Just two weeks ago the lights dimmed and a lone voice welcomed over 45,000 people to the opening of Europe’s 2nd largest indoor arena (Schalke’s Veltins Arena is classed as the biggest). The 2.8 billion Swedish Kroner Friends Arena had finally arrived, years after talking, debating and finally construction in Solna, just north of the city centre in Stockholm. The opening event featured the best of Swedish music including appearances by Björn and Benny themselves (the BB in ABBA silly) as well as Roxette. Alas, other classic Swedish music acts such as Ace of Base, The Cardigans and Europe were missing from the line up.
But the Arena wasn’t just built just for Swedish House Mafia concerts. It will primarily be a football stadium, home of AIK and the national team. So it was only fitting that the opening game to be played here should be against a team who have a passionate away following, who could generate some real noise and atmosphere. Unfortunately, Denmark had a previous engagement with Turkey so England agreed to step in. The good news was that I was already due to be in the city for work purposes; the bad news was that it was likely the ban on the England band from Poland wouldn’t be in force for this game. Continue reading
Welcome to our annual “awards” – celebrating all that is good about the game from our tours around the world. By 31st December we will have seen 115 games in 2011, which as CMF reminds me is one almost every three days. She would only get bored of me if I was at home every day anyway. These are awards based on our opinion. No votes, no favouritism (well, almost none), no trophies and no speeches. Last season’s nominations and winners can be found here.
“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, an atmosphere so red-hot it will make you wee”
3rd Place – Brondby IF
A fantastic display in the two derbies we attended in 2011 against FC Copenhagen saw the Danes keep their place in the top three this year. The sheer noise and flag waving needs to be seen to be believed at the Carlsberg Classico.
2nd Place – AIK
People who have no knowledge of Swedish football may dismiss it as pedestrian, laid back and functional – a bit like Ikea. But attend any of the big games features IFK, Malmö FF or AIK and you will see what Scandinavian passion is all about. The biggest game of the season is undoubtably the Stockholm derby, played at the Råsunda stadium (until the new Stockholm Stadion opens in November of course) where AIK meet rivals Djurgården. The notorious AIK hardcore fans, The Black Army, prepare their displays for months and it shows. Recent legislation has meant that if any flares are let off whilst the players are on the pitch then the game needs to be stopped, meaning this game is a long affair. The noise and colour will make your ears ring, the hairs on your neck stand up and your nose fill with smoke. Beautiful.
1st Place – Legia Warsaw
The first time I went I lost my hearing for about an hour afterwards, and that was at a game where they had the lowest attendance of the season. Two weeks ago when the temperature plunged well below zero, thousands of the fans jumped, sang, hugged and generally got 100% behind their team dressed in white t-shirts. If there ever was a “twelth man” theory then this was it in practice. Most Polish fans, irrespective of their allegiance will begrudgingly say Legia have the best fans in Poland. As someone who watches the game all over the world I can honestly say that they are the best that I have seen.
We think Kenny Pavey is the best English player currently playing outside of these shores. Whenever we are in Sweden we try and make time for him, simply because he is a really nice bloke. After my trip over to the Stockholm derby I asked Andy Hudson, our expert on Swedish football, and author of the excellent website Blågul Football to meet up with Kenny when he was next over in Stockholm. Over to you Andy.
Pavey thanks to Robert Henriksson
I’ve been involved in many great situations since I started writing about football, but one stands out. It’s June 26 2011 and I’m sitting in O’Leary’s, a bar in Örebro. I’ve just ordered another beer, my fifth of the day, and AIK have won 2-1 away to Trelleborg. The only people celebrating as Teteh Bangura struck the winner in the 77th minute were me and a friend, in stark contrast to our protests when AIK wrongly had a goal disallowed in the first half; the other lads with us are still fuming about the ÖSK loss earlier. I fire off a text message and then there’s a look of disbelief from around the table as I read out the reply. My AIK supporting friend, the person to blame for the amount of time I spend talking about AIK; the person to blame for me checking the internet for the latest news; the person to blame for me listening to Swedish radio coverage of games whenever I can, can’t believe it. Kenny Pavey, ‘scorer’ of the disallowed goal, has replied. The same Kenny Pavey who can also happily be blamed for my AIK lust.
An infectious smile comes across the face of every AIK fan when I mention one name: Kenny Pavey – crowd favourite, idol of the North Stand, legend. If you wanted a definition of a whole-hearted, passionate player then I would give you Kenny Pavey. But he isn’t an English clogger, this guy has skill to go with the tough tackling. Continue reading
The 18 May 1946 is not a day that many will remember as being well known for anything. If you are old enough to remember, then President Truman gave a televised speech announcing the end of the railroad strike in America and that is probably it, unless you were a resident in the small town of Ängelholm in south west Sweden.
On that night, in a small forest on the outskirts of the town a UFO landed. The Swedes aren’t known for their strange beliefs such as other nations (Trolls for instance in other more northerly areas) so it was hard to put this down to a flight of fancy, especially as it was seen by a chap called Gösta Carlsson, a famous Swedish ice hockey player at the time. Gösta claimed that the aliens landed and then passed him some secrets that enabled him to set up a successful natural therapy company. A bit like an extra-terrestrial Herbalife then. There is a monument in the forest clearing where the incident was alleged to have taken place which makes it the one of the biggest tourist draws in the area.
The town itself is better known for us younger people as one of the best surfing beaches in the Nordics. People come from hundreds of miles away to enjoy the wide sandy beach and the strong currents. It is certainly a nice looking place – free from litter and well kept lawns, and lots of very bronzed Swedes cycling around.
But I was not here for the UFO watching or the wind surfing. Of course I was here for football. Ängelholms FF are your typical provincial Swedish football team. Happy to sit in the mid-table of the second division, occasionally upsetting one of the big boys in a cup and even rarer pushing for a promotion spot. They have ambition though, and the club have stated that 2011 is their target date to reach the Allsvenskan for the first time. This season has started well for them. A 3-2 win on the opening day against favourites Hammarby in front of over 3,000 set them up well, but since then it has been a disappointing series of draws mixed in the occasional defeats. In their last home game the crowd dropped down to just over 300 which must be a real concern for the club. Continue reading
Question: Who is the most successful English player currently playing abroad based on trophies won?
Most people would undoubtably plump for Mr Beckham at this point but they would be wrong. Leytonstone’s finest has only won the La Liga title since leaving Manchester United despite the glory that always surrounds him.
The Answer is Kenneth Steven Pavey. Who you may say, but I can assure you that Kenny is a true living and breathing legend in his surroundings and will be plying his trade in the Champions League come August time – yes a real Englishman in the Champions League (take note Arsenal!) when AIK, Sweden’s treble winners in 2008 take their place amongst Europe’s elite.
So how did Pavey come to be plying his trade in a land best known for IKEA, Volvo and long long summer nights. Pavey made his debut at his local club Affenley FC in South East London before moving to his boyhood favourite club Millwall FC as a schoolboy. Unfortunately the dream of playing for the Lions didn’t come through and so he moved down the A2 to Rymans League club Sittingbourne where he made his debut in one of the most progressive non-league clubs around. So progressive that he almost found himself on his way to Aston Villa where he seemed to have impressed when on trial in 1998 but the clubs could not agree on a fee and just a few seasons later he was catapulted into the world of Swedish second division football. Continue reading