When does a hobby become an obsession?

What defines an obsession? Is it the same as an addiction? Why do people become kleptomaniacs? I am often asked these questions when people see the lengths I go to to find a game of football to watch. Indeed, if you read some of my blog entries you would think I spend all of my life travelling around Europe watching any football going. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am sure if you ask CMF she would back up the fact that when I am at home I am the perfect father and husband. Or is she just being nice to me when I ask her the question if she minds when I announce another trip. I come from a long line of “collectors”. My father collects records, stamps, first day covers and orders from my mother, whilst she herself has a collection of antique silk hankercheives, thimbles and excuses why their house has not had any viewings since being on the market for the best part of a year. On CMF’s side the whole collection thing has taken over their life and their house. Cherish Teddies, Beenie Bears, F1 replica cars and Swarovski crystal takes over almost every room, as well as their pechance for buying in bulk which often means the upstairs landing is rammed full of toilet rolls (124 on my last visit), boxes of Wheetabix (23 of them) and UHT milk (only 18). So that could partly explain my quest.

I am lucky in a way that I have an opportunity to see games through my work, although contrary to popular belief in the boardroom of a certain company in SE1 I never plan my work trips around football matches. However, I feel it is rude not to take in a game if I am away and there is a match on – I see it as just a good way to learn the local culture as drinking in a bar or even going into language schools. It is also a great way to strike up relationships with new people. Football is a universal language and if you put two football supporting strangers together in a room you would find them striking up a friendship within minutes, that is except a Rangers and a Celtic fan!

As you already know from my previous posts I spend a lot of time in Copenhagen. This is a great thing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has all of the ingredients for a top football weekend – Passionate locals who enjoy a beer. Secondly, it believes that football is a game for the masses and so it hasn’t sold out yet and thus admission prices are low in comparison to other attendances. Finally, it has a dozen clubs who play within the city limits. Some of these clubs play at the highest level and attract crowds comparable with our Premier League. Further down the Danish football pyramid the structure of the clubs is a bit more complicated as many are part owned by other clubs, such as KB who are essentially FC Copenhagen’s reserve team who play in front of crowds of hundreds despite being in the second division.

Often some of these games in the second and third level of Danish football are played at strange times. This may be due to reasons such as a lack of floodlights, fear of clashing with games on TV or simply because the club owner has a prior commitment later on in the day. When I am due to travel over to Copenhagen I always scan the fixture lists to see if there is a game on. After all, I normally have three or more hours to kill after people leave the office and before my flight leaves. In the summer the Danes head off home about 4pm so they can “spend time with their families”, and in the winter it is when it gets dark, which in mid December is about 3pm. Nice life if you can get it. Prior to my monthly trip in late October I was amazed to see that there was a game starting at 5.30pm in the city. For some inexplicable reason FC Amager, a team who had played in the top flight on a couple of occasions in their short history were playing a local derby against Frem, based less than a couple of miles away in Valby. FC Amager play at a ground that is very common in Denmark – one large covered stand basically dominating an athletics track. As the ground was less than a ten minute bus ride from the office it would have been rude not to have popped down to the stadium for this game.

As an added bonus there was also a chance to slot in the first half of another game in the north of the city at the Gladsaxe Stadium, home of AB Copenhagen who were playing another local derby against Lyngby who less than six months ago were enjoying high profile games versus Brondby and FCK. AB are one of the oldest clubs in football AB had resisted the approaches to become part of the “Copenhagen Superclub” when the local authorities created FC Copenhagen in the early 1990’s. They had themselves played in the Superliga on a couple of occasions but similar to clubs like KB, Hvidovre and FC Amager they could not make the step up needed in the ever growing professional era of European football. It was going to be a tight schedule as I had only one bus that could get me from the stadium to the airport in time for my flight home.

So as you can see this is not an obsession or an addiction. It is simply an opportunist moment – well that is what I keep telling myself! I could see an opportunity at the end of the tunnel to produce the first ever set of guides for travelling fans for the major capital cities in Europe. After all, I am sure I am not unique in my passion for football abroad, or am I?

So I headed off from the office after an early flight on Luton’s finest, and a full day of meetings. Fortunately the 35 bus to the stadium ran directly from outside the office, from the trendy Islands Brygge area of the city down to the airport. Less than ten minutes after leaving work for the day I was deposited outside the ground, the Sundby Idraetspark ready for the big game of the day (well, the only game of the day).

