The Manchester United legend was eloquent and assured speaking about Denmark, Singapore, and his old club Manchester UnitedPeter Schmeichel may have hung up his soccer boots for over a decade, but he has lost none of his star quality as he charmed the press at an exclusive media session sponsored by Courts on Sunday.
The ex-Danish international, remembered best for his Manchester United career that spanned eight years totalling 292 appearances for the club, was in Singapore on a two-day tour as a brand ambassador for Courts.
Schmeichel, who still holds the most number of international caps for his country, said that he had been “blown away” by the quality of some of the footballers during a recent tour of the region.
He lamented, however, on how family proves to be a stumbling block in the pursuit to become a professional athlete.
“There is no guarantee to make a living [out of becoming an athlete],” said Schmeichel.
“[And over here] education is prioritised over everything else.
“It’s a tricky situation to advise as a parent, because you want to see your kids [in] the next 60 years to have a wonderful life.”
Schmeichel recalled how, in his childhood years, he was determined on becoming a footballer, despite the objections of his mother.
“My mother really wanted me to go to school, and to university, but I was adamant that I wanted to be a football player,” he said.
His mother eventually relented and Schmeichel’s signing for Brøndby paved the way to his successful professional career.
When asked about the focus of his talk on Monday to the Courts Young Lions, Schmeichel said he would focus on the motivational aspect, rather than a tactical approach.
The Young Lions are currently languishing in the S.League with just one point in six league games.
He said he would focus mainly on one or two “little points” - primarily on how a professional athlete should behave.
“When you’re young you want to do everything. You want to go out and find girls, you want to have a drink - there are a lot of things you want to do," he cautioned.
“But if you want to make it to the top, there are a lot of things you can’t do. You’ve got to get a certain amount of sleep, you’ve got to eat the right thing, you’ve got to train in the right manner, you’ve got to behave in the right manner.”
Schmeichel credited former Denmark coach Sepp Piontek for transforming the Danish national team.
The German was appointed in 1979, and under his watch Denmark went to the semi-finals in the 1984 European Championships, and qualified for their first World Cup in 1986.
“It was a total change in mentality and attitude,” he said.
“Once you have the opportunity, like the Euro 1984, you know as a nation you can do it. So you have something to draw back on for the next generation.”
Denmark’s population of 5.5 million is comparable to Singapore’s - and Schmeichel’s statement seemed to hint at the possibility for Singapore to also achieve greatness in the football arena.
The former Manchester United goalkeeper who also turned out for their City rivals revealed that United remains close to his heart.
“I speak to the manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] quite often,” he said.
“[Staying in touch with United] is part of my priorities. It’s part of my family.”