Antonio Nieves Martin, who is known best as Maikel, made the huge jump from the
Tercera División in his native Spain to the Norwegian 2.Divisjon with Nybergsund in 2014. In the two years since, the Gran Canaria native has achieved promotion and also an appearance in the Norwegian Cup Final against Rosenborg with his current team Kongsvinger IL. Fotball Kanalen spoke to him about the past season and what he hopes to achieve in the future.

(Foto: Digitalsport)

The Norwegian third tier is not known for it’s technically gifted, olive skinned, Spanish footballers, but Spaniard Maikel Nieves took to the league like a duck to water and scored 16 goals in just 25 games in his debut season with Nybergsund.

His performances instantly attracted attention from the ambitious Hedmark side Kongsvinger IL and their Portuguese manager Luis Pimenta. Pimenta wanted Maikel to play a key part in getting Kongsvinger back to the OBOS Ligaen, and he did just that, scoring 11 goals in 26 games as the side stormed the 2.Divisjon and earned promotion back to Norway’s second tier after a two year exodus.

Speaking of the differences between Norwegian and Spanish football, Maikel said; “In Spain the people are a bit more passionate about football. The people in Norway are much more calm but clearly still love the game.

In Kongsvinger we have a good relationship between the supporters and the team and I think everybody has enjoyed our performances this season.”

2016 was almost the perfect season for Maikel and Kongsvinger. With an ambitious squad and an equally as ambitious board, the side had promotion to the Tippeligaen in their sights, despite having only just earned promotion back to the OBOS Ligaen. The signings of players such as Kirill Suslov and Helio Pinto were signals of intent, Kongsvinger were not here to just make up the numbers.

A Cup Final and promotion play off Semi Final ensued, but Kongsvinger fell short with the odds against them on both occasions as they suffered defeat to Rosenborg and FK Jerv. Nevertheless, the season will go down as one of the greatest in Kongsvinger’s 124 year history.

“It was an amazing season and I have so many good memories from it. Without a doubt the cup final was the greatest achievement this year. Playing against Rosenborg at Ullevåll was the greatest footballing experience I have ever had.

15909711_10155735940704899_1271344203_n Fulgte Kongsvinger i cupfinalen:
Vår OBOS-liga ekspert Ben Wells var tilstede på Ullevål under årets cupfinale og fikk se KIL kjempe tappert mot de suverene seriemesterne.

Aside from the cup final, another great memory has to be beating Kristiansund in the league. We fought hard until the end and earned the win.”

The win against Kristiansund in August was huge for Kongsvinger. Two late Adem Guven goals turned their dreams of promotion to a reality. The match is best remembered for coach Luis Pimenta manically surging down the touchline to join in with the players’ celebrations. It would bring Pimenta further into the Norwegian public eye as the Portuguese coach started to see his name being linked with other teams.

As the season ended, it became clear that Pimenta would not continue with the club into the 2017 season. His decision not to sign a new deal with the team was lamented by the Kongsvinger fans. Pimenta seemed to have a love/hate relationship with the board, and there were many ups and downs during his two years in charge at the club. In the end, it seemed that a turbulent relationship with Sporting Director Espen Nystuen was one of the reasons why he decided not to renew his deal.

The Kongsvinger players will miss Pimenta’s energetic style of coaching and passion from the touchline. Maikel told me; “I only have good words to say about Luis. He gave us the spirit and passion to play well every week. Training with him and his assistant Gonçalo was a joy. Honestly, he has been the best coach I have ever had.

It was sad to see him leave but I have no doubt he can coach at a higher level now, no doubt at all. Now we have to be ready to adapt ourselves for when the new coach comes in.”

So, what next for Maikel and Kongsvinger? After a season of success, can the team go on to replicate their form and go even further next year? The Spanish forward seems confident that they can; “After a year like the last one, of course everybody will expect us to reach the promotion positions next year. There will be a really long way to go but I have faith that the team can go on to achieve this and do at least as well as we did last year.

05. Oktober 2015 , Color Line Stadion , Aalesund 2 v Kongsvinger , Aafk 2 , Foto; Kenneth Hjelle Digitalsport Antonio Martin Nieves Trofast mot KIL:
«Maikel» har vært med på KILs reise fra 2.divisjon til toppen av OBOS-ligaen. Her fra kampen mot Aafk 2 på Color Line Stadion i 2015. (Foto: Digitalsport)

I still have one year left on my contract with Kongsvinger and I am happy here. They have put a lot of trust in me and also helped me to take many steps forward in my football career. I have given everything here since my first day at the club and am very thankful to the club and the supporters. I am an ambitious guy and I work every day to improve myself, I am sure that I have not reached my limit yet.”

At 27 years old, Maikel should be reaching his peak as a football player and with three years of Norwegian football under his belt also, the Spaniard could well make even bigger strides in his footballing career next season. His technique at the tip of the Kongsvinger midfield diamond is crucial to how the side play and you can guarantee that whoever the new KIL boss may be, Maikel Nieves will play a key part in helping the side achieve their goals.

Ben Wells

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