If everything else fell away, this is what would remain. Whatever we achieve, this is the heart of it.
“Everyone has the right to dream”
In December 2015, Right to Dream acquired Danish football club FC Nordsjælland, with Tom Vernon becoming the club chairman. In doing so, history made was straight away: It was the first time a European club was purchased by an African not-for-profit business.
FC Nordsjælland were founded in 2003, forming out of the original club Farum Boldklub (Farum BK). Right to Dream needed an outlet for youth from the academy to gain playing time in stronger leagues and knew that it would be imperative for the academy's youth to be set up with the proper means both financially and from an acclimation standpoint in new environments.
FCN, a club that already embodied youth within its club model, provided the perfect vehicle to ensure that youngsters would be developed while having the capabilities to realise their full potential both on and off the pitch.
Despite its young age, FCN are recognised as one of Denmark's leading clubs in youth development. The club’s culture is highly praised; a culture rooted in a desire to develop young talent, whilst building a distinctive style of play and philosophy. The values and purpose of Right to Dream combined beautifully with FCN’s, and there began the journey to further define our purpose – to redefine the way people see excellence – through a team playing professional football in a top European division.
FCN, the first club to sign up to Common Goal, plays in the Danish Superliga, winning its first medal in the 2002–03 season after finishing in third place. Since then, the ‘Wild Tigers’ have made four appearances in Europe twice under the old UEFA Cup format in 2003–04 and 2008–09, and twice in the UEFA Europa League in the 2010–11 and 2011–12 seasons. In 2010, the club lifted its first Danish Cup and successfully defended it the following year in 2011, beating Midtjylland in both finals. FCN won the 2011–12 Danish Superliga in May 2012 to qualify to the 2012–13 UEFA Champions League Group Stages.
The club's credentials for youth development have continued to grow further through the blend of Danish and Ghanaian cultures, with the club gaining a reputation as the home of purpose-driven athletes in Scandinavia. With a focus on developing the individual player rather than winning at all costs, success on the pitch naturally followed. The U19 team won the Danish Championship in 2013, and won silver in 2014, 2015, and 2016, while the U17 team won silver in 2015 and 2016. These successes demonstrated how effective the academy model really was, by producing players who perform not just at a Superliga level, but beyond.
After finishing third in the league in 2018, and qualifying once again for European football, the goals were now to play and win with a team comprised mostly of academy graduates.
Within the last 12 months, six academy players have received a call-up for international duty, and since the Right to Dream acquisition in 2015, 58 academy players have received call-ups to national youth teams (49 boys and 12 girls). With an average age of below 22, and with the team recognised as the youngest in European football for the past three seasons, FCN’s story has continued to be well-documented, as the club that does things differently, maintaining the ambition of developing and promoting significant numbers of players from their two academies (currently 80% of the men’s first team are from Right to Dream’s own academies) and attracting purpose-led top-class senior players to the model.
FCN have also generated significant transfer fees over the last several years, the majority of which being players who have progressed through the academies. Notable players such as Mikkel Damsgaard, Mohammed Kudus, Marcus Ingvartsen, Mathias Jensen, Emre Mor, and Andreas Skov Olsen started their careers at FCN, and benefited from the Right to Dream model, and have since moved on to other clubs across Europe. Right To Dream and FCN also continue to attract purpose-driven experienced senior players and staff to the model, with the likes of Michael Essien joining as a player-coach at FCN, and Laryea Kingston, Derek Boaeteng, Didi Dramani, and King Gyan all joining the organisation.
In 2017, FC Nordsjælland made a new investment into its women's football program with the launch of its girls' academy, the first of its kind in Denmark, combined with the establishment of a professional senior women's team that began playing in the second-tier of the Danish league system. The academy quickly proved integral to the success that followed for the FCN professional women’s team, who achieved back-to-back promotions in their first two seasons. And in 2019, they finished third in the Danish Kvindeliga (the women's top flight), and won the National Cup.
On May 22, the Danish Football Association (DBU) awarded the FC Nordsjaelland boys academy a five-star rating for a second consecutive year, with a score of 95.78 out of 100, the highest rating ever awarded to date by the DBU to any academy across Denmark