INTERVIEW: NYCFC midfielder Mikkel Diskerud’s journey from Tippeligaen to MLS
After spending most of his career in Norway at Rosenborg, ‘Mix’ Diskerud signed for New York City FC in January for the side’s inaugural season in MLS and scored their first ever league goal against Orlando City. Rich Laverty asked the American midfielder about the differences between football on the two continents, his boundless energy and Frank Lampard’s arrival.
You have played in Norway, Belgium and now the USA. What are the key differences you’ve found playing in the US compared to football in Europe?
The key difference is the percentage of players that have had grandparents or parents play the sport, or love the sport. Another big difference – the amount of coaches and fans that believe keeping statistics is the greatest tool to make their team or players improve.
Is it true you got the nickname ‘Mix’ as a youngster due to the energy you had as a child? If so, this must have set you up well for a career in football?
My parents and friends have called me ‘Mix’ since before I can remember. My mom claims she called me that and Mixmaster interchangeably due to my energy level on the floor as a toddler. My father claims he coined the name Mix since I was such a definite crossbreed.
I know I had a high energy level, and that I always wanted either to hike or to play with balls ranging from bowling to ping pong. They never stopped me – only encouraged my use of energy. My father even let me trade my bedtime stories for a game or two of Ice Hockey Board Games or such; we still haven’t told my mom. But I am still very limited when it comes to the even most common of fairytales. So I guess you lose some by being overly focused.
You’re training with the likes of David Villa, what’s he like on a day-to-day basis and how do you feel about having Frank Lampard as your midfield partner come the summer?
Frank Lampard will be like a present. To me and the fans he is still unwrapped. But we will hopefully soon get to see what unfolds when he opens up in New York and to New York. Our fans and my team-mates are equally as excited I think. It resembles the feeling of having to walk around the Christmas tree for days without being allowed to attempt to open what you both want, and are pretty sure [of what] you will find inside.
To describe David Villa – day to day, that’s impossible. He is so Spanish, and so full of surprises. I have analysed so many football players, and so many parts of their game. Usually I conclude as to how they reached it and what’s in their physique that makes them carry the style that they have. But with David, I kind of give up – and just conclude that he just is “gifted”.
As a midfielder, who’s the toughest opponent you’ve come up against?
I am not going to tell you. Because I might have to go up against him again! There is always one special player you have to watch out for: the man in the mirror. Whenever you start to doubt his toughness or mental toughness, and what he is capable of, you can quickly get in trouble. And so, me too.
Who is the greatest player you have played with and which players were your inspirations growing up?
On both accounts: Erik ‘Myggen’ (el Mosquito) Mykland.
You were part of the USA squad at last year’s World Cup. Just how exciting was it to be a part of that tournament?
How exciting? I don’t think you quite understand. It broke my scale. And I am still hoping for a new one.
Who is (or who would be) your team to play with on FIFA?
Finally, what advice would you give to youngsters who wish to become footballers, and specifically midfielders, in the future?
Smile. Lay off Coca-Cola and the sugary likes. Don’t eat what doesn’t mould if you don’t eat it. Do other sports alongside soccer. Ask your folks to let you start out with real, but light balls. Smaller balls are great. Gives you better technique and won’t wear out your knees before your limbs are totally jointed and fully grown.
Smile even more. Play with guys that are slightly better than you – don’t mind their age. Have fun. And make your friends have even more fun. And stop and check what’s wrong every time you or one of your mates might think it isn’t fun.
What is hard is the simple stuff – to enjoy every chance and every opportunity your mates and competition gives you. Avoid the escalators if you are allowed to use the staircases on your way up. Stretch at least twice a day, regardless of the workout. Don’t cheat; it will take away most joy of your future accomplishments. And you can never trade it back.
Do other stuff than sports and school too, but never things that you are already certain you won’t ever remember. That’s all the passive stuff. And importantly – when you are alone – just you and your ball: practice more with your weaker leg than with your strong one. And lastly, always play to win. But realise that it is by losing you only become better – as long as you can take it, that is.
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