Søndag prædiken


With the 2010/11 season coming towards an end in England, attentions turn once again to the Nordics for my regular fix of football.  Denmark still has a few rounds of matches left although in the Superliga there is only pride to play for after FCK wrapped up the league two weeks ago.  That and second spot, which this season sees the Danes steal a Champions League qualifying place from the Scots.  With five games to go three teams were still in with a shout including Brøndby, who if anyone could do with a slice of luck it was them.

And what better way to move a step closer to a place amongst Europe’s elite than a win against bitter rivals and champions FCK in El Vidunderlig  Classico or the New Firm.  After the “fuss” of the last encounter between the two teams where the Brøndby fans had boycotted the match at Parken when they were told they would be fingerprinted to try and avoid causing trouble in the stadium, this game promised a bit of a calmer atmosphere.  Still, it was one not to miss so I headed out to Copenhagen a day earlier than normal to see if it could match the intensity of the Stockholm derby from last month.

But before any main event you need a warm up act.  Whilst Brøndby had arranged for “Outlandish” to play live on the pitch before the game, one look at the dodgy outfits had me reaching for the good old crystal football to see if there were any other options.  And of course once the mist cleared there was the perfect option.  Of course, why didn’t I think of it earlier, BK Avarta v Frederikssund IK from the Danish 2nd Division East, kicking off at 1pm, a 30 minute walk away from the Brøndby stadium. Continue reading

The 2008 The Ball is Round Awards


With over 50 games under my belt in 2008, added to 33 new stadiums and over 60 flights to get there I thought I would reserve a chapter at the end of the year for the first ever The Ball Is Round Awards.  For a more musical view of the nominations and winners click on the relevant videos below.

Best new stadium visited in 2008
3rd Place – The Dinamo Stadium, Minsk. Not a real classic but a typical Soviet stadium with some huge floodlights and the away fans situated along the side of the pitch.

2nd Place – The Dripping Pan, Lewes> Yes it is really basic but it is certainly unique and one of the most picturesque. And it has the best name.

The Bochum massive

The Bochum massive

The Winner – The Rewirpower Stadion – VfL Bochum.
It had to be a German winner and what better stadium than Bochum’s Rewirpower/Ruhr Stadion. A classic ground with four connected single tier stands almost touching the pitch and a passionate crowd to match.

 

Worst new stadium visited in 2008
3rd Place – Trellesborgs. OK, it was a dark, damp night but I could not find anything appealling about this little town on the southern tip of Sweden. Not even the football lightened up the evening.

2nd Place – Salisbury City. I appreciate that it is a Blue Square ground but it really is in the middle of nowhere and had very little soul let alone atmosphere.

The winner - MTK Stadion

The winner - MTK Stadion

The Winner – MTK Stadion. The current Hungarian champions have invested absolutely nothing in their stadium and run away with this year’s award. A special mention must go to the ticket office workers who lock themselves in the womens toilet for their duty – sheer class.

 
Best Atmosphere at a game in 2008
3rd Place – Sweden v Greece – Euro2008 in Salzburg, June 2008. The Swedes came to town and took over Salzburg, turning everything yellow and blue. They filled the stadium and did not stopping getting behind their team in a dull game.

2nd Place – Orgryte 1 Jonkoping 0 – July 2008. A strange choice many would believe but this Swedish second division game played at the tiny Valhalla stadium in Goteborg was the homecoming of local hero Marcus Allback and so the ground was full to busting and the atmosphere superb. So good in fact that littlest Fuller fell asleep 5 minutes in for the whole game!

The Brondby fans celebrate an early goal

The Brondby fans celebrate an early goal

The Winner – IF Brondby 2 FC Midtylland 1 – March 2008 in Copenhagen. With the snow falling and the beer flowing the whole Faxe tribune literally bounced as the fans turned the heat up on a cold night. The game was the turning point in Brondby’s season and who can ever forget the impressive rendition of Elvis’s “Falling in love with you” by over 15,000 fans as the teams re-emerged for the second half.

 Worst Atmosphere at a game in 2008
3rd Place – Any game at Upton Park in 2007/08. Yes, you have read that right. Under clueless Curbishley, West Ham played some of the dullest football ever seen at Upton Park, and this lethargy seeped into the crowd. Take your pick from a number of games but undoubtably the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea was the low point, with most of the crowd gone before the hour mark.

2nd Place – Grays Athletic v FC Totton – November 2008. No doubts about this one as “Our Barry’s” fan club provide the only atmosphere or noise at the FA Cup game versus Totton.

The Winner - The Olympic Stadium

The Winner - The Olympic Stadium

The Winner – Istanbul BBS v Rizaspor – February 2008 in The Olympic Stadium, Istanbul. A soulless venue in more ways than one that is so far from civilisation that NASA could recreate the moonlandings here. No public transport, no facilities and no crowds. Shall I go on? Even the riot police started arguing with themselves as there was so little to do.

 Best game seen in 2008
3rd Place – West Ham Utd 4 Blackburn 1 – August 2008. Unbelievably still under Curblishley (although this was to be his last game in charge) and with Paul Ince back at Upton Park for the first time as a manager, West Ham tore Blackburn apart. Oh how we dreamed of a top 6 spot at this point.

