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I figured some time ago that something is only worth doing if either you do it well, or you become an expert in it. So whilst my football travels have taken me to the furthest corners of Europe I had become a generalist in a specialist subject, which is fine to an extent. But to be classed as an expert in a particular subject requires focus and dedication. So I have decided to become an expert in football in Copenhagen. There, I’ve said it and I feel better already. My sad obsession which has dominated my travels to this wonderful city in the past 18 months is now out in the open. Like all such goals you need to research the competition first, and so a quite check on Google revealed that when you type in football stadiums + Copenhagen the results pages by….me! So it appears I already have a fair amount of knowledge and kudos (as much as knowing about football in one of Europe’s smallest capital cities goes!), so all I have to know is to build on it.
This season Danish domestic football is probably at the highest point it has ever been in terms of European attention. AaB (Aalborg) are in the Champions League Group Stages for the first time and will host Manchester United, Celtic and Villarreal before Christmas, and FCK, Brondby and Nordjaelland are still in the UEFA Cup. Add to this the recent visit to Herning by Manchester City who beat FC Midtjylland and you can see my quest does have some merit.
I am no stranger to football on these shores. In the past year, as work has permitted me time over here, I have already racked up visits to half a dozen games in the city, plus visits to a few more stadiums. I have seen top level football on a number of occasions at Brondby, and when they were in the highest division for a season, Lyngby. I have also seen games at Hvidovre, KB and Greve on other trips, covering a whole spectrum of quality of grounds. At my last count there were 11 grounds hosting football in Copenhagen in the top three divisions and so I still had my work cut out to get to the likes of AB, B1903, B93 and the likes.
I managed to arrange a trip out that would allow me to see at least two more games, both in the Super Liga. The fixture list was kind and in theory I could have actually got in part of a game at four grounds, but having been bitten before with such arrangements earlier in the season I decided that two was plenty for one afternoon.
So after dumping my bags at the plush but very dull Island hotel I headed north on S-Tog line A from the stop by the hotel. The good thing was that despite the first game of the day being essentially in another town outside Copenhagen, I could stay on this train all the way to the end of the line at Farum. When I say a different town I would compare it to Dartford as a part of London. The train took me through the city centre, past the harbour and the docks and into surburbia. No signs of a Bluewater here, just smart little houses all flying the Danish flag. This was the kind of neighbourhoods where crime would be dropping a crisp packet or playing 2Unlimited in your car. The train then headed through the forest of Store Hareskov, and with just two stops to go until the end of the line we ground to a halt. Apparently weekend engineering works meant that this was the end of the line. The good news was that a replacement bus service was running. The bad news was that it wasn’t actually co-ordinated with the train arrivals rather than “once it’s full we will go approach” and so we had just missed one. Never mind, there was sure to be another along shortly. And there was, but unfortunately there was little in the way of passenger action coming off subsequent trains and so we waited, and waited. With the time to kick off fast approaching, and half of the bus filled with football fans tension was in the air. Of course this being Scandinavia everyone was too polite to say anything to the driver, although the level of coughing went up. Eventually one young fan went and asked the driver if we could go, and he seemed to respond by saying “of course, why didn’t you ask earlier”.
Ten minutes later we arrived in Farum, and without any other way of reaching the stadium we started walking. The area around the stadium was surreal. If anyone has gone to Centerparcs before then imagine wandering down a straight road with rows and rows of villas lining it. All of the houses were nice, but completely uniform. Whilst it was 3.30pm on a Sunday it appeared that everyone was observing some kind of curfew as no one appeared to be home. Of course, they could have all been already at the stadium.
Farum Park sat at the end of this road, with the floodlights dominating the skyline, leaning in as if to spy on the fans. It sat behind a sports centre and was almost hidden from view. It was almost identical in design internally to Glanford Park in Scunthorpe, with four identical stands, all joined together and sitting under a continuous roofing structure. I counted that each stand had 19 rows of seats.
FC Nordsjaelland 2 FC Vejle 1 – Farum Park – Sunday 21st September 2008 – 4pm
Inside the stadium I was disappointed to see that the locals had not actually turned out in force. One end of the stadium was completely empty, and the home fans were split in three areas. Behind the north end goal around 300 fans stood with their flags and banner (notice the singular). To my right in the side stand were a group of another 100 or so all of whom had identical t-shirts on. Based on the lack of passion or noise these fans showed throughout the game I was normally say they were on a corporate jolly. However, the third set where directly opposite me in the VIP stand, and part of the luxury facilities were that they had been issued with green blankets to put around their knees – after all it was only September!
