For the fifth year in the row we today launch our 12 Days of TBIR Christmas, celebrating all that is good and bad about our beautiful game seen through the team here (well, me basically) and my trusty iPhone camera. We will celebrate the best of times and the worst of times. The grounds we would go back to like a shot, and those that we would give a wide berth to in the future. So sit back and enjoy the winners and losers in our Zeitgeist (I learnt that word from Google).
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.