The start of the gravy train for another season


“Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event!”

Of course we all recognise the above three lines as the opening verse of the Champions League anthem.  The music that stirs our loins for a night of the “best football in the world” ©UEFA and seduces us into thinking that we are the privaliged few in being able to watch the superstars.  For those trivia buffs amongst you you may want to know that the song was commissioned by UEFA in 1992 and was aired on the night of the first ever round of games in the tournament in August 1992.  In fact for you real real trivia buffs you may want to know that it was first played on the 19 August in the Ta’Qali stadium in Malta when the teams from Valletta and Maccabi Tel Aviv took to the field.

It was written by English composer Tony Britten and he adapted George Frideric Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” from the Coronation Anthems, and the piece was performed by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Continue reading

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Stockholm Syndrome


What is the biggest match in football around the world?  Many will say Real Madrid v Barcelona, others AC v Inter whilst some of a more continental persuasion will go for the Boca v River Plate game in Argentina.  But what is clear that in most domestic leagues the biggest game tends to be the local derbies.  In fact Spain (and to an extent, France) is the exception in that the biggest game is not a inter-city derby.

Germany has all of the passion (and spite) of Borussia Dortmund and Schalke as well as a new rivalry, played for the first time this season in Hertha v Union Berlin.  Italy has the Rome, Milan, Turin and Genoa variations.  Portugal has Sporting v Benfica derby played between the Lisbon sides and then of course there is the Old Firm in Scotland.  Childhood friends grow up enemies based on the teams they support, families are split in two over their allegiances.

Parken on fire again

During the past few years I have been lucky enough to experience a few such games.  Internazionale 0 AC 6 will always rank up there in my most treasured footballing memories, as will the rampant destruction of Parken, home to FC Copenhagen by Brondby IF fans in one of the fastest growing inter-city rivalries.  But one game I had always wanted to see was the Stockholm derby between Djurgården IF and AIK.

Djurgårdens IF and AIK were both founded in 1891 separated by just a month apart and both are originally from the Northern part of Stockholm.  Today they are almost in different towns with AIK based in Solna, to the north of the city centre and Djurgården in the district of Östermalm. They are also historically two of the biggest and most successful clubs in Sweden, with 11 League titles each. The Djurgården vs AIK rivalry is considered by far the biggest rivalry in Sweden and maybe even the whole of Scandinavia because of its rich history and the huge animosity between the two clubs and both sets of fans with the Järnkaminerna or Blue Saints of Djurgården on one side and the notorious Black Army of AIK on the other.  With this being the first game of the season for both teams, it was guaranteed to be a cracker in terms of atmosphere. Continue reading

On the second day of Christmas – The best game


“On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me….a top game of football or three.”

In 2010 (so far as this is written prior to the potential games post Boxing Day) we have seen 86 games of football, featuring 224 goals, 6 red cards, 3 dogs in 10 different countries.  So we have been a bit busy.  Consequently we have seen our fair share of dross (few of the 30,000 at West Ham United 0 Blackburn Rovers 0 in January 2010 for instance will remember anything) but we have also seen a few games that will live in the memory for a long time.  Here are our top three in no particular order.

Lewes 5 Dorchester Town 0Looking back now this game was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  However, at the time, Lewes’s biggest victory for over 3 years was priceless in their fight for survival in the Blue Square South.  Needing to win at least three of their last four games to claw their way out of the relegation zone, the team had gone away to Worcester City and won their first away game in 17 months.  Then came the “do or die” game against Dorchester.  The team simply over ran their opponents on a beautiful sunny day in East Sussex, with the Harveys flowing and the silky skills of David Wheeler on the wing setting up goals at will.  All of the reasons why I love Lewes so much in one afternoon.

Malmö FF 2 Helsingborgs IF 0We know from bitter experience that the meeting of the top two in any league towards the end of the season is a receipe for a dull encounter.  But not in Sweden.  The Allsvenskan was the tightest it had been for years in 2010 with bitter rivals Malmö FF and Helsingborgs IF matching each other result for result.  Coming into this game in mid September they were separated by 3 points.  Not only was the atmosphere one of the best we have EVER experienced at a game (see here for an example of what it was like to be there) but the game itself was an absolute cracker – end to end action that you rarely see in the Allsvenskan and two decent goals to boot.  Few of the 21,000 in the stadium that night will ever forget this one.

Carshalton Athletic 3 Tonbridge Angels 2A Ryman Premier League game on a chilly September night with England playing away in Switzerland on TV would hardly rank high on most peoples agenda for a night out but it turned into a classic game of cut and thrust.  In a real old fashioned football ground both teams were committed to attacking play from the first whistle, and whilst the skill on offer may not have been Premier League but it was a great game, capped off by a come back from the home team in the last 3 minutes from 2-1 down to win 3-2 including a stunner of a 35 yarder in the final minute.  All this for less than a tenner as well.

And now for some proper atmosphere


Last week we were lucky enough to be at the Malmö FF v Helsingborgs IF game and we waxed lyrical about the unbelievable atmosphere.  Well don’t just take our word for it – watch the video below – hairs standing up on back of the next time!

And people wonder what’s wrong with the Premier League eh!

Skane and Abel


I’ve been to a few tasty games in my life.  Those where you wake up the next morning with cordite still wafting around your nose, a persistent ringing in your ears from the screams and chants, and if you are really lucky wearing nothing but a strange football scarf (hats off to Mr Danny Last for the last one).  Whilst we may claim to have the “Best League in the World” (©Sky Sports) we are woefully bad at generating a real atmosphere at a game.  Occasionally we get a game that may have some passionate followings, but we are so scared of the thought of two sets of fans in the same postcode at the same time that we are now experts at the “Bubble Games” – where away fans are bused in and out of a city/town/village/out-of-town shopping centre irrespective how they want to get to the game.  All in the name of safety the authorities will have us believe. Continue reading

England’s finest export


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