The day the sausages ran out…


So after nearly 11 months my Danish season draws to a close with an afternoon we all love – a double header.  With so many teams playing in Copenhagen these days there is always a game on somewhere, especially on National Holidays such as today.  The Danes, like their German cousins, celebrate Ascension Day.  The day that Christ, allegedly, got on a special Ryanair plane and flew up into the sky.  And they take a day off for it.  Now considering that the country is one of the least religious I have ever visited I find this quite odd.  However, it did mean only half a days work for me (I keep English hours despite being in Denmark) and then an afternoon of football.

And what more could a man ask for.  BGA and BSF both at home, separated by a few miles of motorway.  What do you mean you have never heard of them?  Legends in these parts, legends.  In a town where their rivals include AB, FB, B93, HIK and B1903 it is hard to remember who is who, but do we really care?  After all it is football.  And Danish football means sausages, beer, err beer and more sausages.  OK, I admit it.  I am addicted to watching football with a pint in one hand, and a sausage in another.

First up was BGA v Greve.  Boldklubberne Glostrup Albertslund were formed out of a merger of Glostrup FK and surprisingly Albertslund IF.  Glostrup FK themselves were formed back in 2003 from a merger between three local teams.  It is all so complicated out here.  I often find watching Eastenders and understanding their “family trees” more relaxing that trying to work out the parentage of Danish football teams.  What do you need to know to start with?  They play in an athletics ground (boo), they wear all red and they sell beer and sausages.  There, simple as that.  They are flirting with the relegation zone back to the Denmark Series, the regional leagues with just three games to go.  The visitors Greve would be relegated if they didn’t win this one, although even three points may not be enough if results elsewhere went in their favour. Continue reading

One man and his dog Henrik


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. Continue reading

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

It could never happen here…..could it?


Twenty four miles south of Copenhagen here in the land of the Danes is a small seaport of just under 35,000 people called Køge. It is a pretty little town with some of the oldest surviving buildings in Denmark. For the past few years it has been notable for not really being notable. Until May this year.

Fifty five years ago the town’s football club, Køge Boldklub became the first Danish team outside the capital to win the national league. The club went on to play thirty four years in the top division and won the title for a second time in 1975. The good times came to an end in the proceeding years and in February 2007 the club were made bankrupt, owing money to the tax man and players alike. Sound familiar in this country? Then the club came up with a great idea – merge with local rivals Herfølge, a tiny little village to the south of Køge. They were actually Danish champions as recently as 2000 and played Rangers in the Champions League qualifying round the following season (losing 6-0 on aggregate).

The Danish football association initially said no. Herfølge were in the 1st Division at the time and went on to finish the 2006/07 in 9th place.  Last season they stormed the league and won the championship and thus prepared for a season in the Supa Liga. The club then decided to engineer a “reverse take over” and essentially bought the assets of Køge, who were technically bankrupt still and formed a new club – Herfølge Boldklub Køge to start the new season. Can you imagine a similar situation in England with say Rochdale taking over Accrington Stanley?

Auri

Auri

So all’s well that ends well? Not really. The season started as a disaster for the club and as the weeks went by it was obvious that their stay in the top division was going to be brief.  But fear not. Highly rated coach Auri Skarbalius, who had steered the club to the top divison of sorts wasn’t going to let a small matter of depressing defeats interfere with his philosophical press conferences, starting with his opening salvo of “We will try to finish as far up the table as possible.” . Inspirational stuff indeed.  He kept the whole of Danish football interested in the progress of the team with his quotes after each game.

Week 1 – HB Køge 1 Silkeborg IF 1 – “My philosophy is that if you have possession of the ball then your opponents cannot hurt you.”

Week 2 – FC Copenhagen 7 HB Køge 1 – “We have sefless players and they have shown what they can do”

Week 3 – HB Køge 0 AaB Aalborg 5 – “We have stars of the future in our team – such as Mads Laudrup, son of Michael”

Week 4 – AGF Aarhus 2 HB Køge 1 – “We never said that we would survive in the SAS league – Nor is it our objective”

Week 5 -HB Køge 1 FC Nordjaelland 1 – “I pay alot of attention to stamina and technique…it’s a shame the players don’t listen to it!”

