There is a word in the dictionary of the dedicated football fan called the “hop”. This is a specially arranged day in the season when a group of like-minded fans will try and see as many games in one single day as possible. Such is the appeal of these hops that many lower leagues in the UK will actually arrange a round of games especially for these fans, and even providing transport to each match. Whilst these games do tend to be in the lower reaches of the football pyramid, but these fans still plan this trip months in advance. The opportunity to take in more than one game in a day in most major leagues is rare. The one benefit of televised games is the occasional scheduling of games to suit the travelling fans – for instance the recent FA Cup sixth round in England gave travelling fans a chance to see Manchester United v Portsmouth, and Barnsley v Chelsea in the same day. My personal record has been stuck at two for many years – Crewe and Port Vale, Atalanta and AC Milan and even a couple of games on the same day in South Korea for the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championships in Portugal. However, as luck would have it a regular trip for work to Copenhagen turned into a trip made in “hoppers” heaven. Five games in one day, all in Copenhagen and all within their professional league structure.
Denmark is one of the few countries that still classes Maundey Thursday as a public holiday, and through the sponsorship of Carlsberg, “Probably the best football watching day in the world” was arranged. Taking in 2 top flight, 2 1st division and a 2nd division game in just 8 hours was a marathon trip, but with some careful planning, fortunate scheduling and a warm coat it was certainly worth it. I am sure, dear readers you have read about my previous trips around one of Europe’s most enjoyable capital cities. The city is small enough to get around, and has a number of interesting atrtactions that if you are not careful will sidetrack you for hours on end. The myth that everything is very expensive is just that – a myth. Sure food and drink are expensive but more important things like public transport and ticket to the football aren’t. As a comparison:-
Metro (underground) ticket to go anywhere in the central area of Copenhagen = £1.25
Underground ticket to go anywhere in the central area of London = £4
Ticket to see IF Brondby in the Danish Superliga start from £8
Ticket to see West Ham in the English Premier League start from £35
So five games in 8 hours at a cost of less than £50 including travel was too good to miss. Preparation was the key to this event, and so a night out in the city drinking the unique Carlsberg Special with Ben was probably not the best preparation, but was certainly enjoyable. There are a number of stories that ex-pats in the US tell about American girls in cities such as New York falling for the Hugh Grant type accents in the bars at night. Unfortunately this theory does not translate to Scandinavia. With such beautiful people, us shy and retiring Brits, full of strong Danish beer do not really cut the Hugh Grant cloth, rather the Bobby Grant (Ricky Tomlinson’s character in Brookside) character…And the more you drink, the more pretty girls you see, and the braver you get. One bar merged into another, and in each one we tried a different approach…The original idea of Dolphin trainers went out of the window, replaced by Human Rights lawyers, sponsorship managers for 20th Century Fox, location managers for the next James Bond film, script writers for Porn films and finally casting agents for the next Big Brother programme….still it passed a few hours, and then a few more until the sun was coming up over the harbour. There was no option left – no night buses, no taxis and so Copenhagen’s policy of share a bike was a grateful sight when I came emerged from the bar. Two miles at 5am in the freezing cold has an amazing effect on sobering you up I can tell you although the comfy surroundings of the hotel at the company’s expense was a welcome end to the evening.
So leaving aside the capital of Copenhagen Cool at the Island hotel, the plan was to take in games at Hvidovre (Div 1), Frem (Div 2), Lyngby (Superliga), B93 (Div 2) and finally IF Brondby in the Superliga, ranging from the very basic athletics stadium of Frem and finishing at the ultra modern 29,000 capacity stadium at Brondby that would make many clubs in the Premier League jealous.
I planned for weeks in minute detail the itiniary, down to the finest detail. With the end of the winter break in Denmark coming this week, it was not only me that looked forward to a return in domestic football – nothing could spoil the day…..except snow….December, January and February had passed without so much of a snow flake falling, but come Easter week and the snow started falling, and the temperatures dropped. Lower league football is not as advanced in Denmark, with many stadiums being basic athletics grounds, undersoil heating is unheard of….So at 9am the games started falling like pins…First Frem was cancelled, then the Superliga game at Lyngby and finally B93 at Osterbro. With my trusted internet companion fired up I soon managed to replan the trip to take in KB, FC Copenhagen’s 2nd team to fill in the gap during the day.
The first game of the day was close by in the suburb of Hvidovre, a short 15 minute train trip from Dybbolsbro (one stop from Kobenhavn central station) to Friheden where the stadium is visible just north of the station. As with many of the stadiums in Denmark, this was a basic athletics stadium with one single large stands, and wooden benches running around the edge of the track. Now, as I have already mentioned, snow had fallen the previous day, but to turn up at this stadium on a bright blue sunny day you would have thought it was late spring. Families with their young children sat in the sunshine, sipping the odd Carlsberg or two enjoying the public holiday, although the football itself was dire. It is always amusing to see how footballers interpret “fashion”. For instance, the AB goalkeeper decided on the Bjorn Borg circa 1975 look with long blonde hair falling down his back, a black headband and a ginger beard…Obviously he was seen as a finger of fun by the Hvidovre hardcore fans – well the teenagers who started throwing paper airplanes at him. In fact the highlight of the second half was when one got lodged in his hair, just as he went for a cross which he fumbled, and thinking that he had been hit on the back of the head by a forward, proceeded to roll around on the floor in agony – until he saw the culprit.