2nd Place – Italy 1 Romania 1 – Euro2008 Zurich – June 2008.
Euro2008 was a tournament that on most part did not disappoint in terms of the quality of action. This appeared to be a real mismatch on paper but the Romanians came within a Buffon penalty save of putting Italy out in a full house in Zurich.

France pound the Dutch goal in Berne

France pound the Dutch goal in Berne

The Winner – Netherlands 4 France 1- Euro2008 in Berne, June 2008. Actually played on the same day as the Italy game above, this was the game of the tournament as Van Basten’s team swept aside a French team containing such world class talent as Anelka, Henry and Malouda. The Dutch seemed invincible at this stage. Cracking atmosphere to boot.

 

Worst game seen in 2008
3rd Place – Sweden 2 Greece 0 – Euro2008 in Salzburg June 2008. Who could ever forget the negative Greek tactics that included a spell of 47 consecutive passes where they played the ball across the back four trying to eat up time at 0-0.

2nd Place – FC Nordjaelland 1 Velje 2 – Supaliga in Farum, Denmark September 2008. Two teams with very little idea where the goal was who attempted to out do each other in hoofing the ball out of the ground. So bad I left after 50 minutes despite not having paid to get in.

Histon v York City

Histon v York City

The Winner – Histon 1 York City 1 – Blue Square Premier – December 2008. A game on the coldest night of the year was not appealling to start but add in a pitch in awful condition and a team who simply hoof the ball into the corners at every opportunity was as appealling as watching Rusty Lee audition for a job in the Playboy Mansion.

A note here that the game between South Africa and Australia played at Loftus Road in September 2008 could well have won this catagory but it was so mind numbingly boring that Jonnie and I spent most of the game drinking in the bar and thus saw very little of the 2-2 draw.

The Best Fans in 2008
3rd Place – FC Karlsruher fans at home to Werder Bremen – December 2008. In a stadium that is hardly condusive to building an atmosphere, bottom placed Karlsruher’s fans gave it their all in an impressive display that undoubtably helped their team to a 1-0 win versus Bremen and lift them out of the bottom 3.

2nd Place – England fans in Berlin – November 2008. We came, we saw and we conquered our old enemies in Berlin in November 2008. Despite England fielding almost a B team the fans, fuelled on by a day consuming sausages and stiens of beer out sung their German rivals in a full house at the Olympic Stadion.

A birds eye view of the Swedes

A birds eye view of the Swedes

The Winner – Swedish Fans in Salzburg – June 2008. There could only be one winner as the Swedes took over the town. The sight of 10,000 fans in their yellow shirts dancing and singing to Abba-esque in the fan zone was a sight to treasure, especially the cute blonde ones in their full football kits!

 

 The Worst Fans in 2008
3rd Place – MTK Budapest Fans. The Hungarian champions were flying top of the league when I visited their crumbling wreck of a stadium in March 2008. A crowd of no more than 500 turned up to welcome me. I’d hate to be there when they aren’t successful!

2nd Place – Istanbul BBS Fans. Enough said already about this white elephant of a stadium that is almost in a different country from Turkey let alone in the same city as the other teams from Istanbul. I counted 34 fans who did not sport away colours during the first half – in a 80,000 capacity stadium.

The hardcore fans congregate behind the goal at Levski Sofia

The hardcore fans congregate behind the goal at Levski Sofia

The Winner – Levski Sofia Fans. The so called biggest team in Bulgarian football and one who had regularly played European football including the Champions League group stages versus the likes of Chelsea in 2007. Yet they had less than a 1,000 fans for a game on a Saturday evening in October.

Note – I would add here that the most disappointing were the Galatasaray fans who have been so hyped up in the past. Welcome to Hell – more like Welcome to Highbury…sshhhh.

My Three Favourite Grounds of All Time
3rd Place – Wembley Stadium – London.  The old Wembley had a reputation as a world class venue but in reality it was a toilet.  It was an awful stadium to watch a game in but the new incarnation, the 90,000 new Wembley is one of the finest stadiums in the world.  Huge steep stands and every seat facing the centre circle means nobody is far from the action.  The accoustics are very impressive as well.  Just a shame that the FA sold its soul to the corporate dollar meaning that for virtually every game some of the seats lay empty.

2nd Place – Upton Park – London.  It had to be in here.  One of the few grounds that have improved since modernisation and it is a white hot atmosphere under the lights when the big teams come calling.  Manchester United would testify how hard it is to get something here as they have lost for the past two seasons.  It is just a shame the football on offer as been so poor over the past few years.

liechtensteinThe Winner – RheinPark – Vaduz Liechenstein.  I know many people will be amazed that my favourite stadium is a small 8,000 capacity one in a country that is smaller than Croydon but trust me there are few more picturesque stadiums than the home of FC Vaduz and the Liechtenstein national team.  Sandwiched in the Rhine valley with the Alps on either side you can hear the polite cheers from the stadium from high up in the mountains.  If you want to watch a game in a postcard perfect setting then come hear, grab a beer and a sausage and watch a game – Vaduz are currently in the top league in Switzerland so games are a plenty. 

