So tonight I am sitting in Fionia Park, home of OB, waiting for kick off of their game versus AaB. Danish football is awash with initials. What you have to remember is that “B” tends to refer to Boldklub which translates to Football Club. So in the course of my travels in Denmark I have seen AGF (Aarhus), B1903 (not to be confused with B1909 who also play in Odense), AB (The Academic Football Club), HIF, FB and now adding to the set is OB – Odense Boldklub. Not a name, or a team that strikes fear into the heart of many I bet back in Blighty, but a very progressive club who took on Aston Villa in the now defunct Intertoto Cup last season (drawing 2-2 in Denmark before a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park) and finished the season in 2nd place behind FCK (see more initials).
I very nearly didn’t get here. Luton’s finest (Easyjet to new readers) pulled a great one out of the hat at Gatwick this morning. Our plane had no crew. For some inexplicable reason Luton’s finest had “forgot” to allocate a crew to our plane, so they had to drive one down from HQ – yep in the Monday morning M1/M25/M23 rush hour hell….So three and a half hours later we eventually boarded a plane and so my time in the office was a tad brief today. Still I am sure the compensation for such a royal fuck up will be winging its way as we speak. I cleared my email, did some MBWA (Management By Walking Around) and then as the whistle blew I was away, chuffed to bits at the £60 return for the 70 minute train ride which made me feel right at home. It did however take me over the Great Belt Bridge, the link that is just 12 years old and has the third largest span of any bridge in the world. Prior to this engineering masterpiece opening it was necessary to take a ferry between the islands of Zealand and Funen. Add this to the Oresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Malmo and it is now possible to drive from Brest to Kalmar without having to go via the Baltic States, Russia and Finland (as if anyone did anyway).
Not that Odense is only famous because it has a large erection now…Oh no….This is a hotbed of Danish culture and the birthplace of Brigette, the current Duchess of Gloucester, King Canute (no relation to King Kanoute once of West Ham) and of course Hans Christian Andersen one of the most translated authors in the world – sort of like an olden days J K Rowling, again for the younger generation of TBIR readers.
So after being whisked across the bridge, chauffeured to the identikit Fionia Park and ushered into the bowels of the stadium I had one of those double take moments. As I was walking down the tunnel coming the other way was the OB goalkeeper who looked suspiciously like Roy Carroll, the ex-Man Utd, West Ham, Derby County and Rangers goalkeeper. I tried my luck with an “Evenin'” and he confirmed my hunch with a perfectly delivered “Alright” in his Northern Irish accent. A strange place to resurrect a career after a number of public off the field problems in England but by the fact that OB were nicely placed in 2nd place and only conceded a goal a game I would say a change of scenery was doing him good.
These are certainly exciting times for OB. With Brondby still believing the way to win the league is to change their coach every season, and one hit wonders AaB and FC Mitjylland failing to make an impact, someone needed to provide some opposition to the perennial champions FCK. This season it had actually been Esbjerg fB (not sure what that random “f” is doing there) with their fine form at the Blue Water Arena (plenty of free parking and restaurants inside I expect) to set the early pace, but OB weren’t far behind with only a single defeat to Silkeborg to their name. They have been a regular fixture in the top division in Denmark for a decade and have consistently finished in the top half, including last season’s 2nd place. Their last of their three titles came in 1989, although they have won the Danish Cup a couple of times since including the 2007 victory over FCK.
Odense Boldklub 2 AaB 1 – Fionia Park – Monday 5th October 2009
So after my warm welcome from the club and being escorted to the press area with a steaming cup of coffee to keep me warm I watched as OB awarded their Player of the Month to Eric Djemba-Djemba. Yep another ex-Moan Utd cast off and possibly one of the strangest transfers that Ferguson has made (Kleberson, Prunier, Taibi and Veron I would suggest would complete the worst 5) is having the season of his life out here. Sitting alongside him in midfield was Peter Utaka, brother of Portsmouth’s Johnny and a prolific scorer in the Belgian leagues (51 goals in 102 games) before coming to Denmark where he had scored 24 times in 44 games for OB. And no surprises that he opened the scoring in this game in the 35th minute when he powered past the AaB defenders into the penalty area and shot low into the net. Yep, 35th minute and that is the first thing I had to write. Apart from a block by Espen Ruud’s bum in the OB penalty area early on it wasn’t a first half of high quality. The OB fans high up in the Stiften Tribunen made a noise throughout and welcomed the goal as an opportunity to start a little bonfire, sorry flare, in the stand to keep warm.
I had a wander at half time, cradling my book (Passport to Football in case you didn’t know, available here or from all good book shops). It is a strange ground. Three single tier covered stands were two thirds full but the odd one was the main stand which above its single tier of seating had three tiers of executive areas (not boxes but restaurants and bars) with views of the action. Quite a waste of space.
The second half started with OB looking to put the game to bed. Whilst their approach play was good, the final ball into the box was lacking. It took them twenty minutes to double their lead with that man Utaka volleying home after the AaB defenders failed to deal with a low cross into the box.
OB appeared to be cruising. The hundred or so AaB fans, thinking about their long journey back to Jutland decided to encourage their team by removing their shirts and waving them around, as only those who live in such northern places would do. And it worked. Five minutes to go and it was 2-1 as a scramble in the goalmouth was poked home (classy reporting there as I was actually busy on the internet at the time and missed the goal). But it was too little too late and OB took the spoils. I packed away my laptop and put my head down for the long walk back, looking forward to the 5am start to get to Oslo for business.
No surprises that Peter Utaka got the Man of the Match vote, and the three points took OB above FCK in the SAS opening up a six point gap over AaB and seven over AGF…..now can you see how confusing this gets…
About Fionia Park
Opened in 1941 and completely renovated in 1997, Fionia Park is named not after a company but after the Latin name for the island where Odense sits – Funen. It has a capacity of just over 15,000 and is more than adequate for the demands of the club. It has four separate covered single tier stands, and is all seater apart from a small corner section and the away fans area in the Fionia Bank stand. Views are excellent from all areas. The Main (Carlsberg) Stand holds just over 2,700 and is a single tier stand but with three rows of executive areas above, giving it a strange imbalanced look. The hardcore fans in the Stiften Tribune are certainly noisy and get behind the team from their terrace section at the back of the stand. The stadium has hosted a number of Danish Under21 games as well as having the honour of a Roger Waters “Dark Side of the Moon” concert.
How to get to Fionia Park
The ground is located in the west of the city, outside the main ring road and whilst the 30 minute walk from the central station is not taxing the number 31 bus does the trip in just 10 minutes. A taxi, again from outside the station will cost aroun 70DKR.
How to get a ticket for Fionia Park
Attendances average just below the 10,000 mark for league games meaning that tickets can be bought on the day of the game from the portakabins in the corners of the stands. You can also book online at Danbillet.dk and tickets cost 120DKR for regular games and 150DKR for matches versus FCK and Brondby. More details can be found here.