I am sure the design of a stadium affects the style of play as every single game I have seen played in a athletics-track style ground is characterised by kick and rush football and little in the way of style, and his was no exception. Both teams struggled with the conditions – the players who started with hats and gloves were soon shedding them and whilst the pitch was far from a carpet, there was no excuse for the amount of time the ball spent in the air. This was one of those completely forgettable games although it was a shame when the final whistle went as it woke everyone up from their nice midday snooze.
So it was onto game number two…Whilst the club went by the name of KB93, they are now officially FC Kobenhavn’s 2nd team, playing in the 3rd level of Danish football. Due to the pitch being frozen at their Frederiksberg Idraetspark ground (another athletics track with a small stand), the game had been switched to FCK’s training ground just down the road. A 10 minute train ride from central station to Peter Bangs Weg, and then a 5 minute walk found me at the training complex. The game was being played on an open pitch with a rope around the edge – imagine the likes of Crewe or Brighton playing in such a ground.
However, it was refreshing to be so close to the action, although why there was a need for a speaker system in each corner that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Ministry of Sound, giving us a running commentary, interspersing the action with sound bites (Blur’s Song 2 every time there was a corner was a bit too much after the 6 consecutive one). The first half was a cagey affair, but it did seem apparent that certain players did not like each other, judging by the sly kicks and insults.
The second half started with FC Holbeck taking an early lead, although the goal celebrations of running to the 2 away fans was a bit over the top. The turning point was a seemingly uneventful punt upfield by the FCK keeper. The ball was being shepherded out by the Holbeck centre back when the FCK forward did what we all want to see happen – he booted the defender up the backside as hard as he could. Queue the histrionix on the edge of the pitch, and a straight red card although again some of these big time charlies look so silly playing in such basic conditions. Within 5 minutes the lead had been doubled to 2-0 as a defensive error was capitalised on by the Holbeck forward line.
The game seemed dead and buried, but some tactical substitutions by the FCK coaching team saw them get a well deserved goal back almost immediately. Stupid incidents in football *2 – why do forwards rush to get the ball out of the net when they are chasing the game? Of course it is the team that have just conceded who actually have to kick off and so that mad rush and bundle in the goal is absolutely irrelevent. In this instance the Holbeck goalkeeper picked up a stupid yellow card for stopping the retrieval of the ball.
With time running out FCK got a free kick thirty yards out, and with one of the best strikes you will see on any ground FCK equalized. So two games down, and two draws seen.
The final stop of my trilogy was one of my personal favourites – a visit to the west of Copenhagen to watch IF Brondby. As with many of the major clubs in Denmark today, Brondby were only formed quite recently through a merger of local teams. In their short history they have risen to the top of the pile in Denmark, played in the Champions League, nearly gone bankrupt before finding their feet more recently with sound financial backing and a spanking new stadium.
The one thing about football stadiums in Denmark is the imagination in naming them. In the north of the country you have the NRG stadium in Aarhus, and the wonderfully named Essex Park in Randers. FCK play at the national stadium called Parken yet Brondby, having spent millions of pounds rebuilding their stadium, could only come up with the name “Brondby Stadium”. Getting to the stadium is an adventure in itself. Hope on the train out of central station for 20 minutes to Glostrup takes you only part of the way. You then really have to complete the journey by bus unless you fancy a 25minute walk. Normally the Danes are very much like the Germans when it comes to queueing – organised and orderly – except when it comes to football crowds. Then it is every man to himself, and the fun begins. Cans of Carlsberg are passed around and the singing starts. Now the Danes know a thing or two about football songs – simply because they have stolen all of ours! Stick the Blue flag, Blue Moon and You’ll Never Walk Alone are all sung in the 10 minute journey – word for word in perfect English.
The stadium was rebuilt in the late 1990’s, with each stand being demolished and rebuilt in turn to a standard that we would be proud of in England. The home fans take their place in the Faxe Tribune , or terrace as we would call it. They certainly know how to enjoy themselves, and with beer and grilled sausages available freely, they were certainly in the mood long before kick off.
This was the first home game back after the Christmas break. The first half of the season was a disaster for the club. If it wasn’t for the fact that Lyngby were so far out of their depth, Brondby would have been in the relegation zone. A run to the semi-finals (where a FCK v Brondby final is still on the cards) was their only redemption. However, they went away to Horsens in their first game back and won convincingly and now took the game to the Superliga’s surprise package FC Midtylland from the first minute. After just 90 seconds they took the lead as a misdirected shot from a poorly cleared corner was diverted into the net by one of the Danes. Well I say the Danes but with players in the squad including Martin Howard, David Williams and Duncan Rasmussen you have to question everything.
