For hundreds of small football clubs across Europe this week sees the start of their cup adventures. A win at this stage in some of the smaller countries and they may get lucky and draw one of the big boys, whilst in England it will be a few more rounds before the 402 teams who will be playing in the Extra-Preliminary round this week will have the chance to play a once in a lifetime game.
My cup adventures, unsurprisingly were going to start in Copenhagen. Many of the teams who enter into the Ekstra Bladet cup are no more than Saturday League teams. Many of the grounds are simply playing fields with a rope around them. However, the rewards for some of the 88 teams are great. A win at this stage and they will go onto the draw with 8 of the Superliga teams (those who finished 5th and below), so this season that includes recent champions AaB and 2004 runners up FC Midtyjlland. Last season regional side Helsingor3000 drew the plum tie when they hosted FC Copenhagen in a game that had to be played during a midweek afternoon as the ground had no floodlights.
Our aim this year was to try and follow the cup in England and Denmark in traditional style. Pick a team and watch them until they get knocked out, then follow the winners. We have tried this before, most recently with Grays Athletic but their subsequent draw away to Carlisle United put pay to our ambitions. Our English starting point is still up for debate in the Fuller household – I want to do Lordswood FC but parental duties may mean I end up at Lincoln Moorlands Railways FC – either way they will have my full support.
In Denmark it shaped up to be a good week. Fixtures were spread across three days meaning I could take in at least two fixtures. The two plum ties were at Kastrup BK (v 1st Division Greve) and AB Tårnby (v NB Bornholm) and were nicely set up for Wednesday and Thursday night. Perfect.
Copenhagen is actually made up of a three islands. The main city centre sits on the edge of Zealand, then there is Christiana and finally Amager which is where you will find Kastrup airport. There is a different feel about life on Amager and some of the people who live here are fiercely proud of their little island. It also supports one of the largest non-top league stadiums in Denmark – the Sundby Idraetspark which is home to 2nd Division B1908 and regional league Fremand Amager. But our attention was drawn to the two smaller clubs who played literally within a goal kick of Kastrup airport.
A plan was hatched and then just to prove it’s not just in England where games are moved for TV the fixtures changed. Although this was a strange one. Kastrup moved their game to Wednesday night, to kick off at same time as Tårnby literally half a mile away. Why was this strange? Well kicking off just as both games were finishing was Denmark v Germany at Parken, no more than 30 minutes away. So surely it would have been better to move both games to Thursday and avoid the clash? On the face of it I had to decide which one to focus my attention on, or did I?
A couple of years ago I hatched a bizarre plan to take in a half at two difference games – chosing Northwich Victoria v Woking and then Altrincham v Eastbourne Borough – two clubs separated by around 12 miles. Our “Game of two halves” was a first for us and one we wouldn’t repeat in a hurry. But here we were with two games literally walking distance apart so as my original plan was to see them both any – why not?
So a short 10 minute metro trip from the office and a little walk over the main motorway linking Denmark to Sweden and the adventure was about to begin.
AB Tårnby 0 NB Bornholm 1 – Tårnby Stadion – Wednesday 11th August 6.30pm
As soon as I took one step outside the station the biggest downpour I have seen for ages fell from the sky. With no shelter I had to run, or hide in a bush. I am not proud to say I took the latter option. Such a sight is uncommon in Denmark and a few people walking past (with umbrellas I hasten to add) simply stood and stared. Good to get a reputation so early in the evening anyway.
My damp mood was soon lifted on arrival at the ground as entrance was free. Furthermore, for just 50DKK (about £6) I could indulge in a beer and a hot dog. Bargain for this country I can tell you. I arrived just as the teams emerged from an almost Super villian style cave in the ground. AB Tårnby are relative newcomers in Danish football, having been formed after a merger between Amager FC 1970 and Tårnby FC in January 2009. The former essentially moved into the latter’s ground, a large athletics stadium with a capacity of around 10,000 in quite basic arena but with the tallest floodlights I think I had ever seen (see above). What makes these even more bizarre is the proximity to the airport and thus a bit of a hazard.