The band of 100 or so noisy away fans were located in the corner to my right and to give them credit they made a fair racket through out the whole game. The teams entered the pitch to a wimper of noise from the home fans, as well as red and yellow flares that had been planted in the goal mouth at one end. Of course it wasn’t the end where there were no fans, and so when the game started 2 or 3 minutes later, the smoke was still hanging around causing those fans behind the goal to be completely unaware of what was happening.
This reminded me of my first ever visit to the Milan derby. I managed to get a cheap seat at the top of one of the end behind the goal, beggars could not be choosers for such a game. The game kicked off as I finally made it into the stadium but I then had to climb to the top tier. At the San Siro you can either do this via the stairs that run up the middle of the spiral towers, or following the spirals up, climbing slowly to the top. Just as I reached the top there was a huge cheer as a goal went in. About thirty seconds later I entered the arena but all I could see below me was smoke, caused by hundreds of flares being lit. I had no idea who had scored either in terms of the team or the player. After about two minutes the haze cleared and it was obvious that it was AC who had taken the lead. Of course I chose a game where AC Milan were rampant and scored 6 times without reply. I estimate that I missed half of the game due to fog related issues!
It wasn’t quite the same here though and within a minute the smoke had cleared and the game was underway. FCN had surprised many this season with their performances in the UEFA Cup that had seen them beat the mighty Queen of the South amongst others. They had lost the first leg of their game versus Olympiakos a few days previous, holding out for over 75 minutes against a team with considerable European experience. That game seemed to have taken it out of the players and they started sluggishly.
Vejle broke the deadlock first with a well worked goal that was cooly finished by Vejle centre forward, Adeshina Lawal on the twenty minute mark and that was really the high point of the first half. Whatever was slipped into the tea of the FCN team at halftime worked as they came out for teh 2nd half pumped up and found themselves level in the 58th minute when captain Martin Bernburg scored.
The game was heading for a draw when in the 90th minute a hopeful punt up into the Vejle penalty area fell at the feet of the centre back. In one of those rare comical moments he tried to kick the ball over his own shoulder, only resulting in hitting his chest and the ball fell to the unmarked Bajram Fetai who couldn’t believe his luck as he slotted the ball passed the Vejle keeper. Harsh on the away team but that is how football goes sometimes. The official crowd of just over 3,000 headed home with a “ho hum” and I made my way back to the bus stop for my trip down to more atmospheric conditions back in the city centre.
FCK 3 AaB 0 – Parken – Sunday 21st September 2008- 5.30pm
Quite how FCK get away with the wealth splashed on them is a complete mystery to most observers of the Danish game as well as the supporters of every other team in the country. Sitting in the comfortable press area of the national stadium, the Parken, for this home game against the Champions League surprise package AaB Aalborg you can see what a lucky hand they have been dealt. Not content with the relatively modern 40,000+ seater stadium being gifted to them free of charge, they have now started redeveloping the stadium to include a hotel to add even more €’s into the already swollen piggy bank. But instead of playing in a three sided stadium, the club have erected a huge mural, complete with sponsorship of course similar to the one used by Arsenal for their North Bank redevelopment whilst the serious building goes on behind. Displaced from their usual spot behind the goal the hardcore Copenhagen fans were now located in the top tier of the west (side) stand, precariously jumping around, doing the conga and enjoying life to the full.
FCK’s relatively short history (they were only formed in 1991 through a merger of a number of small clubs) has been punctuated by domestic dominance and shocking lows. Quite how they have never made an impression in Europe is a mystery as they are by far and away the biggest club in Scandinavia. In recent years they have out muscled their bitter rivals from across the city, Brondby in terms of honours, but complacency has set in in recent years and they have been caught up on the field by the likes of FC Midtjylland from the small town of Herning, and last season by AaB who have both invested in their youth academies and are now reaping the rewards.