Wednesday 22nd October 2008 – 5.30pm – FC Amager 2 FC Frem 2

The teams troop off at half time
The teams troop off at half time

Amager is the name of the large island on which Kastrup airport is located. It is a flat expanse of land that shelters the main part of the city from the Oresund straights, and Sweden. The locals are very proud of their island and will often think of themselves firstly as Amagerians rather than citizens of Copenhagen. Consequently their club, FC Amager, have a very passionate and local support. The Sundby Idraetspark is located a short bus ride away from the city centre, and close to the university. The club were only actually formed at the start of the season through a merger between BFA and KFB. The plans for the club are very ambitious and they have outlined a 5 year plan that will see them promoted by the start of the 2010/11 season to the top division. The new owner, Todi Jonsson, was one of the most famous players to have come from the Faroe Islands and so it is no real surprise that he plans to import the best young talent from there and blood them in the Danish leagues.

Whilst this was a local derby, the thought of any away supporters making the journey across the harbour was non-existent. Apart from the big two clubs in Denmark, travelling fans are a rarity. Despite Denmark being a small country, some of the distances between clubs is huge and can only really be completed by air. The driving time (and cost of course) of travelling from AaB Aalborg to FC Copenhagen is not conducive to away travel in most instances. However, in the lower leagues there tend to be more local derbies and these two clubs were separated by 1.5 miles as the crow flies according to Google Maps. After eight games both teams were languishing in the lower reaches of the table so on paper they seemed pretty well matched.
I headed out of the office at five on the dot, planning on getting a bus around the corner to the ground. The best laid plans of mice and men, as they say. Despite the fact that five buses served this route, and it was rush hour I sat and waited, and waited and waited some more. With time ticking out until kick off I started to walk. And of course within a minute I was passed by not one, two but three buses. I started walking backwards and saw another bus arriving so I hopped on that one. At last I might actually make kick off. Oh no, less than 100 yards up the road, the bus driver drew up to the curb and turfed everyone off. I have no idea why, and judging by the reaction of the other passengers, this was not an uncommon occurance as they simply went walking off in their various ways.

After a ten minute walk I arrived at the stadium and paid my 90DKR (about £8) to enter the ground about 5 minutes after kick off. First impressions of the stadium were not particularly good. It had one big covered stand that had around a dozen rows of seats and one temporary terrace of four steps on the other side. Behind one goal was a large grass bank where some fans were sitting enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and a beer. There was a small athletics track running around the pitch which didn’t really retract from the viewing positions.

The home fans were mostly sporting the old club colours and looked very much like Crystal Palace fans (the shirts, not the spray paint cans). The game was ebbing and flowing from end to end and it didn’t take long for the home side to take the lead as their captain Jochumesen slotted home from the edge of the penalty area after a smart turn. Five minutes later it was two as he stole in at the near post to head home.

I then realised why this game was being played in the afternoon – there was no floodlights. The stadium had two stands, two scoreboards, a number of bars but no floodlights. I was so engrossed with the lack of facilities that I missed Frem’s goal in the 30th minute. As the half time whistle blew I was on my way out of the ground to get the bus up to Gladsaxe for the next installment in the Copenhagen Collection.

Wednesday 22nd October 2008 – 7.30pm – AB 0 Lyngby 1

The Lyngby fans welcome the team
The Lyngby fans welcome the team

Akademisk Boldklub to give them their full name are actually 120 years old, making them one of the earliest teams formed in the country. They have been crowned champions of the league on nine occasions, although the last of these was in 1967. But they have enjoyed a few seasons at the top table in the last decade and also won the Danish Cup in 1999, and finished third in the Super Liga. They were relegated in 2004 and since have struggled to challenge for the promotion places again, although this season they have started well and came into this game in 2nd place. The opponents for this game Lyngby had been in the Super Liga up until last May when they were relegated after just one season.

For once it was really easy to transverse the city from one ground to another. The express bus line 250S ran from close to Sundby Idraetspark all the way through the centre of the city and out the other side to Gladsaxe in less than 30 minutes. I was concerned after reading AB’s website that they may have been expecting a big crowd and Lyngby are based no more than 2 miles from the stadium. I had seen them play earlier in the year at home to Brondby and their fans had certainly been passionate and many in number, so I was expecting a fair few to have travelled.