However, the main excitement for this game came from the visitors. Bornholm is an island laying in the middle of the Baltic Sea – in fact quite a way from Denmark. Laying closer to Germany, Poland and Sweden rather than Denmark the island boasts its own language, its own flag (the Danish one with a green line running through the white cross) and its own disease (Bornholm Disease which is also known as Devils grip). It is a favourite weekend destination for people from Copenhagen, who come to enjoy the peaceful surroundings and clear waters.
The game itself was played at quite a pace. The home team certainly threw away the form book and created some early chances, but the away team, spurred on by a strange manager, dressed in a goalkeepers shirt, leaning on a crutch took hold soon after. Their solitary away fan on the far side of the ground had the only cheer of the half as a free kick from 25 yards skidded along the turf and into the net on forty minutes for the only goal of the match. A crowd of a hundred or so most gathered around the bar, expertly marshalled by a lovely blonde lady wearing an Airport Security jacket. Moonlighting young lady?
Half time whistle blown and I was off. Back across the motorway and railway line, turning right into Gammel Kirkevej and 10 minutes later I was there and ready for part 2 of the evening.
Kastrup 1 BK Greve 1 (4-2 pens) – Røllikevej – Wednesday 11th August 7.30pm
Back in 1976 Kastrup had their finest hour when they reached the semi-final of the competition, where they lost to Holbaek in front of over 9,000 spectators. At least the club aren’t getting carried away before his game, stating on their website (translated in my ever improving Danish) “It is possible that we get a decent “chopper”, and so we just down to earth, but if we can surprise Greve, then maybe a Super League Team will be in wait in the next few rounds, and the crowds waiting maybe too!” I have to say I was expecting a bit more than a roped off pitch next to the motorway when I read this.
When I arrived, half time was nearly over and the referee and his team were strategically positioned next to the beer tent these Danes do not like to miss any opportunity for a beer and this popped up like Mr Whippy would appear in England. We did have to rub our eyes to make sure this was the venue for a cup match but we had seen Greve play in the cup before, three years ago when they had made it through to the third round and recognised the kit. Three years on and they were still holding their own in the Danish 2nd Division, some three levels above Kastrup.
It was hard to get excited about this one. It was also hard to find anyone who could tell me the score as there was only a few dozen or so fans watching. However, Danish TV were on hand to record the game for their equivalent Match of the Day, so it is not hard to see me standing on my todd behind the Kastrup goal.
With fifteen minutes to go there was a contentious decision. Let me hand you over to Kastrup BK’s on field web reporter and what my Dragon Dialect iPhone app translated his words as:-
“In the 72nd min. It happened there could happen a Greve player was pushed in the box in the back of Tobias Hansen, who was convicted criminal. Warning to Tobias and reliable scoring of Greve `s Morten Larsen. 0-1 and many thought that Greve would run victory home safely.”
So at last I knew the score and was mildly surprised it was the opening goal, for Greve looked the stronger and fitter team. But this is the cup, and the cup brings out those stories of heroics and when Philip Petersen equalised a few minutes later, the rope around the pitch could not contain the excitement of the home fans. Tut tut – serious lack of crowd control and stewarding!
So Extra time beckoned, but the main issue was the weather. Rain had started falling heavily again and the light was getting worse. If referees had cricket umpire style light metres play would have been abandoned for the day. Not that the fans cared – they just took refuge in the beer tent and watched from a distance. No further goals meant the first penalty shoot out of the season for TBIR. What a way to end our first day of cup action.
Just to prove there is still some romance in the competition, Kastrup went and won the shoot out thanks to the fantastically named Pizza for Greve hit the bar with his kick allowing the home side to score their 4th kick to win 4-2 on penalties. However – they do things differently out here and so the final score is listed everywhere as 5-3 – must be the Carlsberg effect…Their reward? Well all will be revealed at 12pm GMT on Friday 13th – a lucky omen for them perhaps.
More photos from the games can be seen at our Flickr stream here.