Week 6 – IF Brondby  6 HB Køge 1 – “Vi har mentale problemer i dag” – which literally means “We had mental problems today”

Week 7 – HB Køge 1 Sondersjke 0 – “We won..we deserved to win….we can win every game from here.”

Normal service returned the following week with another defeat, away to league leaders Esbjerg although they only narrowly lost 3-2.  Defeats followed against Odense BK and FC Midtylland sandwiching a draw against the bottom side Randers meaning that they had picked up just six points from nearly a third of the season.

And so we get to week twelve and the eagerly awaited home tie with perennial champions FC Copenhagen, or FCK as they are more commonly known in these parts.  And those wonderful people at the club had been forthcoming in getting me a pass once they knew I wanted to see Auri for my own eyes.

I had planned another one of my mammoth Danish football jollies.  after the high jinx of Weston-Super-Mare I had packed the female Fullers up north for their pennance and headed over to the flat a day earlier than normal.  As luck (or good planning?) would have it the fixtures were kind to me and I saw a four game day pan out in front of my very eyes.  First up there was KB v Skjold at Frederiksberg IP in the Danish 2nd division (see Cuptastic in DK for my visit there last month).  Then we had a trip out of town to the final resting place of traditional Danish monarchy, Roskilde which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Not that we would see any of that as we were heading west of the city to the Idraetspark to watch the first division game between Roskilde BK and Naevstad before heading south for the main event at HB Køge and then finishing off the day with a little bit of Brondby IF action against FC Midtjylland. A classic day of Danish beer, sausages and football.

On a chilly autumn day I landed a day earlier back in Copenhagen, still feeling the effects of the bracing sea air from Weston-Super-Mare some twelve hours before.  A quick change back in the flat and then I was back on the road to KB to see Skjold come away with a two nil game, which was frankly completely forgettable.  Go West, said the Pet Shop Boys, and it is not often I follow the advice of those two, but today I did and fifteen minutes later was wandering through the streets of Roskilde, trying to find the stadium.  Eventually it popped up after following what I thought were football fans to the Danish equivalant of Makro.  Roskilde IP is a very picturesque stadium, surrounded by trees and with the sun shining it was a decent game to watch, as the visitors Naevsted took an early lead, but inspired by the black and white glove wearing forwards, Roskilde came back into the game with a great equaliser and had a number of chances at the end of the game to steal it, and record only their second home win of the season.

But that was just an Entree.  The main dish was in Herfolge and apart from the whole FCK away contingent trying to squeeze on a two coach train at Køge it was a smooth thirty minute journey.  The club had misplaced my press accreditation which wasn’t too surprising as this was billed as the biggest game in their history and things were a bit chaotic.  The press area for once was behind glass, and with the sun beating down I was forced to shed three or four layers of my artic ensemble.  cyril the Swan (on loan from Swansea?) kept the crowd amused prior to kick off and a good old fashion ticker tape welcome signalled the start of the game, live on Danish TV.

HB Køge 0 FC Copenhagen 2 – SEAS-NVE Park, Herfolge – Sunday 18th October 4pm

The FCk fans getting bored?

The FCk fans getting bored?

Sometimes you need to just rip up the form book.  FCK were evens favourite for this one but the opening exchanges all went in favour of the home team.  An early corner caused some chaos in the FCK area and then Roberto Saraiva skipped past a few challenges before shooting over the FCk bar on nine minutes.  With the strong sun causing a major issue for the home team it came as a surprise that it took then eleven minutes to get the ball into the HB penalty area for the first time.  The first quarter was pretty open, although you could see FCK slowly taking the sting out of the game and sure enough in the twenty first minute they went ahead when Mikael Antonsson rose highest in the area and headed home. One became two ten minutes later when ex-Chelsea winger Jesper Grønkjaer jinked past a defender on the edge of the box and then his shot squirmed under Lars Bjerring in the HB goal.  HB came straight back at FCK and nearly got one goal back when a free kick flashed past the wall and missed the far post by inches.