With just 15 minutes to kick off I headed into the stadium after paying my 75DKR and climbed up a steep grass bank to the back of the terraces. The Gladsaxe Idraetspark had been redeveloped into a football only area around ten years ago with a vision that it would host regular sell out’s in the Super Liga. It is certainly a smart stadium with one large two tiered stand, and a single tiered covered one opposite. Behind each goal were ten or so steps of terracing, which were open to the elements. It turned out as more and more fans arrived and began standing beside me that I had actually boughtt a place on the Lyngby fans terrace. Queue the teams coming out and I was engulfed by smoke from flares and flag waving, swiftly followed by a shower of toilet rolls in a scene not seen in England since the late 1980’s. The small group of home fans, located as far away in the main stand as possible from the away fans tried to generate some noise but failed miserabely. The away fans then launched into their renditions of classic terrace songs including “You’re goonna get you foookng head kicked in”, “We are Lyngby, no one likes us and we can’t care” plus finally “We are Lyngby, super Lyngby, we are Lyngby, from Lyngby”.

The game itself was very bland. The first half passed without incident, apart from an incident on 20 minutes when AB appeared to have broken the deadlock with a deflected effort that was rolling into an empty net before their centre forward, in an offside position went after glory and was flagged offside.

So another productive day in Denmark, which is more than I can say about our work network that had miserably failed again, plunging me into the dark ages with no email or Blackberry connection. Just how did we used to cope in the old days of analogue mobiles!


About the Sundby Idraetspark
The stadium is essentially a small athletics ground with a 4 lane running track and other track and field facilities. The main stand runs down the south side of the pitch and has around a dozen rows of seats. Whilst the front row is a few feet above pitch level the view is partly obscured by people walking backwards and forwards to the refreshment bars at either end. This stand is fully covered, unlike the small wooden terrace on the opposite side. Behind the east end is a grassy knoll where fans congregate in the summer months, and picnic. The stadium does not have floodlights, and it is also possible to watch the game from outside the fences through the trees.

Who Plays There?
The stadium is now home to FC Amager who were formed in July 2008 through a merger of local clubs including the previous tenants Fremand. The club is owned by a wealthy Faroe Islander who aims to have them playing in the top division within five years.

How to Get There?
The stadium is located close to the city centre, but not walk able. There is a metro stop at Universiteet which is a 10 minute walk to the west of the stadium opposite AmagerFaelled. The easiest way to reach the stadium is via the 35 bus which stops directly outside the entrance on Irlandsvej on its way from the airport to Islands Brygge (or vice verca) where you can get the metro in the city centre. Bus fare from either is 20DKR and can be bought from the driver.

How to Get a Ticket?
Average attendances rarely break the four figure number in the second division of Danish football, unless the home team draws one of the big two in a cup, so expect to turn up before kick off and pay your 90DKR to gain entry and a programme. The turnstiles are located in Englandsvej and Irlandsvej, either side of Sundbyplats.

About the Gladsaxe Idraetspark
The Gladsaxe was originally built as an athetics stadium to provide sporting facilities for the nearby housing estates. However, the local government as part of their ambitious plans to put Copenhagen football on the map decided to invest heavily in the stadium and completely redeveloped it as a football only stadium. Today this means that the old single tier covered stand has been joined by a smart two tier structure opposite. At either end of the stadium are open terraces with very steep steps meaning that the views are excellent. There are plenty of places to get grilled sausages and beer around the stadium. Entry is through the gates in the south east (home fans) and south west (away) corners. If the weather is nice then head for the upper tier of the east stand where you can enjoy the sunshine, watch the planes on their way into Kastrup and enjoy a great view of the action.

Who Plays There?
The green and whites of AB are one of the oldest clubs in Denmark, having been formed in 1888. They resisted the advances from FCK in the early 1990s to become part of the new “super club” and instead enjoyed some great seasons in the top division, including two consecutive third place finishes and a Danish Cup win in 1999 that enabled them to enter the UEFA Cup where they lasted just 2 games.

After relegation back into the second tier of Danish football a few seasons ago it has been a hard slog to try and get back to the Super Liga.

How to Get There?
The stadium is located in the northern suburbs of the city, close to the E47 motorway and the industrial estate of Gladsaxe. There isn’t really a train or metro station within walking distance so the best way to reach the ground is by bus. Bus numbers 68 and 250S run from Radhuspladsen opposite Tivoli on a regular basis, and also stop at Forum for the Metro. The express 250S takes around 20 minutes from the city centre to the stadium, whilst bus 68 takes ten minutes more.

How to Get a Ticket?
Whilst they may have a nice football only stadium, locals still haven’t taken the club to heart and so expect a core home following of no more than a 1,000 spread across the two covered stands. Therefore pre-purchase is not something you need to worry about when you are planning to attend a game here. Admission is 75DKR and Gate 2 in the south west corner is for entry onto the away fans terrace. All other gates are for home fans to enter the seated areas.

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