STIG TOFTING has become one of the most recognisable characters in European football with his crewcut hair, his squat, barrel-chested physique, his Rambo-like determination, and, of course, his tattoos. These cover his body, and the one that sums him up perfectly is the message: No Regrets.
That philosophy has carried Tofting through the maelstrom of his life, from the time he was left orphaned as a young working-class boy in Denmark when both his parents diedin a tragic accident. Tofting was brought up by his grandmother and became friendly with the local Hell’s Angels gang in the city of Aarhus.
He began work as a fork-lift driver, but was given a passport to fame through a natural ability at soccer which was fostered by the AGF Aarhus club.
Tofting quickly became a folk-hero to the AGF fans, and today has that status across Denmark for his never-say-die approach to every match at every level. This is a guy who never shirks a tackle and who runs his heart out for 90 minutes. There is skill and passing ability, too, of course; enough to have won him a moveto the Bundesliga (Duisburg and Hamburg) and now the Premiership, with Bolton.
But it has not been an easy path in football for Tofting. He left AGF to join rival Danish superclub OB Odense, but was sacked by them because he kept criticising the coach, Roald Poulsen. The fans sided with Tofting, but the club didn’t.
Back he went to AGF to be ‘rescued’ for a second time before heading off to the relative riches of the Bundesliga. Nevertheless, his nature hasn’t changed, much to the joy of the Danish public, to whom he is almost a Robin Hood figure, standing up for the rights of the little man in society.
Think that’s too strong? Well, last year Tofting wanted to open a cafe in Aarhus. The mayor refused permission, and everyone knew the real reason – the footballer’s connection with his Hell’s Angels pals. They remain his friends, and no regrets.
Tofting’s response was to consider running in the local city elections as an independent candidate to fight his corner. He was persuaded to drop the idea, but public support was so high that the mayor was voted out anyway and his successor says he is backing the Tofting cafe.
“I want to stand up for the rights of the little man,” said Tofting at the time. “We should not be dictated to.” No wonder the Danish media reckon he speaks the language of the people.
He is a rebel, but a rebel with a cause. No one is more dedicated to training and soccer than the 32-year-old, who has formed a solid central midfield partnership with Thomas Gravesen in the Danish national side.
Tofting’s spirit and his fight are qualities highly regarded by Denmark coach Morten Olsen, who must now wait to see if Tofting can establish himself at Bolton. This season, Tofting fell from favour with Kurt Jara at Hamburg, but Bolton’s Sam Allardyce, who described his latest signing as a “pocket battleship”, is prepared to give the player the benefit of the doubt.
Few would bet against Tofting winning his latest battle. And whatever happens, you can bet his message will be straightforward: No regrets.
Club Bolton (Eng)
Country Denmark Born August 14, 1969, in Aarhus
Previous clubs AGF Aarhus, OB Odense, AGF Aarhus, Duisburg (Ger), Hamburg (Ger)
International debut January 1993, v United States
International caps 34 (2 goals)
Honours Danish Cup 1996 (AGF)