I heard a rumour


“Have you seen John Terry?”

As random questions go, this was up there with some of those uttered from my parents.  I was queueing to get some more beer underneath the Sud tribune in Brøndby Stadion when the question was asked by a complete stranger who somehow figured I was English (perhaps it was the socks with sandals combination?).

26895142486_85c86a2c5c_z“Do you mean, have I ever seen John Terry?”  I had once seen the much maligned Chelsea captain in Huck’s restaurant at Elveden CenterParcs back in 2001 apart from playing for Chelsea and England so I wasn’t lying when I answered in the affirmative.

“No, here.  He is sitting over there” the women said, waving her arm in a direction that was either towards the Gents toilet or the Main Stand depending on how literal you wanted to be.  I hoped for Terry’s sake it was the latter otherwise he’d be all over the front pages (again) for the wrong reasons (again).

Depending on which rumour you care to believe, Terry was at tonight’s Superliga derby between Brøndby IF and FC Nordsjælland because a) he’s good friends with club owner Jan Bech Andersen and accepted an invite to pop over as he would not play again this season (or ever) for Chelsea due to suspension, b) he was about to take over as head coach from Aurelijus Skarbalius who had joined a long list of managers who had heralded a new dawn but simply made the club darker or c) he was actually planning on buying out Andersen and running the club himself. There was a fourth reason of course, which was why I was here with Ben. And that is you can’t beat a beer (or three), a sausage (or two) and a good jump around on the terraces on a Monday night.

This used to be a regular occurrence for me. For over two years Copenhagen had been my midweek home and instead of spending every night in my apartment watching Kroning Gade (Danish Coronation Street), I went off in search of football. In two years I managed to watch games at 37 different Danish and Swedish grounds but there was nowhere really like Brøndby (OK – apart from Malmö). My very good friend and Ultras expert Kenny Legg ranked the Copenhagen Derby played at the Brøndby Stadion as, as he eloquently put it, “F’ing insane” – and he’s a man whose experienced Weymouth versus Dorchester Town (twice!). Quite simply it should be one game that every football fan takes in once in their lives.

26323371404_525d2c9a37_zA rare need for a work trip to Copenhagen fortuitously fell on the very day Brøndby were hosting their cross-city rivals, FC Nordsjælland from leafy Farum. Whilst it’s currently the fashion to talk about clubs overcoming insurmountable odds to win the league (Leicester City were 5000/1 to win the Premier League in case you missed that little fact), we should pause and reflect on the story of FC Nordsjælland who broke the FCK dominance of winning seven of the previous nine titles.  Whilst the club had always been respected for its youth development, they hadn’t really made a mark on domestic football in Denmark until 2010 when they won their first major honour, the Danish Cup.  A year later they retained the trophy, once again beating FC Midtjylland in the final.  However in 2011/12 they led from the front almost on day one and never looking back.  Not only did they cap that season with the title but five of their players were called up to the National team.

It was always felt that the dominance of FCK on the domestic game, fuelled by perennial Champions League money would never be broken but FCN proved it could be done.  Whilst FCK won the title twelve months later (with FCN hosting Chelsea and Juventus in the Champions League ironically at FCK’s Parken), the last two titles have been won by two more “upstarts”.  Alas, neither were Brøndby.

Last season the story over here, and also back in England, was of FC Midtjylland who again if you believed the media, won the league through the footballing equivalent of card counting.  The club, based a few miles up the road from Legoland had been on the fringes of the honours for a while but it took the investment of Brentford owner Matthew Benham and his statistical approach to both recruitment and retention of players to reach that Tipping Point that saw them crowned as champions.

26895138446_4e8aec971e_zBut back to today.  Ben had procured the tickets for a ridiculous 60DKK (£6) each but failed to remember that we were in Denmark and so a 7pm kick off meant 7pm Danish time, not 6pm that was displayed on Soccerways….Ben has only lived in Denmark for 8 years now.  He was quickly forgiven when we took our place at the front of the beer and sausage queue though.  He brought me up to speed on the state of play in Denmark’s Superliga.  FCK were as good as champions again, holding a seven point league over this season’s surprise package, SønderjyskE.  Then came AaB (champions in 2014) and FC Midtjylland (champions in 2015)…and then Brøndby, some seventeen points behind FCK with six games to play.  “So the title still isn’t out of the question Stu”.  He is a Spurs fan and up until the draw with Chelsea was absolutely convinced Spurs would win the title on goal difference.

