There was a moment when the Swedish soccer player-slash-businessman John Guidetti was one of the most promising forwards in the world. In an exclusive talk, the 30-year-old striker even tells me about top clubs lining up to sign him after scoring almost a goal per game for Feyenoord in The Netherlands’ top division aged 20.
Currently playing for Swedish first-division side AIK Fotboll, Guidetti fell victim to injury during his ascent. Doctors said he wouldn’t come back, but he did, going on to play in major tournaments and scoring against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Inter Milan at the elite level. Now he’s keen to build on his experiences in the game by developing a platform to help people live healthier lifestyles.
By the sound of it, the former Manchester City, Celta Vigo, and Alavés forward, to name three, has his sights set on a saturated market where standing out is all too difficult. For him, that’s not necessarily the case, sensing that most companies are not approaching healthy living the right way. He thinks he’s found a niche after coming up with the vision with his wife.
While he’s grounded in soccer, the platform he’s working on—called goe—is not for players alone. As the world tunes in to the World Cup, nutrition and conditioning could prove the difference between winning and losing, but for him, it’s about everyone—from athletes to people working nine-to-five jobs. Guidetti wants healthier and happier living to be stress-free for the general public. A passionate, family-oriented character, this is one of his motivations alongside soccer and supporting his foundation in Kenya, where he spent a large part of his childhood.
“We were looking at all the (health and lifestyle) apps out there,” Guidetti starts. “Men often use them but won’t walk around saying they do because it’s a bit of an embarrassment to them to count calories for whatever reason. And then you see the women using it, but they don’t want to tell anyone because it’s shameful and, at the same time, it can also bring mind games.
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“People will say: ‘I had a pizza yesterday. Now I can’t eat because I have to put in 1,800 calories. That’s going to give me depression. I’m going to feel bad.’
“We say: ‘You can eat unhealthily sometimes. It’s not good to not 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 approaching health from a personal perspective and not one built around strict thinking and dodging calories at all costs—which can be a burden for many. Instead, the app is tailored to each individual’s objectives, striking back against the idea that getting super fit is the only way to go.
Following the lifestyle suggestions 85% of the time—according to Guidetti—will make a difference to people buying into the concept, whatever their aims are. In other words, it’s a friendly aide rather than something breathing down your neck and one that celebrates tasty and healthy food. A professional chef, top nutritionists and tech specialists have joined forces to create the content.
“We want this to be the best,” he adds, talking about the app he and his team are developing. “Many people go into a dieting app two months before a wedding and think they need to fit inside the dress or need to get ready for the summer. And they’ll kill it for two months, but it’s not sustainable.
“What we want to achieve is something you can live with your whole life. You can always go back to it. We understand that people are going to be people. Even with players—on a Friday, after winning a match, I might have a pizza, and why should I be embarrassed about that?”
Scheduled to launch in January, the service will include healthy and tasty recipes for users to follow. There are also plans to get well-known names on board to connect with the masses and help grow the brand. The idea was born out of soccer—from which he says “everything good” in his life has come one way or another.
Since he was a youngster, a lot has changed, with many top clubs more meticulous than ever when it comes to nutrition and some professionals fortunate to have personal chefs. But, as Guidetti notes, the dietician doesn’t follow you home. And more broadly, accessible tools are the key. In his native Sweden, many like to track their health, and one of the popular choices available—the fitness platform Strava—is cofounded by a Swede, Michael Horvath.
The goe brand hopes to stand out. And as well as performing a function, the venture reflects something about the Swedish soccer talent behind it. While not quite making it with Premier League juggernaut Manchester City, Guidetti’s grit has resulted in an admirable career, particularly in Spain with Celta Vigo. During his three-year spell there, it competed well against financially superior sides like Real Madrid and Barcelona while almost reaching a Europa League final.
Professionally and in a business sense, he’s a fighter.
“I’m always striving to be the best version of me. And it’s the same thing with business. If I want to do something, I want to do something which strives to be the best,” continues the striker, who was an outside shout for the Golden Boy award in 2013.
“I always want to make good investments, but I’m never going to sell out my values or things I think are important just for money. For example, let’s say this new cigarette brand gives you €10 million ($10 million) to come in and help it. It’s a lot of money. I respect money, as it’s something you can’t take for granted.
“But at the same time, I’m not going to support something I don’t stand behind it 110%, no matter what it pays me.”
Guidetti and his team are currently working on the technology side of the brand. There is a plan to engage with soccer clubs and other organizations business-to-business, but this is something he wants to grow bigger. To begin with, it will launch in most European Union countries.
“We’ve seen that, with a good diet, you can live longer and feel better mentally. And it helps people in a good way,” he remarks.
As world soccer interest zeroes in on Qatar, that philosophy drives the Scandinavian player while he builds his business from afar.