Kim Kallstrom signed for Arsenal in the closing hours of the January 2014 transfer window. As it turned out, the Swedish international and Spartak Moscow loanee had picked up a rather serious back injury playing beach football in Abu Dhabi days before the move. Said Arsene Wenger, “I wouldn’t have signed him if we had another two or three days, but it was on Friday at 5pm.” Kallstrom was on the sidelines for nearly two months before making his debut for the Gunners as a substitute against Swansea on March 25th. In total, he made just four appearances before heading back to Russia.
But that Arsene Wenger, he always knows. Defending the move in early February, he said, “There’s a possibility he [Kallstrom] will not play, but also a possibility he will score a vital winning goal.” Cut to April 12th, the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley against Wigan Athletic.
Jordi Gomez had put Wigan ahead 1-0 in the 63rd minute on a Per Mertesacker-conceded penalty. The BFG redeemed himself in the 83rd minute, turning home a bouncing ball in the area. The match went to extra time, and Kallstrom came on in the 23rd minute of the additional 30. Neither team found the back of the net in extra time, so it went to a shootout.
I’ll let Kallstrom take it from here — he looked back on the match in an interview with a Swedish radio station, translated in The Standard.
I hear Wenger shouting in French: ‘Kim, do you take penalties?’ ‘Yeah, I’d be glad to take one.’ ‘Good. You’re second.’ I decide early where to shoot it. When I walk alone to the spot, in a stadium with three times as many spectators as there are inhabitants of my hometown, Sandviken, I must suppress my smile. It’s a long way to walk across the pitch. I’m relaxed - perhaps happy. I put the ball on the spot.
Now, I just have to back up and find the right distance to the ball, run up, and strike the ball hard and high to the left. Just do what I usually do, what I know, and always have done. I’ve done it a thousand times before, and there’s no nervousness. The keeper goes early, in the opposite direction of where I had decided to put it.
When I watch the penalty on Youtube, the feelings return. The calm and the joy, but I’m surprised where the ball ended up. The ball ended up in the lower left corner, opposite of how I remembered it. I had decided to put it high to the left, but I remembered it as I actually put it low to the right. I’m confused, but the ball ended up in the net.
We won the final and we’re praised by over 200,000 supporters on the streets of London.
Although my contribution was small in the 120-year history of the club, it was a highlight for me. The greatest 15 minutes of my life, and it turns out I don’t remember what happened. Where was I in that deciding moment? Trance, shock, delirium, coma, nervous breakdown, call it whatever you want.
The only thing I know for sure is that sports and football are incomprehensible. That’s why we love it. As long as that penalty continues to end up in the net, my experience is true. I’m sure of it.
Kim Kallstrom described scoring a penalty kick in an FA Cup semifinal for Arsenal “the greatest 15 minutes of my life” — he will always be a Gooner.
Editor’s Note: as we continue without football, we’re going to make a bit of a series out of this — random guys who played for Arsenal over the years. Let us know in the comments if there are any players in particular you’d like to remember.