The nomadic footballing career of Stig Tofting isn’t perhaps the most glamorous. It isn’t even the most familiar. But when told alongside a life story filled with tragedy and controversy, it’s nothing short of compelling. Throw in some Hells Angels and boxing bout with the guy who sang ‘Barbie Girl’ and it becomes unbelievable.
Having been orphaned at the age of thirteen, Stig Tofting was brought up by his Grandmother in the Danish city of Aarhus. The troubling story of how he lost his parents was kept a closely guarded private matter until later in his career. Stig, or Tofe as he was also known, began his footballing journey with local side AGF Aarhus. His all-action style of play quickly earned him fan-favourite status. It would be the first of four stints at AGF, including two loans, for the man who became known as the ‘lawn-mower’. It was his ‘covers every blade of grass’ approach that rightly earned Tofting the moniker.
Tofe was then signed by German side Hamburg however, a knee injury cut short his playing time considerably whilst he was there. Also sandwiched between his first two spells at AGF was a short-lived stint at OB Odense. His time there ended in a cloud of controversy after he continually criticised manager Roald Poulsen in public.
After a move to then Danish Champions Brondby fell through Tofting found himself once more in the Bundesliga. Duisburg were newly promoted when ‘the lawn-mower’ arrived in 1997. The highlight of a three-year stay at Duisburg was a German Cup final appearance, losing out to Bayern Munich. The last few months of Tofting’s time at the German side were spent back on loan at AGF.
Controversy had stayed with the stocky midfielder whilst at Duisburg. Whilst on an end of season holiday in Aarhus at the end of his second season Tofting was found guilty of an assault. He would be given a 20-month suspended sentence for the incident which would not be his last brush with the law.
Whilst growing up in Aarhus young Stig was befriended by a group of local Hells Angels. He was mixing in the wrong circles from an early age. Speculation would continue to surround the tough midfielder’s associations throughout his career.
Bolton and Denmark
After his time at Duisburg ended ‘the lawn-mower’ rolled in to Hamburg for the second time. The highlight of his season-and-a-half second term was playing in the Champions League. A managerial change cast doubt over Tofting’s place in the side. With his position in the Danish squad for the 2002 World Cup in peril, Tofe decided to leave. He moved to Bolton Wanderers in February of 2002 which would start a tumultuous period in his life and career.
Despite injury curtailing his appearances at the start of his time at Bolton, Tofting was called up to Morten Olsen’s Denmark squad. During the build-up to the tournament a Danish magazine ran an article which told the story of how Tofting’s parents died. It had always been reported that they had died in a tragic accident. The truth was known but never published in respect for Tofting’s privacy.
At the age of thirteen Tofting returned home from school one day to find both his parents dead. His father had shot and killed his mother before turning the gun on himself. A horrific scene for anyone to bear witness to, let alone a child finding his parents this way. The publishing of the story brought widespread criticism of the magazine as the Danish squad rallied around Tofting. The midfielder had hoped to keep the story from his children until they were old enough to learn the awful truth.
Despite winning a tough group including reigning Champions France, Denmark fell in the last 16 to England. Once they returned home, the Danish squad enjoyed an end-of-tournament night out in Copenhagen. As players partied in the city’s ‘Café Ketchup’ Tofting was involved in an altercation which led to him headbutting the manager of the Café. Later that year Tofting stood trial for the assault and was sentenced to four months in jail after being found guilty.
Tragedy would again strike for the Dane before he went to prison. Having returned to spend time with his family before completing his sentence, Tofting’s 22-day-old baby Jon died from meningitis. It seems heart-breaking incidents would continue to follow Stig just as closely as controversial ones.
After leaving Bolton and serving his time in jail, Tofting’s footballing odyssey took him to the Far-East. A short stay in China with Tianjin Taida was followed by his fourth period at AGF. Off-field matters again got in the way as Tofting was charged in relation to a road-rage incident before being sacked by AGF following an incident at a Christmas party.
After a short spell in Sweden with BK Hacken, Tofe returned to his homeland, signing for Randers. In a successful end to his playing career Tofting helped second-tier Randers to a Danish Cup win as well as promotion before retiring in 2007.
Tofting’s time since his retirement has been spent in as colourful a manner as during his playing career. A short-lived coaching career was followed by a foray into the celebrity boxing world. After defeating a Danish reality-television star in his first bout the lawn-mower found himself on a big-time boxing bill. He faced up against Aqua (famous for their pop song/irritant ‘Barbie Girl’) front-man Rene Dif. The fight incredibly found it’s way to the undercard of an Evander Holyfield heavyweight title fight undercard. Tofting won the bout, ending his impromptu boxing career with a perfect record of two wins from two bouts.
Despite the controversy, tragedy and colourful tales that surround Stig Tofting, it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was a good footballer. Capped 41-times for his country he played at two World Cups, two European Championships and an Olympics. He is currently plying his trade as a pundit on Danish television. His infectious style of all-action, tough tackling play endeared him to fans. His fierce reputation and biker tattoo’s intimidated opposition players. Tofting played in a fashion summed up buy the huge tattoo scrawled across his stocky torso. After everything he went through the lawn-mower played with ‘No Regrets’.