The second half was more of the same.  Lots of effort but very little end product.  The most exciting moments came when the FCk fans lit flares in unison and then started aiming them at the HB keeper a la Ukranian fan style.  In truth HB didn’t look that bad and despite the poor start they could have enough in the tank to escape relegation at the end of the season.  The crowd certainly enjoyed the day and created quite a noise until the final whistle.  I stayed behind to hear the pearls of wisdom of Auri, happy to miss the first half of the Brondby game, and he did not disappoint:-

“We lacked sharpness last, and I demand that we become sharper. When we meet Monday and evaluate the match, we must talk about what we can do to be sharp.  A woodcutter does not go to work with a bluntaxe, for he would not be able to feed his family. He sharpens his tool every day.  We need to sharpen our tools so that when we go to work we score goals” – Forgive me if my Danish isn’t 100% yet but it’s getting there…slowly

So it was left to get a train back into civilisation.  I figured that the police would not want 1,000 FCK fans to be hanging around the station at Herfolge for nearly an hour, but this is the land of the illogical sometimes.  I arrived at the halt – it can’t even be seen as a station, and the fans were cold and bored – not a good mixture.  Within ten minutes they had started laying on the track, throwing stones at the police and generally acting in a way that would have seen the riot police arrive in the UK.  Forty minutes later a two coach train arrived, we all crammed on and 3 minutes later we were back in civilisation.  How hard would it have been to have put a train on to do that some forty five minutes earlier.  So in the end Brondby was a bridge too far.  I buttoned up the coat and headed back over the bridge for my flat, and a night of Danish X-Factor.  Another strange combination, but that is for another day.

About the SEAS-NVE Park
A mish-mash of a ground, located just outside the village centre.  The biggest stand sits behind the north goal and houses the main press and team administration.  Down one side is a traditional single tier covered seated stand which offers some good views and then behind the south goal is a shallow open terrace, reserved for the away fans.  It is the fourth side that is unusual.  Bits of terracing, some executive boxes on stilts and then a sport centre all compete for space.  Very strange.  Views are good from all parks though and the home teams fans do go out of their way to generate a decent atmosphere.

How to get to the SEAS-NVE Park
The stadium is in the village of Herfolge, a few miles from
Køge.  If you are coming from Copenhagen then the easiest way to reach the ground is to take S-tog line A to its southern end at Køge (approx journey time from central station is 35 minutes) and then cross the platform and take a regional train one stop south to Herfolge (in the direction of Naestved).  On exiting the station follow the rural road southwards to the main road and then turn left.  You should see the floodlights ahead of you and the entrance to the ground is 150 yards on your right.  Bus 502 also runs between the two stations.

How to get a ticket for the SEAS-NVE Park
Whilst the stadium has a capacity of 7,500, the visits of some of the bigger teams will result in sell outs this season.  Ticket prices for Adults for the bigger games (v FCK or Brondby) are 120DKR and 60DKR for Children over 7 (free if they are under).  For B-grade games it is 100DKR and 50DKR respectively.  Tickets can be reserved by emailing brit@hb.dk.  They currently do not have an online facility to order them.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” said Hamlet eating Danish Blue Cheese



In 30 days time the holiday plans for thousands of Danes and Swedes for next summer will be decided. One, or potentially both, will certainly be heading off to South Africa to watch their country in the 2010 World Cup. The decider is on the 10th October when the two countries meet in Parken in Copenhagen. Denmark, sitting pretty on top of Group A know that a draw will all but confirm their place in the finals and damage Sweden’s play off chances let alone what a win would do.

Passions run very high between the countries. You only have to look back two years to a qualifying game in the run up to Euro2008. Sweden had come to Copenhagen, on top of the group and raced into a 3-0 lead. The Danes rallied and pulled it back to 3-3 with ten minutes to play. Then Sweden were awarded a penalty, with the Danes being reduced to ten men. A fan ran onto the pitch and assaulted the referee, the game was abandoned and awarded to Sweden, thus eliminating Denmark and sending the Swedes to Austria.

The two countries live next door to each other in a cordial way. Danes and Swedes mix on a daily basis, the Swedes heading over to Denmark to buy their alcohol, and the Danes setting up homes in Sweden to benefit from lower taxes. Whilst the opening of the Oresund Bridge has opened up a whole host of new opportunities, the legacy of their centuries of conflict can be seen up the coast.  Thirty miles north of Copenhagen is the town of Helsingor, home to Hamlet’s castle. Just a mile across the water is Helsingborg, home to Henrik Larsson and Ikea. A regular ferry across the water has run for centuries and it was this route that I was planning on taking all in the name of football.  The narrow stretch of water has always been closely guarded by the Danes, and used to be a huge source of income as they taxed all foreign boats trying to pass by – and those that refused to pay were fired upon from the castle battlements.