With only 2nd and 3rd place qualifying for the Europa League and having painfully lost a two-legged Danish Cup semi-final to FCK it looked bleak for a return to European football.  That was unless they could get three points tonight.

Brøndby IF 2 FC Nordsjælland 1 – Brøndby Stadion – Monday 9th May 2016
The warm, yellow liquid currently raining down on us reminded us why it’s a bad move to stand at the bottom of the Sud Tribune. Fortunately the liquid appeared to be beer, thrown in the air to celebrate Kamil Wilczek’s goal. Brøndby had conceded in an all too familiar manner just three minutes before much to the groans of a number of fans around us.  A rather animated chap, in full kit with the name “Aggar” on his back tried to show his mate how to clear an attacking ball that had led to Marcondes’s equaliser, using a small teddy bear.  She wasn’t impressed and stormed off just as Wilczek’s goal went in.

Whilst the game was fairly entertaining, with Brøndby understanding that they key to winning the game was to stop the opposition getting the ball (possession is 9/10th of a win as well as the law), the real spectacle was the fans.  It may have been five years since I was last standing on the terraces here but you never forget the feeling of the ground beneath your feet literally bouncing as the fans jumped up and down, sank their lungs out and waved the flags.  You cannot fail to be impressed.  This was what watching football should be like.  Passion.  Of course it helped that you were trusted enough to have a beer, although it did seem to be the standard pratice to throw it up in the air when the home side scored.

John Terry couldn’t help be impressed by the atmosphere – certainly a little less manufactured some of the grounds in England.  He at least won’t have to learn a new language and of course their liberal attitude to the vices means he may stay off the front pages.  Then again, it is just as likely that Celtic boss Ronnie Deila will pitch up here in a few weeks once the Celtic gig has finished.

Something rotten in the state of Denmark


Last season the world of European football was mildly surprised to see a new name joining the Champions League jet-set. Many words have already been written, including our own views, on the miraculous rise from regional cup final to the world’s richest club competition of FC Nordsjælland. Whilst the champagne corks were popping in the Farum, the sleepy northern Copenhagen suburb back in May, there was the usual end of season soul-searching on the other side of the Capital of Cool. Brøndby IF, for so long the title also-rans, had experienced a season from hell, finishing just two places and six points above the relegation zone. Fast forward twelve months and the situation is even more dire.

5759930100_5fd4737466_bAt 5pm today Brøndby kick off against AC Horsens in a “winner takes all” game. A defeat in East Jutland for the blues will see them relegated from the top division of Danish football. For the Brøndby fans, this was another serious kick in the teeth. In the past few years, the big two, or “New Firm” of the Blues and arch rivals FC Copenhagen have seen their power base eroded by the likes of OB from Odense, AaB from Aalborg and FC Midtjylland from Herning. Add to this list the new Superligaen champions, FC Nordsjælland and you can start to feel the pressure that Brøndby are under each season in a league of just twelve sides. But even so, they should be better than a relegation-haunted side. So where has it all gone wrong?

Danish football is not flush with money. FCK’s Champions League millions of Kroner aside, teams are successful in the domestic game today because they invest in their youth and scouting structure. This approach has benefited the national side as well as they are going for qualification to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which will be their third major tournament in a row. Continue reading

I just don’t get it?


If I had to be cast away on a desert island and could only take a few items I am quite clear what number one on my list would be…OK, number two then behind Eliza Dushku.  MARMITE.  As the saying goes, you either love it or hate it.  I have been in the former’s camp since the age of one.  I have it on toast, I cook my roast potatoes in it and I have been known to smear it on the naked torsos of some lucky ladies (all in the past of course if CMF gets round to reading this). BUT this week we had some potentially devastating news.  Denmark had banned Marmite. How could I survive my weeks out here without my little jar of happiness?

