Who wants to watch Champions League football anyway? Dull, negative football being played in sanitised corporate heavy stadiums. Wouldn’t you rather get back to your roots and watch a game untainted by commercialism? So here is your choice for today – Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League Quarter Final 1st leg from a sold out 80,000 Estadio Bernabau or Skjold v BGA in the Danish 2nd Division (East) from Østerbro in front of one man and his dog Henrik. I can see I am losing you towards the Champions League so let me play to your better judgement. Beer is available in Copenhagen, not in Madrid. Ah welcome to my world. Actually, with a 7pm kick off in Copenhagen we could see both. And that is what Ben and I were going to do.
And what better place to watch a game than the marvellous old national stadium, Østerbro. Sure average attendances for BK Skjold are around 160 but beggars can’t be choosers as it was the only show in town. It served cheap (bear in mind we are in Copenhagen here so £3.50 a pint is very cheap) beer, sausages galore and because someone had forgot to lock the gate from the main road, free entry. And we were being joined by a very special guest.
We love crazy ideas here at TBIR (and EFW) and when we heard of Thomas Rensen and his fantastic plan, we were filled with jealousy. Thomas is going to see 31 games in 31 days. A game (or in some cases 2 just for good measure) a day. He will visit 18 countries in his travels and only use trains. Now that is dedication. He was in Copenhagen for this game after being at the Stockholm derby last night. So far his travels (and bear in mind he is only on day 5) have taken in games in Belgium, Wales, London, two in Northern Germany, Stockholm and Denmark. If awards were given out for dedication to football then Thomas would get an Oscar hands down. You can follow his travels on his website and if your Dutch is as good as mine you can read his piece about meeting me at the game here.
Østerbro is dripping with history. The stadium was opened in 1912 and has hosted virtually every sport going. Today it is the home of Danish athletics, as well as to Skjold and B93, also in the same league. Around the edge of the ground are a number of statues, depicting naked men in various athletic poses. Stop sniggering at the back please! Although it did explain the higher than normal female to male ratio of fans.
It isn’t an ideal place to watch a game from, as there is an athletics track in the way, but for Ben and I it was a view of the future. One of us (as Ben is a Spurs fan) will be watching our sanitised Premier League offering in two seasons time and like most fans, neither of us want to see that. We took our seats alongside Thomas and awaited this bottom of the table clash. Skjold came into the game 3rd from bottom whilst the visitors themselves were only one point above it.
Skjold 3 BGA 1 – Østerbro – Tuesday 5th April 2011
After the magnificent show of “fan action” last night our expectations were essentially at zero for something similar in a cold basic athletics stadium with a hundred or so fans. Sometimes you can be so wrong. The visitors, BGA, from the west of Copenhagen in Glostrup had brought their hardcore crew of four fans, who armed with two big flags, one drum and a handful of flares, tried to replicate the big match feel. As the teams emerged down the steps they woke up a few of the neighbours with their little show.
As if in homage to Dutchman Thomas, the teams lined up in a fetching almost 1974 Holland home kit, complete with the unique Adidas three strip numbering system for BGA whilst Skjold had their Feyenoord-esque red and white halved shirt and black shorts. It was a shame that the pitch wasn’t conducive to playing the ball along the floor – in fact it was the worse pitch I have seen for a long time.
In between conversations with Thomas about his amazing adventure (note to film producers: There is a film here and my suggestion is Jim Carey in the role of Thomas) there actually was some decent play on the pitch. BGA took the lead in the 11th minute when a free kick into the box saw some shirt pulling in the penalty area and from the resulting penalty (Allan?) Simonsen slammed the ball home. Fifteen minutes later and it was 1-1 as (Gustav) Holst capitalised on a slip by the BGA full back and drove the ball across the keeper and into the corner of the net.
Five minutes later and the home side should have taken the lead when they were awarded a penalty for a clear foul in the area. Up stepped the Skjold player and his well struck spot kick was expertly tipped onto the bar by the BGA keeper.
The second half started with both teams attacking from the off. The quartet of away fans got excited again and set off some more fireworks. Only this time they managed to catch one of the plastic seats alight. Cue mad search for a fire extinguisher and a swift exit for the whole of the BGA away support, although asking them to leave the stadium was a bit pointless as they simply continued their support from outside the fence with a perfect view of the action.
The home side eventually ran out winners when (Mark) Steinless and then (Simon) Kvist scored in the final fifteen minutes. By this stage Ben and I had left, as we had an appointment with a large screen TV, a pint of Carlsberg Brown Ale and a small match in Madrid. The rest they say is a painful reminder of why you should stick to Danish lower league football.
More pictures from the evening can be found here.