'I am extremely grateful' - Knudsen on Danish squad's 'gift' after he became a father at the World Cup
PUBLISHED: 16:08 22 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:24 22 June 2018
Jonas Knudsen will certainly never forget the summer of 2018.
Not only is he fulfilling a dream by representing Denmark at the World Cup in Russia, but the Ipswich Town left-back has also become a father for the first time while away at the tournament.
Knudsen was surprised when he was informed by members of Denmark’s backroom team that his wife Trine had given birth to their little girl a few weeks earlier than expected, with the defender then making a dash home to Denmark to meet her between his country’s opening two group games of the tournament.
That brief trip home on a private jet was paid for and organised by Knudsen’s international team-mates, who wanted to give the defender a paternity gift, and the 25-year-old could not be more grateful for their generosity.
“I’m great, because both my wife and my child are doing well, so it’s really nice,” Knudsen said.
“Of course, it’s also nice to see that people think what my team-mates have done is good. I’m really happy and proud of what they’ve given me and I cannot thank them enough.
“They have given me a gift for which I am extremely grateful, and it shows a little about what this group is made of and what kind of unity we have.”
Knudsen added: “It was a big shock (to hear he had become a father) because it was not planned to (happen so early). It was a premature birth, so that was not what I had expected.”
“I had a little less than 30 hours at home. I flew directly after the match on Saturday and flew back again Monday morning so I could participate in the training. It has been a little hectic, but they are fine, so it’s great.”
Knudsen’s international team-mate, Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, insisted he and the rest of the squad felt for the Ipswich player and admitted helping him meet his daughter was the least they could do.
“We’re footballers but also human beings,” the goalkeeper said.
“I’m a father myself, I can’t imagine how big it must have been for Jonas to get the message but not be there. We wanted to help him, there are lots of fathers in the squad.
“You’ve got to look beyond football and to the human being, so we’d have done everything so he could go and see his newborn baby.”
Knudsen left the Danish camp following his country’s 1-0 opening-game victory over Peru last Saturday, before spending Sunday with his wife and new daughter and returning to the squad at their Anapa training base the following day. He then posted on Instagram to thank everyone for their best wishes, with a photo of a Denmark football shirt babygrow.
The Ipswich player was again an unused substitute in Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Australia on Thursday, with their haul of four points leaving them in a strong position heading into their final Group C game against France on Tuesday. The Danes need just a point to make it through to the last 16 and will also make it out of the group stage if Australia fail to beat Peru in their final match.
Knudsen is not the only Ipswich player at the World Cup, of course, with goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski part of the Poland squad in Russia.
The 30-year-old is the Poles’ third choice for the tournament, in which Poland lost their opening game 2-1 at the hands of Senegal.
Poland play their second game on Sunday evening, with Bialkowski again set to be on the bench for the clash with Colombia in Kazan.
Ipswich’s World Cup links are not limited to the players on the pitch, either, with former groundsman Alan Ferguson playing a key role in ensuring the playing surfaces at the tournament are at the highest possible standard.
Ferguson won awards when he was in charge of the Portman Road pitch, regarded by opposition players and managers alike as being one of the best in England, before he departed to work for the FA at their prestigious St George’s Park training complex in 2011.
He now runs his own sports pitch maintenance company, which has led him to act in a consultancy role to oversee the condition of six pitches at the tournament and has been working on them for the last 12 months.
One of Ferguson’s pitch projects is the renovated Luzhniki Stadium on the capital, Moscow - where Ipswich beat Torpedo during their UEFA Cup campaign in the 2018/19 season - which will be used for the World Cup final on July 15.