My Three Worst Grounds of All Time
3rd Place – Olympic Stadium – Barcelona. I hate Barcelona at the best of times but having been forced to come here to watch England play Andorra in two consecutive years is punishment enough for any fan. It is a nice stadium from the outside but is completely soulless inside with a running track and all bar one stand uncovered. Fine for the normal sunny climate here but not good for the torrential rain and near zero temperatures whenever we play here…oh and I hate Barcelona!

2nd Place – Renzo Baraba – Palermo.  Before West Ham were drawn to play here in the UEFA Cup in 2006 you could only go on its reputation as a poor venue for fans especially for the away fans who are “caged” in a corner of the stadium along way from the action.  Add to this the appalling conditions the fans have to go through to get into the stadium (walking through a unlit dark and damp cage where the home fans can throw down missles from above), the hostile policing and finally the fervant home fans and you get the picture this is not a venue for the feint heart.

heysel2The Winner – Heysel Stadium – Brussels.  Most people will remember the stadium from the awful events of May 1985 when Liverpool met Juventus in the European Cup Final and the subsequent crowd violence left over 50 Italians dead.  But this game should never had been played at this crumbling wreck of a stadium.  The whole ground was demolished and rebuilt and renamed as the King Baudoin Stadium.  However, the sight lines are appalling, entry and access still problematic and when the sun sets most of the stadium cannot see anything.  It is hardly surprising that no major club games have been played at the stadium since 1985.

A cheeky Carlsburg in the Sun


Two weeks in April and London saw the heaviest snowfall it had had for years…IN APRIL, AFTER EASTER, IN APRIL! Two weeks later it hit the highs of 17 degrees – for one day. The following day I travelled out to Copenhagen for the day to shore up the budgets for 2008/09 weel ahead of deadline day, and thus earn lots of respect for being the “most organised manager in the company”…and the sun was shining from the very moment Luton’s finest touched down in Denmark. And when the sun shines in Copenhagen, all of the beautiful people come out of their winter hibernation, shed their clothes and inhibitions and simply enjoy life. Unbelieveably my trip tied in with a game in the capital – wow I hear you say, what co-incidence. Well, yes I am sure some of you dear readers may think that but I work long and hard and so I should have a bit of downtime while I am away.

With the season drawing to a close, games are shoehorned into whatever dates are available, and with IF Brondby now in the Danish Cup Final the local derby versus Lyngby needed re-arranging and it just so happened that it was arranged for the same day I was due to be in Copenhagen. The good news was that it was an early kick off at 6pm but the bad news was that as I was on a in and outer (return on same day trip) I would have to miss the last 30 minutes of the game, but that was acceptable, after all it was a game featuring the Danish version of Derby County, and based on what I had seen at the weekend when the rams had sent 33,000 West Ham fans to sleep at Upton Park I was sure I wouldn’t miss much.

So I sneaked out of the office at 5pm on the dot and headed north on the driverless metro (does this mean the prospect of strikes are removed?)to Norreport where I changed onto the commuter lines. Rush hour in Denmark is as chaotic as any city in the world. The city centre is small, and most people live within a 20 minute commute meaning that trains are frequent, but full. I managed to squeeze on the E S-Tog northwards, and after 10 minutes and a few stops the train emptied out a bit. The train then passed through the Hellerup region, which based on the size of the houses (think Bishops Avenue in Hampstead) is where the big bacons hang out. It is also the home to the Tuborg brewery, which is being converted into some exclusive flats and apartments on the water front. 15 minutes later and the train pulled in Lyngby station. There are other ways to get here – notably the “local loop” which runs close to the stadium. I looked at Google maps before I left the office and saw how rural this line looked – grass growing in the tracks, nobody waiting at the stations, so chose to head for the main line station. With three options available – walk (30 minutes perhaps), bus (not sure where to go or which one) and a taxi (simple and available) I chose the expensive but easy option. Interestingly enough the taxi had to wait at the level crossing with the local loop line as a single coach train trundled by on a single track line – good choice Mr Fuller! The taxi took less than 5 minutes and cost less than £10 which is a miracle in this city.

With ten minutes to kick off most of the crowd seemed to be inside already. In fact for a few moments as I walked around the stadium and couldn’t find an entrance I was hit with the fear that I might not get into a game – something that has never happened to me in nearly 10 years of travelling abroad to watch football. However, a kindly policeman – with a fierce dog pointed me in the direction of a couple of blokes sitting at a table in the middle of a training pitch like some left overs from a summer fayre. They sold me a ticket for 175DKK – possibly the most expensive ticket that I have ever bought in the country, but it did allow me to enter through the totty gate – three of the best looking stewards in world football manning the gate was worth at least 5DKK alone! I was also issued with a free programme – the kind of deal that some of my travellers from Istanbul would have killed for!

