There was a time when Swedish soccer player, slash businessman John Guidetti was one of the most promising forwards in the world. In an exclusive chat, the 30-year-old forward even tells me about top clubs wanting to sign him after scoring almost a goal a game for Feyenoord in the Dutch top flight at the age of 20.
Guidetti, who currently plays for Swedish top flight club AIK Fotboll, was injured during promotion. Doctors said he wouldn’t come back but he did, playing in major tournaments and scoring at elite level against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan. Now he’s keen to build on his experiences in the game by building a platform that helps people lead healthier lifestyles.
It appears that the former Manchester City, Celta Vigo and Alavés striker has his sights set on a saturated market where it’s all too difficult to stand out. For him, that’s not necessarily the case, as he senses that most companies don’t do the right thing when it comes to healthy living. He thinks he’s found a niche after coming up with the vision with his wife.
Despite his roots in football, the platform he works on – dubbed goe – isn’t just for players. As the world gears up for the World Cup, diet and fitness could mean the difference between winning and losing, but for him it’s about everyone – from athletes to people who work 9-to-5 hours. Guidetti wants a healthier, happier life that is stress-free for the general public. A passionate, family-oriented character, this is one of his motivations alongside football and supporting his foundation in Kenya, where he spent much of his childhood.
“We looked at all the (health and lifestyle) apps,” begins Guidetti. “Men use them a lot but don’t say they do because they’re a little embarrassed to count calories for some reason. And then you see the women who are using it, but they don’t want to tell anyone because it’s shameful and at the same time it can also lead to mind games.
“People will say, ‘I had a pizza yesterday. Now I can’t eat because I need to eat 1,800 calories. This will make me depressed. I’ll feel bad.’
“We say: ‘You can eat unhealthily sometimes. It’s not good not to eat at all the day after.’”
In many ways, the concept rejects the Standard Model. Despite playing professionally, it’s refreshing to hear a player approach health from a personal perspective rather than one based on hard thinking and calorie avoidance at all costs – which can be a drag for many. Instead, the app is tailored to each individual’s goals and defies the notion that getting super fit is the only way.
According to Guidetti, following the lifestyle suggestions will make a difference 85% of the time for people who choose the concept, regardless of their goals. In other words, it’s more of a friendly helper than something breathing down your neck, and one that celebrates delicious and healthy food. A professional chef, top nutritionists and technology specialists have teamed up to create the content.
“We want this to be the best,” he adds, talking about the app he and his team are developing. “A lot of people go on a diet app two months before a wedding, thinking they’ll fit into the dress or need to get ready for summer. And they will kill it for two months, but it’s not sustainable.
“What we want to achieve is something that you can live with your whole life. You can access it at any time. We understand that people will be people. Even with players – on a Friday after I’ve won a game I might have a pizza and why should I be embarrassed?”
The service is scheduled to launch in January and will feature healthy and tasty recipes for users to follow. There are also plans to bring big names on board to connect with the crowd and help grow the brand. The idea was born out of football – which he says “everything good” in his life came about one way or another.
A lot has changed since he was a youngster, with many top clubs being more meticulous than ever when it comes to nutrition and some pros lucky enough to have their own chefs. But, as Guidetti notes, the nutritionist doesn’t follow you home. And more broadly, accessible tools are key. In his native Sweden, many like to track their health, and one of the most popular ways – the fitness platform Strava – is co-founded by a Swede, Michael Horvath.
The goe brand wants to attract attention. And besides fulfilling a function, the company also reflects something about the Swedish football talent behind it. Although he didn’t quite make it at Premier League giants Manchester City, Guidetti’s determination has led to an admirable career, most notably in Spain at Celta Vigo. During his three years there, he was able to hold his own against financially superior teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona and almost reached the final of the Europa League.
Professionally and in business, he is a fighter.
“I always strive to be the best version of myself. And it’s the same with business. If I want to do something, I want to do something that strives to be the best,” continues the forward, who was a Golden Boy Award underdog in 2013.
“I always want to make good investments, but I will never sell my assets or things I think are important just for money. For example, let’s say this new brand of cigarettes gives you 10 million euros ($10 million) to help them. It is a lot of money. I respect money because it’s something you can’t take for granted.
“But at the same time, I will not support anything I don’t stand behind 110%, no matter what it brings me.”
Guidetti and his team are currently working on the technology side of the brand. There is a plan to work business-to-business with football clubs and other organizations, but that’s something he wants to build on. Initially, it will be introduced in most countries of the European Union.
“We have seen that with a good diet you can live longer and feel better mentally. And it helps people in a good way,” he notes.
As world football’s interest focuses on Qatar, this philosophy drives the Scandinavian player as he builds his business remotely.