Unsurprisingly us Brits were up in arms and the Times, Guardian and BBC all took this very seriously.  Twitter went into meltdown, pleased that the fiasco of Super Injunctions was being buried under controversy somewhere else in the world. Even the US-based Huffington Post picked up on the story. Reprisal actions were announced – “Boycott Ikea” came the call from “Dave, Chelmsford”.  Bless him.  He obviously assumes that Scandinavia is in fact a country on its own right.  “Let’s ban Carlsberg” – another great suggestion from a chap in Devon.  Except Carlsberg isn’t brewed in Denmark anymore, rather in Northampton.

Ben and I planned our own black market operation, secretly importing the Extra Mature version for ex-pats.  We had quite  a few addicts lined up when the Danish Food Agency came out with a “clarification” statement.  No it wasn’t banned, but the sale of it would be regulated due to the ingredients, and only sold via outlets with a licence.  So like methadone then.

So, the most “liberal” country in the world to do business in, the least corrupt country in the world in 2010, the world’s happiest county, the first country that legalised pornography (back in 1969), a country where the age of consent is 15 and one where having sex with animals is technically legal, a country which had the first ever hippy “state” in Christiana can also tell it’s people what it can and cannot eat.  These Danes are crazy.

And to prove the fact even further we saw contrasting events during an evening of football to show the good and bad in the people.

Brondby came into the game with FC Norsjælland needing a favour from FCK.  With the runners up in the Superliga this season going into the Champions League (albeit at the start of the Qualifying Rounds) it was down to a three horse race.  OB were in prime position, sitting five points ahead of Brondby and FCM with just two games to go, but the first of those was at home to Champions FCK who had only lost one league game all season.  So the hope was for an FCK and a Brondby win thus taking the race down to the last day.  But of course supporting FCK was a bridge too far for many Brondby fans I knew so they had already resigned themselves to the Europa League.

The visitors to West Copenhagen, FCN had won the Danish Cup again on Saturday, in a game delayed by a monumental lightning storm.  They had beaten FC Midtjylland 3-2 to win the cup for the second year in a row and thus had already packed their beach towels for the season.  So a formality for Brondby surely?

I met up with Alan who has been enjoying a few months in Copenhagen going to as much football as he can jam in, with the only criteria he has to get his wife’s tea ready on the table when she comes home from work.  A Glaswegian, who lives in Brighton and thus supports Rangers and The Albion.  We got to the stadium a good hour before kick off and contemplated where to go in the ground.  A chap came up to Alan and thrust two bits of paper in his hand and walked off.  They appeared to be two tickets, the ones you can these days print at home (well for European football anyway).  They had the right date on, the right ground, the right teams.  Surely people in a country that is wicked enough to ban Marmite wouldn’t do such random acts of kindness?  Perhaps they felt they should apologise for the misery they were going to cause us.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth we took them and proceeded to put the same amount we would have paid for tickets over the bar of the 1964 Cafe (Apparently named after the year the club were formed and not after the New Order song of the same name), which being in Denmark was approximately 2 pints.

Brondby IF 1 FC Nordsjælland 1 – Brondby Stadion – Wednesday 25th May 2011
We approached the turnstiles with trepidation.  What if they were the missing link in a series of murders?  And only the killers would have the tickets?  Would scanning the bar code alert Interpol to come and grab us?  The light went green and we climbed the 87 steps to the top of the South East stand, sitting in one of the empty seats in the row behind “Just in case”.

The game had an already resigned end of season feel to it.  The crowd was just over 11,000 and that seemed generous.  FCN had brought 37 from our joint efforts at counting them.  Considering they are 40 minutes away on a train it wasn’t that impressive.  News filtered through that OB had taken the lead.  Minutes later Brondby opened the scoring themselves when Clarence Goodson slotted the ball home.

The highlight of the first seventy five minutes was undoubtably the half time competition for Pige 2011.  Pige in Danish means girl which is quite amusing to say the least, and here was a competition to vote for the best pige of 2011.  Leaflets had been handed out prior to the game for us to be able to text vote and now we had the parade of the six finalists.  With a cheeky wave and a wink, Pige number 5 you got two votes from the British contingent.