The stadium was a typical Danish lower league affair – a municipal stadium meaning it had an annoying athletics track which does nothing but to hamper the view. The rest of the stadium was quite unique and gave the arena a homely feel. Behind each goal were steep grass banks with a few rows of concrete steps. These had filled up with fans drinking beer and enjoying the sunshine as if they were at a concert or simply enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the park. In one corner was a clubhouse which had a large balcony full of fans like some modern day Craven Cottage. The main stand was simply a steep few rows of terrace with a roof, but home to the Lyngby fans. Opposite the main stand was a smaller stand which was full with Brondby fans singing their English songs (“You’re not singing anymore” was a favourite, despite the fact the home fans were singing!). The ground had been split down the middle with the Brondby fans out numbering the home fans by 2 to 1. They certainly kept up the tempo during the open exchanges. It was also a good opportunity to see Brondby’s strange chocolate brown and sky blue kit – not a combination of colours you would normally put together but in this instance it worked well.

Lyngby haven’t spent many seasons in the top division but are one of the most historic teams in Denmark. Coming from a country that has a history of creating teams simply as money making machines such as FCK in the late 1980’s it is a proud record, and their championship winning season last year was one of the highlights from recent seasons. They were actually the most feared team in Denmark during the 1980’s when they won two titles, four Runners Up spots and three Danish Cups. It all went wrong for them in 2003 when they went bankrupt and had to drop down to the amatuer leagues. Their rise back to the top has been fast to say the least – in just four seasons they achieved four promotions, cumulating in the 2nd Division championship last season. However, this season not much has gone their way as they had only picked up 12 points, and relegation was assured as early as March. But they still had pride to play for, and a local derby was never going to be a boring game.

So I settled down, beer and Danish sausage captured, sunshine warming my face and watched a cracking game that saw the lead change hands on four occasions before the final whistle and a 2-2 draw. Lyngby certainly didn’t play as if they were dead and buried and if it wasn’t for some inspired goalkeeping then they could have been 3 or 4 up by halftime. All of the crowd seemed to revel in the sunshine, some more so than others as on a walk around the stadium to the gents you had to step over a few prone snoozing fans (I should invite them to Upton Park – they would be at home there!). For £17 it may have been on the expensive side for a football match but it was the perfect end to a busy day and certainly one for the groundhoppers.

About the Lyngby Stadion
As with many other stadiums in Denmark, the Lyngby Stadion is part owned by the local council and is thus classed as a municipal stadium. In other words it has an athletics track meaning that the view from many parts is not particularly good. You do however get a real homely feel from the stadium – perhaps due to the club house in the corner of the ground that is packed to the rafters during a game with spectators hanging from the balcony.

The stadium has two steep grass banks behind each goal, which do have a few rows of concrete steps. In the late spring / early summer these grass banks form impromptu picnics and there is a real relaxed feel. Depending on who the opposition will depend on the away allocation. If IF Brondby of FCK are visiting then expect half of the stadium to be given to the away fans. They are allocated the smaller stand that runs down the side of the pitch, with the home fans in the main covered stands. In each corner you will find temporary bars and sausage grills.

Programmes are handed out free as you enter the stadium, and there is a temporary shop (well clothes rail) that is pulled along the side of the pitch during the game if you feel a need to purchase a scarf at the height of excitement in the game.

Who plays there?
When Lyngby Boldklub won the Danish 2nd division last season they were promoted to the Superliga for the first time in a number of years, meaning that Copenhagen had 4 teams in the top league for the first time in over a decade. However, this status seems to be shortlived as the club have found life at the top level difficult and were relegated with games to spare in April 2008.

The club have actually won the Danish Championship on a couple of occasions – most recently in 1992 which was the end of a period of sustained success for the club when they won three Danish Cups in the 1980’s as well as their first title in 1983. In the period from 1981 until 1991 they only finished outside the top 3 on one occasion. Everything went wrong for the club in 2001 when they were made bankrupted and were relegated to amateur leagues, reforming as Lyngby Boldklub. In less than 3 seasons they had risen back to the 2nd Division and after a period of rebuilding they pushed on to the top division in 2007.

The club has had a number of famous players including Henrik Larson, Dennis Rommedahl and Marcus Allback and is reknowned still for its youth academies which unfortunately end up seeing young payer leave for FCK or IF Brondby.

How to get there
The stadium is located in the north of Copenhagen in the suburb of Lyngby. The easiest way to reach the area is via S-Tog from Norreport (which is the interchange for both metro lines) via lines B or E. The latter runs fast from Hellerup meaning that the journey time from the city centre is 15 minutes, and costs 50DKK. When you exit the station you can catch bus 182 from directly outside the entrance to the stadium (journey time 10 minutes and 20DKK), get a taxi (10 minutes and 60DKK) or walk if the weather is nice which takes 20 minutes.

Getting a ticket
Crowds in Danish football are not known to be too high, and for most games buying tickets in advanced for Lyngby is not necessary. The games that do tend to sell out are the ones versus local rivals FC Kobenhavn and occasionally IF Brondby. With relegation on the cards again in 2008 then the biggest games will be versus Hvidovre and AB. Tickets on the day of the game can be purchased from the turnstiles at either end of the stadium for 110DKK, or 175DKK for games versus the big two. Alternatively you can book tickets online at http://www.billetnet.dk and then arrange to pick them up from a number of places in the city centre.

