Right straight to the point. We love Malmö FF. We love their new stadium (we actually loved their iconic old stadium which still sits next door to the new Swedbank Stadion), we love the pale blue shirts, we love their passionate fans and we love their press office who on asking for accreditation this week told us that:-
“Of course…We appreciate all of the interest around the club at the moment, but when it comes from the home of football it warms the heart a little extra.”
They had me on “of course”. But this season has been special for Di blåe. With just four games to go they went into round 27 with a 3 point lead over local rivals (and also a top club by the way) Helsingborgs IF thanks to the passionate win last month. With both teams kicking off at 7pm on Monday night, the right result could almost put the Allsvenskan on a bus down to Malmö from Stockholm where AIK had been hiding it in a cupboard. Helsingborgs were away to recent champions IF Elfsborg whilst Malmö were hosting Kalmar FF, themselves Allsvenskan Champions in 2008.
Monday night, 7pm kick off – of course we would be there. In the not too distant future our whole Scandinavian adventure will end, and who knows where we will end up (please Mr Wicks not Paris!) but we will miss the trip over the water to Sweden to the lovely little city of Malmö. So best make the most of it. This was to be our last trip here of the season, and we came in hope that the club could regain its position at the top of the Swedish tree, a position that last really held in the late 80’s when they won five consecutive titles between 1985 and 1989. To celebrate their last title, Roxette released Dressed for Success around the world, as a homage to the club and this fifth title..And now eleven years later Roxette are back, playing sell out gigs across Sweden…could this be an omen???
I met up with a few fans, of course over a low alcoholic beer (no really – remember we are in Sweden so the thought of a 4% beer sends the government into COBRA mode) and discussed the season and what was going on in England. Their main interest was of course Liverpool. As we have reported here before Mr Hodgson is a bit of a God in the city, and has a special Hodgson Corner (Roy’s Hörna) in the stadium, complete with his own flag as testament to the five titles he won back in the late 80’s. Oh how he wished he was back there today, dancing away to “The Look” and regretting the day he was offered a lifetime contract to stay with the club.
They also admitted, begrudgingly that rivals Helsingborgs had done well this season, and if anyone was to finish runners up it should be them. Cannot see Everton and Liverpool (I know that Malmö and Helsingborgs aren’t city rivals) fans being so open about each other. But that situation would have to wait for a few weeks as there was a championship to win first.
As usual the fans in the stadium surpassed themselves. A huge semi-circular banner went up behind the goal to welcome the teams celebrating the 1999 near miss and then another to show the elation of the last Allsvenskan in 2004. Fan choreography at its best and something that unfortunately we will simply never see in England with the ridiculous amount of regulations that treat all fans like potential criminals. The last time I checked a simple flag, with a pole was a banned item in most stadiums in the UK. Sit down and shut up, but don’t forget to buy your branded water/coke/burger.
Malmö FF 0 Kalmar FF 1 – Swedbank Stadion – Monday 18th October
Fifteen minutes into the game with neither side really able to create an opening news filtered through that Helsingborgs had scored at Elfsborg. as the goal was relayed on the big screens (I still cannot get my head around this practice of showing action from other games during the match) there was a collective groan from the fans. However it did jerk the home team into life for a minute and they went close as Agon Mehmeti ran into the box but saw his lob bounce onto the top of the net as opposed to in it.
Kalmar started to come back into the game and if it wasn’t for a smart save from Johan Dahlin on 21 minutes they would have been in the lead. The team from the west of Sweden had surpassed all expectations in the past few years winning a Swedish Cup and then the 2008 Allsvenskan. Their first appearance in the Champions League last season had ended at the Qualifying stages as they lost to Debrecen on away goals, but they couldn’t be underestimated.
With Elfsborg scoring a late equaliser against Helsingborgs, both title challengers went in at half time hanging onto a point, a situation that would allow for the perfect team talk surely?
Just to prove how much my Swedish had come along, at the start of the second half the Malmö fans unravelled a banner that said “Staplats reducering – Nej Tack!” which I impressively told my colleague next to me, who was from Poland, that it was a protest against a plan to reduce the amount of standing places in the stadium…Next you’ll know I will be singing Abba songs in their original language (Tak för musiken, Vinnaren tar allt and En an voss if you must know).
As the temperature dropped, and my regret for leaving my gloves back in Denmark rose the air of frustration rose. Kalmar put ten men behind the ball whenever they could, and with Helsingborgs taking the lead in Boras it was left to the home fans to try and motivate the team to retain the initiative in the title race in the final fifteen minutes.
But then it took a turn for the worst. Begloved (is that a word?) Kalmar forward Daniel Freire Mendes received the ball some twenty five yards out from goal, saw the keeper off his line and placed the ball perfectly into the top corner. A harsh reward for 85 minutes worth of defending, but football can be a cruel game.
Five minutes of stoppage time sent the fans into a frenzy, and an almost freakish own goal by the Kalmar keeper raised spirits but it was not to be. Helsingborgs win took them level on points at the top, and with just three rounds of games left it looked like being the closest championship since, erm, last season when AIK beat IFK Göteborg on the last day to pip them to the title.
If it does all go wrong in the final few weeks I am sure Roy will be available in good time for the start of next season…..
More photos from the evening can be found at our Flickr stream here.