Saint-Germain and Denmark, Nadim is one of the world’s great footballers whose life transcends sport. Nadim escaped Afghanistan at the age of 11, after the Taliban murdered her father, and fell in love with football in a Danish refugee camp. She is close to becoming a surgeon while continuing to shine at PSG.
“My own story can’t match Nadia’s, but whose can?” Kallbäck says with a wry smile before he recounts the details of his life as a Sri Lanka orphan who was taken to Sweden when he was two months old. Yet Kallbäck, who is 35, only began to probe his moving personal history six years ago, after he held his baby daughter.
Kallbäck leans forward in his office in Stockholm. “I asked myself: ‘What if my daughter becomes as interested in football as I am? She will ask: ‘Why does daddy only work with men?’ That really made me think. I had barely watched the women’s game before but that’s so wrong. Football is football no matter who is playing.
“At the same time I had this epiphany. Charlie’s mother is white and blonde and I thought when my daughter grows up she will ask why her dad is dark. She will ask: ‘Where is Dad from? Why does he look different?’ So I spoke to Frida, my fiancee, and said: ‘I need to find the truth. I need to go to Sri Lanka.’ So I went to find my mother.”
Before we reach the heart of his story, Kallbäck is keen to highlight how women’s football has galvanised him. Kallbäck represents three of the US women’s team that won the 2019 World Cup and he stresses that Megan Rapinoe, who is not one of his clients, stands alongside Nadim as one of the most significant characters in world sport. “Rapinoe’s important for the world because of her social conscience. Nadia is the same. People appreciate them because everyone can see their struggles and that they fight for everyone.” continue reading