Hopping around Copenhagen with a Carlsberg and a Sausage in each hand


There is a word in the dictionary of the dedicated football fan called the “hop”. This is a specially arranged day in the season when a group of like-minded fans will try and see as many games in one single day as possible. Such is the appeal of these hops that many lower leagues in the UK will actually arrange a round of games especially for these fans, and even providing transport to each match. Whilst these games do tend to be in the lower reaches of the football pyramid, but these fans still plan this trip months in advance. The opportunity to take in more than one game in a day in most major leagues is rare. The one benefit of televised games is the occasional scheduling of games to suit the travelling fans – for instance the recent FA Cup sixth round in England gave travelling fans a chance to see Manchester United v Portsmouth, and Barnsley v Chelsea in the same day. My personal record has been stuck at two for many years – Crewe and Port Vale, Atalanta and AC Milan and even a couple of games on the same day in South Korea for the 2002 World Cup and 2004 European Championships in Portugal. However, as luck would have it a regular trip for work to Copenhagen turned into a trip made in “hoppers” heaven. Five games in one day, all in Copenhagen and all within their professional league structure.

Denmark is one of the few countries that still classes Maundey Thursday as a public holiday, and through the sponsorship of Carlsberg, “Probably the best football watching day in the world” was arranged. Taking in 2 top flight, 2 1st division and a 2nd division game in just 8 hours was a marathon trip, but with some careful planning, fortunate scheduling and a warm coat it was certainly worth it. I am sure, dear readers you have read about my previous trips around one of Europe’s most enjoyable capital cities. The city is small enough to get around, and has a number of interesting atrtactions that if you are not careful will sidetrack you for hours on end. The myth that everything is very expensive is just that – a myth. Sure food and drink are expensive but more important things like public transport and ticket to the football aren’t. As a comparison:-

Metro (underground) ticket to go anywhere in the central area of Copenhagen = £1.25
Underground ticket to go anywhere in the central area of London = £4

Ticket to see IF Brondby in the Danish Superliga start from £8
Ticket to see West Ham in the English Premier League start from £35

So five games in 8 hours at a cost of less than £50 including travel was too good to miss. Preparation was the key to this event, and so a night out in the city drinking the unique Carlsberg Special with Ben was probably not the best preparation, but was certainly enjoyable. There are a number of stories that ex-pats in the US tell about American girls in cities such as New York falling for the Hugh Grant type accents in the bars at night. Unfortunately this theory does not translate to Scandinavia. With such beautiful people, us shy and retiring Brits, full of strong Danish beer do not really cut the Hugh Grant cloth, rather the Bobby Grant (Ricky Tomlinson’s character in Brookside) character…And the more you drink, the more pretty girls you see, and the braver you get. One bar merged into another, and in each one we tried a different approach…The original idea of Dolphin trainers went out of the window, replaced by Human Rights lawyers, sponsorship managers for 20th Century Fox, location managers for the next James Bond film, script writers for Porn films and finally casting agents for the next Big Brother programme….still it passed a few hours, and then a few more until the sun was coming up over the harbour. There was no option left – no night buses, no taxis and so Copenhagen’s policy of share a bike was a grateful sight when I came emerged from the bar. Two miles at 5am in the freezing cold has an amazing effect on sobering you up I can tell you although the comfy surroundings of the hotel at the company’s expense was a welcome end to the evening.

So leaving aside the capital of Copenhagen Cool at the Island hotel, the plan was to take in games at Hvidovre (Div 1), Frem (Div 2), Lyngby (Superliga), B93 (Div 2) and finally IF Brondby in the Superliga, ranging from the very basic athletics stadium of Frem and finishing at the ultra modern 29,000 capacity stadium at Brondby that would make many clubs in the Premier League jealous.

I planned for weeks in minute detail the itiniary, down to the finest detail. With the end of the winter break in Denmark coming this week, it was not only me that looked forward to a return in domestic football – nothing could spoil the day…..except snow….December, January and February had passed without so much of a snow flake falling, but come Easter week and the snow started falling, and the temperatures dropped. Lower league football is not as advanced in Denmark, with many stadiums being basic athletics grounds, undersoil heating is unheard of….So at 9am the games started falling like pins…First Frem was cancelled, then the Superliga game at Lyngby and finally B93 at Osterbro. With my trusted internet companion fired up I soon managed to replan the trip to take in KB, FC Copenhagen’s 2nd team to fill in the gap during the day.

The first game of the day was close by in the suburb of Hvidovre, a short 15 minute train trip from Dybbolsbro (one stop from Kobenhavn central station) to Friheden where the stadium is visible just north of the station. As with many of the stadiums in Denmark, this was a basic athletics stadium with one single large stands, and wooden benches running around the edge of the track. Now, as I have already mentioned, snow had fallen the previous day, but to turn up at this stadium on a bright blue sunny day you would have thought it was late spring. Families with their young children sat in the sunshine, sipping the odd Carlsberg or two enjoying the public holiday, although the football itself was dire. It is always amusing to see how footballers interpret “fashion”. For instance, the AB goalkeeper decided on the Bjorn Borg circa 1975 look with long blonde hair falling down his back, a black headband and a ginger beard…Obviously he was seen as a finger of fun by the Hvidovre hardcore fans – well the teenagers who started throwing paper airplanes at him. In fact the highlight of the second half was when one got lodged in his hair, just as he went for a cross which he fumbled, and thinking that he had been hit on the back of the head by a forward, proceeded to roll around on the floor in agony – until he saw the culprit.

