• Copenhagen v Leicester City, 11.45pm, BeIN Sports
Three days before he turns 30, Kasper Schmeichel finally gets to play a club football match in the city of his birth. A special occasion it may well be for the Dane because a positive result at Copenhagen on Wednesday will be enough to secure his Leicester City a place in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League.
The 2015 Danish Footballer of the Year ought to receive a generous welcome at the Parken Stadium, site of more than few excellent Schmeichel goalkeeping performances for the Denmark national team over the last quarter century, though considerably more of them from Peter Schmeichel than from his son, for whom honours, and international endorsements of his talent have come relatively late.
Had he not been the son of a famous father, Kasper Schmeichel might have become a Copenhagen player. He was born in the Danish capital while his imposing father was still with Hvidovre, the club on the city’s outskirts, but Peter being Peter the Great, on the way to becoming almost peerless in his position, Kasper was at school in Manchester by the time he was five, dad having embarked on his stellar career with Manchester United. By the time Kasper was showing some of his father’s reflexes, courage and handling skills, he was in Portugal, enrolled in the youth ranks of the Estoril club while his father was playing at Sporting, in Lisbon.
Comparisons between parent and son, as any family with two successive generations of professional sportsmen will testify, can be burdensome. The strong physical resemblance in the case of the Schmeichels provokes it further, although it has always been noted that Peter, an intimidating keeper, particularly in one-on-one duels, is broader and taller than Kasper.
They coincided at Manchester City, at the tail-end of Peter’s long, garlanded career, and City, having brought the son up through the ranks, gave the younger Schmeichel an apparently precocious start as a senior professional. But he played most of his football out on loan in his early 20s, quite the lower-league traveller: at Darlington, Bury, Coventry; in Wales, with Cardiff City; in Scotland, with Falkirk. City, his owners, preferred Joe Hart.
History has certainly piled many more plaudits on the older Schmeichel, owner of five Premier League titles with Manchester United, a Champions League, domestic championships in Portugal and in Denmark with Brondby. At one stage, Kasper was moved to say that being the son of the legendary father "had been no help at all".
Comparison was bound to feel awkward when, by his mid-20s his sole honour was a for winning League Two, the fourth tier of English football, with Notts County.
But the genes do have a role, and Kasper, the late-bloomer, can be encouraged by the enduring Schmeichel DNA. Peter Schmeichel’s years of plenty truly began when he was approaching 30, when he won a European Championship with Denmark (1992), and started his glittering United career. Kasper was already 29 when he at last emulated dad, the day his father changed his Twitter profile to read: “father of a Premier League champion”. Father, too, of the man who is now Denmark’s first-choice goalkeeper, after frustrating years as a reserve; and father of a Champions League star.
For Kasper, Leicester’s European adventure brings significant milestones with each fixture. When he shook hands, on Matchday 2, with Porto’s Iker Casillas, he was meeting the goalkeeper he had modelled his game on. “Kasper took inspiration from Iker’s positioning and his leadership,” Schmeichel senior noted. Casillas, who grew up with Peter Schmeichel as his role-model, may yet find his 17th successive season in the Champions League curtailed at the group stage if Schmeichel junior’s club extend their impeccable record.
Leicester have not conceded a goal in their march to maximum points and Schmeichel goes into Wednesday having made one superb, photogenic save at home to Copenhagen on Matchday 3. “It will be a special experience to play a club game for the first time in Denmark,” he said.
Danes will see a goalkeeper at the peak of his powers, and one who can live with the fact that his compatriots in the crowd will instinctively size him up next to their many memories of his father.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport