Almost three years into my love affair with all things Scandinavian I am still yet to chose my favourite teams in each country. In Denmark I think I am a Brondby fan, although the hospitality of certain FCK fans is swaying me (take a bow Ivar!). Norway is a bit more cut and dry as I am firmly a Stabæk fan after being treated as one of their own last season. But Sweden is a whole different kettle of fish. I have tried Helsingborgs, AIK, Halmstads, IFK and IF Bromma. But the one I come back to time and time again is Malmö FF.
There are a number of reasons why we should be good bed partners. Close to Copenhagen, yet in a different country (tick), nice pale blue Puma kit (tick), decent vocal crowds (tick) and a ground where the application for a media pass is welcomed, and not treated with disdain (by the way, did you know to apply for a media pass at Wembley, you have to FAX the FA. Who uses fax anymore?). However, all was not too rosy in Sweden. At the weekend THE wedding of the year was called off. No, not plastic tits and no brains but brawn if you believe the News of the World but that of Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergstrom after it was revealed he had a one night stand with a student from Bournemouth. Yep – good old Jonas spunked away his future quite literally on a lazy good for nothing Pot Noodle eater. Granted she was Norwegian, and was previously a professional handball player but must still be stupid for selling her story to a Sunday paper for just £1,300! These Norwegian’s are crazy.
As I have said before, I like to pop over the water when I can, especially on a Monday night when I otherwise would be staying in watching Hell’s Kitchen (in Danish), Australian Masterchef (in Danish), US Hell’s Kitchen (in German) or Top Gear (in Arabic). Tonight it was Djurgården visiting, hardly starting the season well after last seasons close brush with relegation (an end of season play off win kept them up) whilst the home team had started well under ex-Sheffield Wednesday defender Roland Nilsson.
This was to be my fifth Malmö game. So far they had drawn one and lost the other four. My last visit to the impressive Swedbank Stadion was last season when twice I saw them fail to score. So I wasn’t expecting miracles tonight despite their two goals a game average so far this Allsvenskan. I just made kick off as my taxi decided to take me on a detour of the city’s cultural highlights but when I did I was met with a wall of noise, as the North terrace were paying tribute to Eric Persson, who was a former chairman of the club and was actually the man who brought fame and fortune to the club. He looked the spitting image of Victor Meldrew to me. Trivia fact for you – Eric would never travel in a yellow cab as his distaste for the colour yellow dated back to when city rivals (who played in yellow) IFK Malmö were found guilty of paying their players in an age when socialism and amateur football ruled, to win the 1934 Swedish Championships. Old Eric could hold a grudge.
As the big banners came down a smaller one was revealed, heralding the genius of Roy Hodgson, who took the club to five consecutive titles in the late 1980’s. That section of the ground is named “Roy’s Corner” and it is rumoured that when the stresses of Fulham and Mohammed Al Fayed get too much he comes over here and sits in the corner and reads Kipling*.
Malmö 2 Djurgården 1 – The Swedbank Stadium – Monday 26th April
The game kicked off and for the first ten minutes it was the same Malmö I had seen for the previous 3 hours. Nice passing but no end product. And then something happened I hadn’t seen for nearly 3 years. Malmö scored a goal. Not a goal during the warm up, or when the ball had already gone out of play, but an actual goal that counted. Ulrich Vinzents bounded down the right hand side of the pitch and his low cross was flicked in by Daniel Larsson. He should have scored a second too – just three minutes later when a corner wasn’t cleared properly and he had the chance to volley home, but skied it over the bar.
The lead was almost doubled in the fortieth minute when Vinzents got into the box again and his cross was spilt by Djurgården keeper Vaiho into the path of Guillermo Molins who struck the ball against the post. Instead it was the away team that had the final, and best chance of the half as they were given a free kick, dead centre, on the 18 yard line in injury time. Despite Malmö having a wall of 8 (yes, eight), the ball sailed over their heads, the goal and into the home fans.
Sixty three minutes and that man Larsson was at it again, given a few yards in the box a-la- Michael Owen style to slot home his second. The north terrace responded by turning the noise up an octave and started bouncing – an impressive sight and one that had been missing on my previous trips. It wasn’t all Larsson though as Robert Ahman Persson (no relation to the great Eric), this season’s top scorer was a constant threat down the left hand channel and forced a couple of good saves out of Vaiho in the Djurgården goal.
With the full moon rising in the distance, and just five minutes left on the clock the couple of hundred fans from Stockholm at last had something to cheer about as a hopeful punt upfield caused Johan Dahlin to dither in the home goal and Kasper Hämäläinen stuck out a boot and the ball looped over the keeper’s head and into the net.
Two minutes later it should have been all over when Molins was hauled down in the Djurgärden penalty area and from the resulting spot kick captain Daniel Andersson hit the ball wide. Four minutes of injury time did nothing for the nerves of the 13,028 in the stadium but when the final whistle eventually went Malmö could at least look back on a victory and a move up the table to second. The good times may be coming back to Scania even if they aren’t for a certain lawyer currently sitting at home on his own in Stockholm.
*I made that last bit up by the way.