I am sure the design of a stadium affects the style of play as every single game I have seen played in a athletics-track style ground is characterised by kick and rush football and little in the way of style, and his was no exception. Both teams struggled with the conditions – the players who started with hats and gloves were soon shedding them and whilst the pitch was far from a carpet, there was no excuse for the amount of time the ball spent in the air. This was one of those completely forgettable games although it was a shame when the final whistle went as it woke everyone up from their nice midday snooze.

So it was onto game number two…Whilst the club went by the name of KB93, they are now officially FC Kobenhavn’s 2nd team, playing in the 3rd level of Danish football. Due to the pitch being frozen at their Frederiksberg Idraetspark ground (another athletics track with a small stand), the game had been switched to FCK’s training ground just down the road. A 10 minute train ride from central station to Peter Bangs Weg, and then a 5 minute walk found me at the training complex. The game was being played on an open pitch with a rope around the edge – imagine the likes of Crewe or Brighton playing in such a ground.

However, it was refreshing to be so close to the action, although why there was a need for a speaker system in each corner that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Ministry of Sound, giving us a running commentary, interspersing the action with sound bites (Blur’s Song 2 every time there was a corner was a bit too much after the 6 consecutive one). The first half was a cagey affair, but it did seem apparent that certain players did not like each other, judging by the sly kicks and insults.

The second half started with FC Holbeck taking an early lead, although the goal celebrations of running to the 2 away fans was a bit over the top. The turning point was a seemingly uneventful punt upfield by the FCK keeper. The ball was being shepherded out by the Holbeck centre back when the FCK forward did what we all want to see happen – he booted the defender up the backside as hard as he could. Queue the histrionix on the edge of the pitch, and a straight red card although again some of these big time charlies look so silly playing in such basic conditions. Within 5 minutes the lead had been doubled to 2-0 as a defensive error was capitalised on by the Holbeck forward line.

The game seemed dead and buried, but some tactical substitutions by the FCK coaching team saw them get a well deserved goal back almost immediately. Stupid incidents in football *2 – why do forwards rush to get the ball out of the net when they are chasing the game? Of course it is the team that have just conceded who actually have to kick off and so that mad rush and bundle in the goal is absolutely irrelevent. In this instance the Holbeck goalkeeper picked up a stupid yellow card for stopping the retrieval of the ball.

With time running out FCK got a free kick thirty yards out, and with one of the best strikes you will see on any ground FCK equalized. So two games down, and two draws seen.

The final stop of my trilogy was one of my personal favourites – a visit to the west of Copenhagen to watch IF Brondby. As with many of the major clubs in Denmark today, Brondby were only formed quite recently through a merger of local teams. In their short history they have risen to the top of the pile in Denmark, played in the Champions League, nearly gone bankrupt before finding their feet more recently with sound financial backing and a spanking new stadium.

The one thing about football stadiums in Denmark is the imagination in naming them. In the north of the country you have the NRG stadium in Aarhus, and the wonderfully named Essex Park in Randers. FCK play at the national stadium called Parken yet Brondby, having spent millions of pounds rebuilding their stadium, could only come up with the name “Brondby Stadium”. Getting to the stadium is an adventure in itself. Hope on the train out of central station for 20 minutes to Glostrup takes you only part of the way. You then really have to complete the journey by bus unless you fancy a 25minute walk. Normally the Danes are very much like the Germans when it comes to queueing – organised and orderly – except when it comes to football crowds. Then it is every man to himself, and the fun begins. Cans of Carlsberg are passed around and the singing starts. Now the Danes know a thing or two about football songs – simply because they have stolen all of ours! Stick the Blue flag, Blue Moon and You’ll Never Walk Alone are all sung in the 10 minute journey – word for word in perfect English.

The stadium was rebuilt in the late 1990’s, with each stand being demolished and rebuilt in turn to a standard that we would be proud of in England. The home fans take their place in the Faxe Tribune , or terrace as we would call it. They certainly know how to enjoy themselves, and with beer and grilled sausages available freely, they were certainly in the mood long before kick off.

This was the first home game back after the Christmas break. The first half of the season was a disaster for the club. If it wasn’t for the fact that Lyngby were so far out of their depth, Brondby would have been in the relegation zone. A run to the semi-finals (where a FCK v Brondby final is still on the cards) was their only redemption. However, they went away to Horsens in their first game back and won convincingly and now took the game to the Superliga’s surprise package FC Midtylland from the first minute. After just 90 seconds they took the lead as a misdirected shot from a poorly cleared corner was diverted into the net by one of the Danes. Well I say the Danes but with players in the squad including Martin Howard, David Williams and Duncan Rasmussen you have to question everything.

Queue the wild celebrations as plastic glasses full of beer were launched in the air and at the stewards, and a flare was fired onto the pitch. All of the stewards looked at each other, seemingly unwilling to venture onto the turf to put it out and so it was left to a steward who had obviously been enjoying the grilled sausages a little too much. He ambled onto the field (whilst play was proceeding), tried to stamp it out, managed to drop his cap, then his bottle of water and generally do everything apart from stamp out the flare….As he managed to kick the flare off the pitch Brondby scored again. This time the fans took aim and launched beer, paper airplanes and generally everything they could get their hands on at the hapless steward, causing him finally to drop his sausage.

After such an appalling first half to the season, Brondby could not believe they were 2-0 up and very quickly went back into their shell, and started defending very deep, inviting the FC Midtylland team to come at them. One of the traditions at half time was for the fans to break into song, prompted by the PA announcer. This week it was the turn of Elvis, and the song “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, expertly sung and a stirring anthem to great the teams back onto the pitch. The rest of the game was quite low key with a single last minute goal by the visitors the only excitement.

With the snow falling hard over the stadium, the journey back to the airport was always going to be a challenge. The original plan was going to be to get the bus back to the station, then head into the city before getting to the airport by train. However, the Brondby fans decided it would be more fun to try and tip the bus over rather than stand on it, and so a taxi was the preferred if more expensive option. Even so the taxi driver laughed off the snow, now settling on the roads, and as if auditioning for a part in Speed 3 did not let the car drop below 80 miles per hour all the way back to the airport. All part of the Danish fun.

Hvidovre IF
The second division Hvidovre IF have a fine tradition of developing young Danish talent, and selling them onto bigger clubs. The most famous player to come through the ranks has been Peter Schmiechel who played for the club 76 times in the mid-1980’s and actually scored 6 goals as he took on the role of penalty taker for the team.

The club have won the Danish championship on three occasions, the last being in 1981 which came a year after they won the Danish Cup. In their one and only European Cup campaign in 1982 they lost 7-4 to Juventus, although they did earn a 3-3 draw in Turin. Whilst they have spent most of their recent history in the lower leagues, they have actually played 19 seasons in the top flight.

The Hvidovre Stadion
The 15,000 capacity stadium is a multi-purpose stadium located in the south west of Copenhagen. It has one huge stand that seats close to 10,000 with the rest of the stadium being a 5 row wooden bench type arrangement, which does mean views are not particularly good due to the athletics track. In each corner of the stadium is a beer stand and a BBQ grill where fresh sausages go down very well.

How to get to the Hvidovre Stadion
The stadium is located in the south west of the city and is really easy to reach by public transport. From Central Station catch a regular C train from platform 9/10 in the direction of Koge to Friheden, which is 7 stops and around 15 minutes away. A ticket costs 20DKK. as you exit the platform turn left at the bottom of the steps, and then take a right through the gate into the car park of the flats. The stadium is a 3 minute walk northwards, and the floodlights are visible.

How to get a ticket
The club average just over 1,100 on a game by game basis, and with a capacity of 15,000 you will have no issues turning up on the day of the game paying on the door. Tickets cost 70DKK, with a programme adding 10DKK on top. Entry gives you the right to a seat in the main stand, or if the weather is good a seat on the wooden benches.

KB Copenhagen
Kobenhavns Boldklub, or KB are actually the oldest football club in Denmark having been formed in 1879. They have actually won the Danish Championship on 15 occasions, the last being in 1980. They have spent 53 seasons in the top division, although their current position in the 3rd tier of Danish football is the lowest they have fallen to. In 1991 KB and B1903 merged and formed the club that are today known as FC Copenhagen. The club still play under the KB name but are actually the reserve side for the current champions elect in Denmark.

The Frederiksberg Stadion

The club split their games between the Frederiksberg stadion and the FCK training centre in Peter Bangs Vej. The former is an athletics track with a small main stand which can seat 1,000 and a small club house on the far side of the pitch. The stadium holds 5,000. The training ground is nothing more than a series of pitches, and if games are switched here then entry is free but expect to stand behind a rope around the pitch.

How to get to the Frederiksberg Stadion
Both the stadium and the training ground are within a 5 minute walk from Peter Bangs Veg station, which is 5 stops from Central Station on line E. Trains depart from platforms 9/10 every 10 minutes during the day and a ticket costs 20DKK. As you leave the station turn left and continue along Peter Bangs Vej. For the training ground carry on walking for 500 yards until you see the training centre on the left hand side. For the Frederiksberg stadion turn right after 300 yards at the traffic lights, and follow the signs for the Idraetspark. The stadium is 250 yards down this road on the right hand side.

How to get a ticket for the Frederiksberg Stadion
There is no need to buy tickets in advance as the club rarely get over 300 fans to watch games. Entry is 50DKK at the stadion but free of charge at the training ground.

Rubber stands and Danish bacon


It would be rude not to take up an opportunity to see a local game – you see I have gone a bit continental this year and am now spending 2 or 3 days a week in the city known as “Wonderful Copenhagen”. Now any city where the three main exports are Beer, Bacon and Tall Blonde’s can’t be a bad place – as long as they keep some of the three back for themselves.