I was going to take in a game in either country, crossing between them on this narrow channel via ferry.  First up was to be a game at the old national stadium, Osterbro. Next door to the shiny new Parken stadium sits the old ground, now an athletics track but also used by a couple of Danish Second Division (East) teams including Skjold.  As the game kicked off at 7pm it would finish in time for the start of the Champions League, and McGraths bar opposite would be a perfect venue for that avenue of pleasure.   I hopped on the train at 6pm – rush hour.  Now not for the first time in my stint in Copenhagen I walked into a carriage full of drunks.  In fact the train was going nowhere as one of them, in an attempt to vomit had got his head stuck in a bin.  His mate, who had obviously just pissed himself – whether in laughter or incontinence had pulled the emergency cord so we were stuck.  Eventually a railway worker came, got out an allen key and removed the top of the bin, with drunk number one’s head still attached and we were on our way.  The rest of the carriage hardly batted an eyelid as if this was a normal occurence!

Skjold 1 Vanløse 1 – Osterbro Stadion – Tuesday 15th September 2009

Impressive bust

Impressive bust

I was in luck for this 2nd division game as a chap who had worked for me for the past few years brother played for the visitors (a few stops along the Metro) and so I was invited to the “hospitality” area once I had paid my 80Dkr to enter the ground.  The stadium had gone through a massive redevelopment phase in the past few years to turn it into a first class athletics venue complete with iconic statues around the edge of the pitch.  The crowd was no more than 73 – OK I admit I counted them twice, and most were also invited to the “hospitality” area, which turned out to be a big grill where sausages were being dished out free of charge and beer was on sale at a bargain 20Dkr (bear in mind that a bar would charge 3 times that normally and you can see this game was worth coming to!).  With the sun setting on another beautiful sunny day in the capital of cool we sat and enjoyed the moment, trying to ignore the poor showing of football on the pitch which was about the same level as Brimsdown Rovers from a few weeks ago despite only being the 3rd tier of Danish football.  Half time and no goals but three sausages, setting a personal best and beating my 2 1/2 bridies (Scottish pasty things) I did in the 15 minute interval at Inverness Caledonian Thistle back in 1999.

A goal apiece in the second half was scant reward for such a loyal crowd which had swelled as soon as the turnstile operator had gone for a pee with people from the bars around the ground who realised it was half the price for a Carlsberg outside, and simply walked into the ground, got their beer and walked back out again.  With 10 minutes to go I headed off, timing my 2 minute walk to the bus stop with perfection as the 1A was just arriving, and exactly 13 minutes later I was on the sofa flicking between Besiktas v Man Utd and FC Zurich v Real Madrid with a Carlsberg gold in my hand.  Sometimes I love Denmark.

Twenty four hours later and I was on the train north to the wonderful town of Helsingør where I was to hop on the short fifteen minute crossing (almost Channel ferry type as well as opposed to Woolwich Ferry with duty free, bars and 1000SEK fruit machines) to Sweden for the Cup Semi-Final between Helsingborgs IF and IFK Goteborg. With the Swedish season coming to an end, both of these teams were keen to end the season on a high.  The visitors were within one point of top spot coming into this game with just 6 weeks to go in the season, whilst Helsingborgs, still with king Henrik Larsson up front were just outside the European spot in 5th place.  Both teams had got here with relative ease and the winner would be playing AIK Solna in the final in Stockholm in October.

The stadium is located on top of the hill overlooking the whole town and the Oresund straits across to Denmark.  The downside is it is bloomin’ hard walk uphill to get to the ground.  Despite talk making the local front pages for years, the stadium still had not gone through its redevelopment programme, and the latest date for work to commence is now in 2010.  Quite why this is necessary to simply built four new stands with the same capacity is lost on me, but then again what do I know about football stadiums!  It had been over two years since I was last here (see post here) and this time I had bought a ticket in amongst the “lively” home fans….