The second half didn’t set us alight to be honest.  News filtered through of a second for OB versus FCK and the game was up.  Our attention was grabbed by an incident in the front of the terrace below us.  A bit of pushing and shoving between a fan and a steward.  The steward appeared to fall backward and hit his head.  He didn’t get back up.  The fan simply pulled his hoodie tighter and sauntered through the exit.  Not one steward made any effort to go after him nor really see what was wrong with their colleague.  Seven minutes later just as FCN equalised and the plastic cups of beer stared to be thrown down towards the injured party a paramedic with a stretcher turned up.  Whilst we criticise the stewarding at our grounds I would rather have it our way rather than like this.

This soured the end of the game for many of the fans and people drifted towards the exit long before a chorus of boos signalled the end of the game.  Hard to know how to sum up a day in Copenhagen like this really…Good, Bad and Ugly?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Is it too late for the English game?


Last week I was privilaged to be in the Brøndby Stadion for the derby game versus FC Copenhagen. Whilst a couple of other regional sides may argue, this is the biggest game in Denmark.  For any first time visitor to a game abroad they would not believe the sights, sounds and smells of derby day.  It is planned weeks in advance, with the “shows” on display from the fans designed to go one better than their opponents.  I would say that I have never seen this before in my life, but I would  be wrong.  In fact just last month I witnessed a slightly bigger and noisier version at the Stockholm derby between AIK and Djurgården.  So if much smaller leagues and clubs can generate such atmospheres, why can’t we in England?  I give you three words.  Health and Safety.

We have some of the tightest controls in terms of what can and cannot go on in football stadiums in the world.  We have the only league in Europe that rigorously enforces all seater stadium, yet have the worst atmosphere in our grounds.  Is that a co-incidence?  I certainly believe so, although there are other reasons:-

  • The cost of watching Premier League football is far too high.  This means that only those with the highest disposable income can attend, and this is not the demographic that really wear their hearts on their sleeves.  The average fan has long been priced out of the game, replaced by someone who wants to sit and read their programme, eating their branded burger and not be disturbed by songs and people standing up.  Case in point.  The last time I went to Old Trafford I sat next to a woman who read a book and behind someone who knitted throughout a 3-3 draw.
  • The Police associate groups of fans with trouble and therefore stamp out any activity that could be deemed to be “anti-social”.  Stewards are failed and frustrated security officials who are employed by clubs to stop anyone having any kind of enjoyment from the game.
  • Television, sorry, Sky would complain that no one could watch the game if flare smoke was hanging over the pitch.
Barclay’s own adverts for the Premier League show atmospheric black and white pictures of fans jumping around with a voice over saying “It’s about working hard for the weekend.  It’s about having a good time”. Now what do you think?  Wouldn’t you rather be watching something like the footage below?  And before everyone starts banging on about health and safety, not one arrest nor was anyone injured during the Stockholm derby.
The picture is the same across Europe.  Germany, with clubs like Borussia Dortmund, and the biggest terrace in Europe.  Slovakia, with Spartak Trnava.  Intimidating? Yes, dangerous?  No.  And here is the problem.  In whose interest is it to change the picture here in England?  The clubs get their pot of gold every two weeks, and know that every season they can squeeze more out of the same people using fear tactics – “Can you afford to miss the Carling Cup game with Walsall?”, talking about huge waiting lists for Season Tickets and introducing membership schemes as the only way to buy tickets for games.  The stadiums with their rows of shiny seats are easily to control with little Hitlers dressed in day glow jackets, and the TV companies know that there is no chance that their broadcasts can be interrupted.  I simply cannot see a compelling event that will lead to the revolution.  I think that football in Europe evolved from the dark days of hooliganism (I am not for one minute suggesting that has gone away by the way) into more of peaceful fan culture, and been allowed to develop, whilst in England we have cotton wrapped everything and will never move out of this state.
So here is my final piece of evidence to show what we are missing.  An OFFICIAL video made by Allsvenskan champions Malmö FF after their game last season which essentially decided the title against Helsingborgs IF.  Just watch the footage and tell me that you do not get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.  Can you imagine being one of those players knowing the backing and support they had from their fans.  But then again players in continental Europe have a different relationship with the fans based on respect and honour.  Fat chance of players over here ever respecting football fans.