After being over there since Christmas I had so far managed to avoid getting to a game – quiet an achievement considering my track record of sniffing out a game wherever I go. But I had a plan…The longer I abstained, the more my bosses would feel that my visits were not based around football – and I knew that the one match I couldn’t miss was the Copenhagen derby between Brondby and Copenhagen…..Traditionally, Brondby are seen as the middle class team, where as FCK are from the lower class northern suburbs…In reality they are both clubs created for the convenience of the city – Brondby were formed in 1964 and financed by the local city council for years to try and get a football team with a European track record….It failed so in 1991 they turned their attention to the underused national stadium and created a new “super club” – FC Copenhagen to compete with Brondby….In the 15 years since their formation, the championship has been won by either team on all but one occasion – and who says money doesn’t buy success!!

This season has been a nightmare for the blue half of the city…Currently lying in 6th place and with not a hope of European football, Brondby’s season will best be remembered for having 3 coaches in the season….Copenhagen on the other hand have led the way since day one, and needed just 3 points to secure another championship.

So in theory everyone in the city would be up for this – either red or blue….err no. Most people were more interested in the Chelsea v Man Utd game that would be shown on Satellite TV than the local derby. Consequently the game was easy to get tickets for, and even a place in the bar was assured by 7pm….

Everyone talked about the game – the fans unfurled banners and T-shirts saying “The blood of the Red’s would flow on the pitch” but in practice it was a real damp squib. So arriving at the stadium at 6pm we saw police and riot vans everywhere, although lots of families in their yellow and blue shirts.

The stadium is very neat – the phrase “English stadium” is used a lot – but it is true in this case. Completely enclosed, two tiered with a terrace behind one goal. On the far side of the stadium is the new cafe bar “1964” which was a good place to start the evening – mock ups of the bench, decent Carlsberg and bacon sandwiches all whilst watching Swedish women’s football on TV – nice…Now let’s clear up the beer and bacon mystery….Copenhagen has been the home to Carlsberg for something like 200 years. Not only can you buy five versions of the beer almost everywhere, you can also get the strong Elephant beer in most bars – and it does taste better than in England…but Bacon is a different story – apparently they export all the good stuff and eat the crap bits at home…so asking for a bacon sandwich in any cafe will leave you very disappointed indeed…

So back to the match in question…We toyed with the idea of getting a good place in the Faxe terrace, but did the usual English thing of staying in the bar for one more pint – thinking no more beer for a couple of hours…Ah – but wait – what is that queue in the ground – a bar! So you cant take beer in but you can buy it yards from the turnstiles…Of course, and with a sausage in each hand we headed onto the terraces, which were literally bouncing.  Ben found Amos Brearley at the front of the stand and headed down for a quick grope.  The atmosphere was fantastic.  The Brondby fans were well up for the game, leading the chants that seemed very English both in terms of words and tunes.  The crowd tried to get the team going but they seemed to have already conceded defeat and it was no surprise when FCK took the lead halfway through the first half.

The game petered out in the second half, and once the final flare had been extinguished the lights went out on any challenge Brondby had to their bitter local rivals.  No blood was spilt on the final whistle – indeed it all seemed a bit cordial on the pitch.  We headed back to the sports bar for another couple of beers awaiting our taxi.  The atmosphere for a while had been up there with a West Ham v Chelsea game but petered out into a Leyton Orient v Dagenham & Redbridge one…sad but true..

The Stadium – Brøndby Stadium
Brøndby Stadion 30, 2605 Brøndby

Capacity: 29,000 All Seater

The Brøndby stadium was originally used 1965, although at the time was no more than a field with raised embankments. It is amazing to think that until 1980 the ground featured just one single stand of 1,200 and a couple of rudimentary floodlights. A new 5,000 seater stand was built in 1982, and as the team became more successful further stands were added, taking the capacity to just under 20,000 in 1990. The latest redevelopment work started in 1999 and was completed in October 2000 when 28,000 crammed into the stadium for the first time to watch the Copenhagen derby.

The end result is a stadium that is almost identical in look and feel to Derby’s Pride Park, Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium and the new Ricoh Arena in Coventry. All four stands are two tiered, with a complete wrap around roof. The hardcore fans tend to congregate in the Faxe Tribunen.

How to get to Brøndby Stadium
The stadium is a 30 minute journey from Copenhagen central station. The easiest way to get there is to catch a Line B train to Glostrup or a Line A train to Brøndby Strand Station and then catch bus either 131 or 500S. Extra buses run on a matchday.

How to get a ticket for the Brøndby Stadium
It is almost unheard of for any domestic games to sell out, except those against FC Copenhagen, and so you will be able to turn up on the day to buy tickets. If you want to get them in advance then you can from the Brøndby shop at the stadium. For normal matches tickets cost between 110Dkr and 130Dkr. For the derby matches they rise to 170Dkr and 190Dkr. If you have any queries then the ticket office can be contacted at
.

Around the Brøndby Stadium
The Stadium is located in the western suburbs of the city and sits in a nice residential area. However, the club have a couple of good supporters bars which are open for fans to go and have a few bars and a Danish sausage or two. Danish fans are some of the most hospitable in the world and any fans coming to visit the club on a weekend trip will be a very warm welcome, especially if they bring a few souvenirs from their clubs in England.