Helsingborgs IF 1 IFK Goteborg 3 – Olympia IP – Wednesday 16th September 2009

Olympia, helsingborgs not Mount

Olympia, helsingborgs not Mount

When I eventually got to the stadium I remembered why it was called Olympia…Nothing to do with the Olympics movement but that the steepness of the hill reminded locals of Mount Olympia in Greece.  I needed oxygen, or beer which ever I found first.  Unsurprisingly it was the latter that won and I had forgotten all of my lessons from previous trips and took a big slurp of non-alcoholic larger….yum yum…On the opening day of the Allsvenskan back in sunny April this fixture attracted over 13,000.  Tonight there seemed to be a third of that in the ground (later confirmed as 4,851), and I counted a disappointing 93 away fans, although a few had decided to sit in the home end around me and pitched their flag on the concrete wall (more of that in a moment!).

Another fact that is unusual about the ground is that the hardcore home fans locate themselves in the upper tier of the seats, at the far end to the away supporters on their open terrace.  None of this traditional crowd behaviour here I can tell you.  The teams were taking this game as seriously as the crowd judging by the line ups.  Now we all know modern football is a squad game but IFK’s team pushed this to the limit.  Normally a team’s squad numbers from 1 to 11 reflect the starting line up at the beginning of the season.  For this game the total numbers on the back of the IFK team was 156 – take away the goalie (number 1) and the average was 15.5!

The game started with both teams playing open attacking football.  After 5 minutes a message was boomed out over the speakers and on the TV screen – a 0-0 draw would pay out at 11.65 (in our betting terms this is around 15/2).  This encouraged the visitors to attack and they had the ball in the net on 11 minutes when the IFK centre forward lost control of a ball in the penalty area, pushed the defender over and as he fell he inadvertently kicked the ball into his own net.  The referee in these situations has a duty to award the goal for the end of season “blooper” tapes but in this instance he had a humour failure and disallowed it!  With the away fans singing a plausible rendition of “You’re just a small town in Denmark” to the home fans the opening goal came five minutes later as a corner could only be punched onto the head of the unaware Sebastian Eriksson and he said that you very much….seconds later we were informed that the odds of a 0-1 win were 11.03 (still around 15/2).

The game continued at a pace and both teams forced corners (more than 12  – 14.75) and free kicks in dangerous positions.  IFK’s Tobias Hysen should have doubled the lead when he took the ball around the keeper but blazed wide on thirty minutes much to the amusement of the home fans.  And they had more to cheer a few minutes later when Erik Sundin got on the end of a decent knock down and smashed the ball home for Helsingborgs to draw them level (7.67 on a 1-1 draw).

The highlight of halftime was seeing Henrik Larsson warming up on the pitch and trying to hit the crossbar from varying distance – unfortunately we didn’t get any odds for doing this.  Both teams emerged on time but stood around like lemons whilst the TV company conducted an interview with an ex-pro on the pitch, completely ignoring the referees requests to fcuk off!  The second half was barely a minute old when two tough looking chaps wandered past me and made a beeline for the IFK flag hanging a few yards away.  Within seconds riot police and undercover cops pounced on them, beating them to the ground with batons.  Some of these undercover cops had been sitting next to me during the first half.  So this was a honey trap, and the two home “fans” had fallen for it and were lead away.  Shocking tactics!

The temperature plummeted in the second half and even a spicy hot dog and an appearance from Henrik Larsson couldn’t warm me up.  In the 76th minute our friend Hysen went round the keeper again but this time slotted the ball home (1-2 was a bargain at 9.31) and IFK made sure with a couple of minutes to go when Theodor Bjarnason made it three (8.17).  I decided this was my queue to leave, retracing my crampons I left on the upward ascent.

Helsingborgs is a great looking small town.  Lots of cobbled streets, bars and restaurants that looked very tempting, but I needed to be back on the ferry and back home.  As we sailed past Hamlet’s castle I could imagine him on the battlements laughing at those Swedes shivering across the water.  A young couple stood close to me on the deck and it was obvious from their conversation and animation that he fancied losing his “sea cherry”.  She was having none of it and he gave up in the end, perhaps recalling the words of the Bard when he said “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.  I’ll get my coat…..