Queue the wild celebrations as plastic glasses full of beer were launched in the air and at the stewards, and a flare was fired onto the pitch. All of the stewards looked at each other, seemingly unwilling to venture onto the turf to put it out and so it was left to a steward who had obviously been enjoying the grilled sausages a little too much. He ambled onto the field (whilst play was proceeding), tried to stamp it out, managed to drop his cap, then his bottle of water and generally do everything apart from stamp out the flare….As he managed to kick the flare off the pitch Brondby scored again. This time the fans took aim and launched beer, paper airplanes and generally everything they could get their hands on at the hapless steward, causing him finally to drop his sausage.
After such an appalling first half to the season, Brondby could not believe they were 2-0 up and very quickly went back into their shell, and started defending very deep, inviting the FC Midtylland team to come at them. One of the traditions at half time was for the fans to break into song, prompted by the PA announcer. This week it was the turn of Elvis, and the song “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, expertly sung and a stirring anthem to great the teams back onto the pitch. The rest of the game was quite low key with a single last minute goal by the visitors the only excitement.
With the snow falling hard over the stadium, the journey back to the airport was always going to be a challenge. The original plan was going to be to get the bus back to the station, then head into the city before getting to the airport by train. However, the Brondby fans decided it would be more fun to try and tip the bus over rather than stand on it, and so a taxi was the preferred if more expensive option. Even so the taxi driver laughed off the snow, now settling on the roads, and as if auditioning for a part in Speed 3 did not let the car drop below 80 miles per hour all the way back to the airport. All part of the Danish fun.
The second division Hvidovre IF have a fine tradition of developing young Danish talent, and selling them onto bigger clubs. The most famous player to come through the ranks has been Peter Schmiechel who played for the club 76 times in the mid-1980’s and actually scored 6 goals as he took on the role of penalty taker for the team.
The club have won the Danish championship on three occasions, the last being in 1981 which came a year after they won the Danish Cup. In their one and only European Cup campaign in 1982 they lost 7-4 to Juventus, although they did earn a 3-3 draw in Turin. Whilst they have spent most of their recent history in the lower leagues, they have actually played 19 seasons in the top flight.
The Hvidovre Stadion
The 15,000 capacity stadium is a multi-purpose stadium located in the south west of Copenhagen. It has one huge stand that seats close to 10,000 with the rest of the stadium being a 5 row wooden bench type arrangement, which does mean views are not particularly good due to the athletics track. In each corner of the stadium is a beer stand and a BBQ grill where fresh sausages go down very well.
How to get to the Hvidovre Stadion
The stadium is located in the south west of the city and is really easy to reach by public transport. From Central Station catch a regular C train from platform 9/10 in the direction of Koge to Friheden, which is 7 stops and around 15 minutes away. A ticket costs 20DKK. as you exit the platform turn left at the bottom of the steps, and then take a right through the gate into the car park of the flats. The stadium is a 3 minute walk northwards, and the floodlights are visible.
How to get a ticket
The club average just over 1,100 on a game by game basis, and with a capacity of 15,000 you will have no issues turning up on the day of the game paying on the door. Tickets cost 70DKK, with a programme adding 10DKK on top. Entry gives you the right to a seat in the main stand, or if the weather is good a seat on the wooden benches.
Kobenhavns Boldklub, or KB are actually the oldest football club in Denmark having been formed in 1879. They have actually won the Danish Championship on 15 occasions, the last being in 1980. They have spent 53 seasons in the top division, although their current position in the 3rd tier of Danish football is the lowest they have fallen to. In 1991 KB and B1903 merged and formed the club that are today known as FC Copenhagen. The club still play under the KB name but are actually the reserve side for the current champions elect in Denmark.
The Frederiksberg Stadion
The club split their games between the Frederiksberg stadion and the FCK training centre in Peter Bangs Vej. The former is an athletics track with a small main stand which can seat 1,000 and a small club house on the far side of the pitch. The stadium holds 5,000. The training ground is nothing more than a series of pitches, and if games are switched here then entry is free but expect to stand behind a rope around the pitch.
How to get to the Frederiksberg Stadion
Both the stadium and the training ground are within a 5 minute walk from Peter Bangs Veg station, which is 5 stops from Central Station on line E. Trains depart from platforms 9/10 every 10 minutes during the day and a ticket costs 20DKK. As you leave the station turn left and continue along Peter Bangs Vej. For the training ground carry on walking for 500 yards until you see the training centre on the left hand side. For the Frederiksberg stadion turn right after 300 yards at the traffic lights, and follow the signs for the Idraetspark. The stadium is 250 yards down this road on the right hand side.
How to get a ticket for the Frederiksberg Stadion
There is no need to buy tickets in advance as the club rarely get over 300 fans to watch games. Entry is 50DKK at the stadion but free of charge at the training ground.