On the eighth day of Christmas…the best atmosphere


On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, an atmosphere so red-hot it will make you wee.

The best atmosphere we have seen in 2010 is quite a difficult one to judge as in many games there are times when the atmosphere is cranked up to 11 due to a goal, a controversial incident or simply hatred against an opposition player, team or set of fans.  It is also related to the number of fans in the ground.  So a ground of 50 vocal fans in a crowd of a few hundred will generate a fair amount of noise.  But for us, the three teams below generate an impressive noise, show and support wherever they go, home or away.

Malmö FF- For the past few years things haven’t been too rosy for Malmö FF.  They had seen their dominance from the late 1980’s under Roy Hodgson disappear, unable to compete with the new challengers like Kalmar and Elfsborg.  Crowds at the old Malmö stadion started declining and the outlook was bleak.  But then things changed.  A new ground was built behind the old stadium and Roland Nilsson took over team affairs and since they haven’t looked back.  This season saw The Blues snatch the title from bitter rivals Helsingborgs in front of packed crowds at the Swedbank Stadion.  And do they love a show?  Oh yes.  Noise, colour and inventive fan behaviours.  Every game is a different show and you will be a fool to miss it.  Get there or be square!

FC United of Manchester – “Bring on United”…repeat to fade.  I guarantee that days after visiting Gigg Lane, Bury to watch FCUM you will still be singing that little line such is the noise, passion and commitment the home fans sing the song from five minutes before the kick off.  What FCUM have built is special.  A community borne out of frustration, to quote James, who have a common vision and goal.  And the fans respond with noise the like that Gigg Lane has not seen since Gracie Fields launched her new album there.  Flags decorate every spare section of the ground to show the passion and the songs carry on for the whole 90 minutes.  Just imagine when (and not if) the crowds are five times the size.  Deafening!

Brondby IF – On the field Brondby have seen any chance of getting the better over bitter rivals FCK disappear into the ether.  Their dominance of the domestic game is growing season upon season, and their run to the second stages of the Champions League will only see them get richer at the expense of the league.  However, one area where they do have the edge is the passion created off the field.  Go to any game at Brondby stadium and take a place on the Faxe Tribune and you will literally feel the stand shaking underneath your feet.  Follow them across down to Parken for the Copenhagen derby and you will see real atmosphere.

For the love of the Danes


For the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of working during the week in Scandinavia. Whilst this means spending a few nights away from my girls, it does mean I get to experience a different culture. I live in Copenhagen, consistently voted as one of the best cities in the world to live in. You can see why – lots of green space, a focus on the family and all those things that go with a socialist society. Virtually every Dane I have ever met shares the same three pleasures – beer, sausages and football.

It is no surprise that they love a beer or two since J C Jacobsen had the bright idea of brewing beer 150 years ago and naming it after his son Carl. Today his brewery, Carlsberg, is one of the biggest in the world, although despite the adverts stating that “The Danes hate to see it leave” it hasn’t actually been brewed in Denmark for three years. Sausages, well that is taken to an artform here. They have dozens of different types but unless they are cooked on open grills then they simply don’t count. Continue reading

Double Danish with a portion of Swede – part 3


Popcorn...at football?

So a quick summary of the day so far…you left us after episode 2 with us jumping back onto the train at Helsingør after our trip across the Oresund to Helsingborg.  Beers and comfy seats secured, we kept an eye on Facebook updates from contacts in and around Parken just to make sure we would not be walking into a war zone.  The Brondby fans had marched from the city centre, proclaiming their V for Vendetta flags after some unsavoury incidents at previous games between the two, but we hoped tonight we would simply see some decent football and a cracking atmosphere.  The walk up Østerbrogade was relatively quiet considering such a big game was less than an hour away.  No police presence, and people going about their normal Sunday business (It was only later when we saw some of the pictures and heard about some of the trouble).

