Sophus Nielsen

Sophus Nielsen
Personal information
Full name Sophus Erhard Nielsen
Date of birth (1888-03-15)March 15, 1888
Place of birth Copenhagen, Denmark
Date of death August 6, 1963(1963-08-06) (aged 75)
Place of death Copenhagen, Denmark
Playing position Forward
Youth career
1898-1902 Stjernen
1902-1904 BK Frem
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1904-1912 BK Frem
1913-1915 Holstein Kiel 18 (72)
1916-1921 BK Frem[1] 137 (125)
National team
1908-1919 Denmark 20 (16)
Teams managed
1933 Holstebro BK
1940 Denmark

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Sophus Erhard "Krølben" Nielsen (March 15, 1888 – August 6, 1963) was a Danish amateur football (soccer) player and manager, and the first player in history to score ten goals in a full national team match. Nielsen scored a total 16 goals in 20 games for the Denmark national football team,[2] and won silver medals at the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics. He was named Danish national team manager in 1940, and he was a pioneer in educating Danish coaches. His nickname Krølben is slang for him being bandy-legged.


Club career

Born in Copenhagen, Sophus Nielsen started his senior career with local team Boldklubben Frem. He made his senior debut in October 1904. Nielsen played as a centre forward and inside forward, and was flair player with tricky dribbles and shots, but also with a great heading ability. His bandy legs made it difficult for opponents to tackle the ball away from him. Sophus was the footballing idol of many Copenhagen youth players, including later Danish international team captain Pauli Jørgensen. With Frem, Sophus won the 1911 Baneklubberne Tournaments.[3]

Having served his apprenticeship as a blacksmith with Burmeister & Wain, Sophus Nielsen and his unemployed carpenter brother Carl, decided to travel Europe as journeymen. However, the two brothers only made it as far as Kiel in Schleswig. Here they met the chairman of the local football club Holstein Kiel, whom Sophus knew from an earlier trip with Frem. The chairman provided Sophus and Carl with jobs, as a master blacksmith and joiner respectively. In exchange, the brothers would agree to play amateur football with Holstein Kiel.[4] Nielsen became quite the sensation among German football enthusiasts.[3]

He later returned to Frem, where he played the remainder of his footballing career. His last game for Frem came in May 1921.[3]

International career

Danish soccer team at the 1912 Olympics, left to right: Anthon Olsen, Sophus "Krølben" Nielsen, Harald Hansen, Paul Berth, Poul "Tist" Nielsen, Sophus Hansen, Nils Middelboe, Charles Buchwald, Oskar Nielsen, Emil Jørgensen, Vilhelm Wolfhagen.

Nielsen was called up to the first official Danish national team selection, for the 1908 Summer Olympics.[5] Nielsen scored one goal in Denmark's first ever national team game, as the France B team was defeated 9-0. On October 22, 1908 Denmark played France A and the Danes won 17-1. Sophus Nielsen scored a record ten goals; in the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 39th, 46th, 48th, 52nd, 64th, 66th, and 76th minute.[6] Denmark went on to win silver medal, after they were defeated 0-2 by Great Britain in the final.

Nielsen's record was matched in the 1912 Olympics, as Germany's Gottfried Fuchs scored 10 in a 16-0 win against Russia. It was not broken until 2001, when Australia's Archie Thompson scored 13 goals in a 31-0 defeat of American Samoa.

Nielsen went on to win another silver medal at the 1912 Summer Olympics, in which he scored two goals in three games. While playing for Holstein Kiel, Nielsen still represented Frem in the Danish national team. Following the 1912 Olympics, Nielsen played another 12 international games, scoring four goals. He ended his national team career in October 1919.

Coaching career

After his retirement, Sophus Nielsen coached the Frem youth team from 1924 to 1926,[3] and he was a temporary coach in a number of Danish clubs, including Holstebro BK in 1933. Sophus Nielsen was a member of the Danish national team committee from 1927 to 1951, which selected the players for the national team.[7] In 1940, Nielsen was named the first manager of the Danish national team (as opposed to the temporary coaches of the past), and he also pioneered the education of Danish coaches.[7] He made speeches and seminars around the country on coaching and training methods.[8] Sophus Nielsen managed Denmark for two games, both draws with Sweden in October 1940.

As national team manager, he replaced temporary English coach Edward Magner, but Nielsen lacked the authority of Magner, in making the players comply with the physical training regime.[8] His training was criticized as being too basic, by the young Knud Lundberg, who would later go on to captain the Danes at the 1948 Summer Olympics. However, Sophus Nielsen and Lundberg later became friends, and shared the same tactical outlook on the attacking game. Nielsen would have deployed the wingers in a more defensive role, while having two centre-forwards (anticipating the later 4-2-4 formation), but this was blocked by the rest of the Danish national team committee.[8]


Olympic medal record
Men's Football
1908 London Team competition
1912 Stockholm Team competition

International goals

Scores and results list Denmark's goal tally first.
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 1908-10-19 London, England  France B 9-0 9-0 1908 Olympics
2 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 1-0 17-1 1908 Olympics
3 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 2-0 17-1 1908 Olympics
4 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 3-0 17-1 1908 Olympics
5 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 6-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
6 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 7-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
7 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 8-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
8 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 9-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
9 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 11-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
10 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 12-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
11 1908-10-22 London, England  France A 15-1 17-1 1908 Olympics
12 1912-06-30 Stockholm, Sweden  Norway 6-0 7-0 1912 Olympics
13 1912-06-30 Stockholm, Sweden  Norway 7-0 7-0 1912 Olympics
14 1914-05-17 Copenhagen, Denmark  Netherlands 3-3 4-3 Friendly match
15 1914-06-05 Copenhagen, Denmark England England Amateurs 2-0 3-0 Friendly match
16 1917-06-03 Copenhagen, Denmark  Sweden 1-1 1-1 Friendly match

Footnotes and references

  1. Number of matches and goals for Frem is for 1904-1910 and 1912-1921 altogether. 125 goals is an estimate, made by BK Frem.
  2. 17 goals, according to some reports.
  3. 1 2 3 4
  4. Jørgensen, Palle Banks (2004). Landsholdenes 2198 spillerprofiler : fra Krølben til Krøldrup. Tipsbladet. p. 268.
  5. "Hurtig dribling gennem 5000 år". Danish Football Association. 5 April 2007.
  6. Boxscore of Denmark-France match
  7. 1 2 Steen Ankerdal, "Landsholdet", Aschehoug, 2006, p.48
  8. 1 2 3 Lundberg, Knud (1986). Dansk Fodbold. 1. Fra Breslau til Bronceholdet. Copenhagen: Rhodos. pp. 98–99. ISBN 87-7245-132-7.
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