Go on BrondbySecurity around the stadium was light as well, and we passed through the ushers without so much of a frisk, which was handy as I was loaded with fisk – the liquid version of Fishermen Friends in a test tube – for our halftime entertainment.  Notice I said “usher” because that is what it felt like.  We entered the “concourse” area which was carpeted and surrounded by curtains, with people queuing at the concession stand for their “menu” choices.  We plumped for Menu 1 which was simply Four Carlsbergs, and certainly no FCK crisps and popcorn, and headed up to our seats in the second row for a great view of the pre-orchestrated fans displays, starting with the FCK fans “raise the flag” and the Brondby flag waving.  The fans did themselves proud during the game, but I was disappointed that there was so many empty seats.  I had been led to believe this was the “big one” and would be full to busting, but there was plenty of seats available at either end.

FCK 2 Brondby 0 – Parken – Sunday 14th March 2010

Into the night

In the end it came down to two bits of luck for FCK.  Sure they were probably the better team overall, but neither team really created a chance in the first half.  We sat freezing at pitch level surrounded by shirt-clad supporters from both teams (and even a Manchester United one thrown in for good measure), again dispelling the “hate” between the teams.  If someone turned up in the Bobby Moore Lower with a Rochdale shirt on, let alone a Millwall one an ambulance would be called for them within seconds to take them home.  It was also relatively well behaved on the pitch too with Denmark’s top referee Claus Bo Larson failing to have to get the card out in the first 45 minutes.  It took us all of 45 seconds to get the Fisk’s out at half time down in the cinema, warming the cockles on a freezing cold night.

And lets go wild

The second half started with a fantastic display of flares from the Brondby fans that was reminiscent of the last Milan derby I went to.  Smoke hung in the air as the game kicked off again, but the players seemed unaware of the work bragging rights riding on the final score.  Seventy minutes in, and still no chances of note before Brondby gave away a free kick right in front of us.  Up stepped Martin Vingaard (a literal translation of Martin Vineyard by the way) from 25 yards to curl the ball over the wall.  The Brondby keeper, realising the ball was heading for the back of the net back peddled and only succeeded in tipping the ball onto the bar/post and back onto his head and into the net.  The home crowd exploded in delight and the players ran to hug us – well almost and we got the perfect shot or two for the photo album.

And another - 2-0 FCK

Brondby tried to step up a gear, but in keeping with the rest of their season so far when it mattered they simply could not raise their game.  Coming into the derby they sat 12 points off top spot in 6th place and really needed the win, or at least a point.  It was not to be as in the final minute of four in injury time William Kvist’s shot from just inside the box took a wicked deflection and the ball sailed into the net.  The Brondby fans took this as their cue to leave, and decided that it was a bit chilly so they make a fire or two in the away end.  And did the police/stewards/firemen come running?  Er no, they simply stood around as if it was a normal occurence (which of course it may well be).  We waited for the players to come round to thank us for coming over from England for the game (what?  they don’t all read this blog?) before heading out to meet Ivar, a second generation FCK fan who took us under his wing for the night.

What the weekend was all about - Easter beer!

We headed across the road from Parken and into a Tardis-like bar where his chums were waiting for our safe arrival.  Chums who supported either team I hasten to add.  In the course of the next four hours we indulged in numerous Carlsberg Paskebrygs (Easter beer), more shots and general revelry where we found out lots of home secrets about our new found friend (read more here) as well as a few new ones including Brian “The Beast” Jensen’s brother no less, who introduced himself to us by mooning from the pool table.  They make ’em tough out here.  And then it was time for Danny, Deaks and Stu to wander on back to the bachelor pad before an early morning flight to good old blighty.

A successful trip all round I would say.  As you know, dear readers, I love a bit of Scandinavian action, and three games in just 24 hours has been easily doable, and enjoyable.  In fact, as is always the case, it was the football that let itself down and not the fans, the beer or the general good times had by all.

Want some more?  Well have a butchers at the EFW version of the day here.