This was to be the first big game of the new Danish season. Despite starting in mid-August, the fixtures had been ravaged by the surprising success on the European scene by a number of teams, and so the Danish FA moved games left, right and centre to accommodate their teams when in European competition. The move seemed to have worked with only FC Midtylland failing to progress in Europe as of the end of September, although it took a penalty shoot out with money bags Manchester City to decide the tie. The visitors today had provided the biggest shock of the lot by overcoming a couple of tricky qualifying ties to reach the Champions League Group Stages, only the second Danish team to do so (after FCK). The initial draw of Celtic, Manchester United and Villarreal had most people thinking they would be lucky to get a point, but after the first round of games they sat in equal first (and last!) place after a very good draw away at Celtic Park.
Both teams had started the domestic season sluggishly, with the team from Odense leading the way coming into the game. Whilst the Parken is rarely full for FCK games, apart from those against Brondby, there was a reasonable crowd. With the north stand closed, the capacity has been reduced to just over 30,000 so a 25,000 plus crowd can be considered pretty impressive, although the 100 or so away fans from the mainland (Jutland for those in the know) hardly made an impression.
Despite all the huff and puff of the teams, very little of note happened in the thirty minutes of the game (well I didn’t turn up until that point and as it was 0-0 we can assume this was the case!). FCK did look the sharper of the two teams, creating a number of half chances for playmaker Thomas Kristensen before Atiba Hutchinson, the Canadian international broke the deadline just before the 40 minute mark, smartly sidefooting in from the edge of the penalty area.
Aalborg looked a shadow of the team that had fought so bravely against Celtic in midweek and failed to trouble Jesper Christiansen in the FCK goal in the first hour of the game. It wasn’t a surprise when the second one came after another incisive break through the Aalborg left back area was pulled back into the penalty area and the ball was bundled over the line through a combination of a FCK knee and an Aalborg defender’s hip.
In the 80th minute it was 3-0 as the FCK Turkish midfielder Ailton waltzed through a static AaB defence and side footed home from 12 yards. The result did not flatter the home team at all, and with more determination in front of goal it would have been more. What was surprising was the ineffectiveness of AaB who just 4 days earlier had been so resilient against Celtic. Perhaps their minds were on the home tie versus Manchester United in little over ten days. Whatever the reason I cannot see them retaining the title this season, so perhaps they should just make hay while the sun shines.
So a successful day all told. Another two stadiums under my belt, and a good game to finish off the day. Shame I had turned up late at the Parken and missed the media’s free Carlsberg, served by none the less a person than Miss Carlsberg 2008!
About the Farum Park Stadium – Capacity: 10,000 All Seater
Exiled Scunthorpe United and Walsall fans look no further for a slice of lego stadium action that the smart little stadium in the Copenhagen surburbs. FC Nordsjaelland’s Farum Park was opened a few seasons ago to provide a home to the progressive club, and has since seen their remarkable rise from formation in 1991 to UEFA Cup football this season. All four stands are uniform and are covered, although with average attendances failing to break the 4,000 mark it can be very soleless on occasions. When FCK or Brondby are visiting expect a much better atmosphere. Despite the fact it is all seater, the hardcore (as hardcore as it gets here in sleepy Farum) stand behind the west goal. The stadium has a cafe bar at the north end, next to the club shop where any supporters are free to use before or after the game.
Also around the stadium you will find the traditional sausage grills and beer sellers meaning no one will go hungry or thirsty.
How to get to Farum Park
Almost all supporters tend to arrive on S-Tog Line A from Copenhagen city centre, that takes around 35 minutes from the central station and runs every 10 minutes. A single ticket will cost 500DKR, so it is often better value to buy a day pass for all zones which is just 110 DKR. Once you get out at Farum, which is the terminus for line A you can either walk to the stadium or get a regular 333 bus that drops you right outside the stadium. To walk simply cross the road from the station and walk down Ryttersgardsvej, across a couple of roundabouts and you will see the stadium ahead of you. The walk will take you no longer than 15 minutes.
How to get a ticket for Farum Park
Despite its modest attendance the stadium is hardly ever close to filling up and so tickets can be purchased from the booths on both sides of the stadium prior to kick off. All seats are 125DKR for Adults and 50DKR for Children. Tickets for the games versus the big two from the city are 175DKR and 75DKR respectively. They can also be bought online via the website at http://www.fcn.dk
About The Parken – Capacity:41,752 All Seater
The Parken has been the home of the national stadium since the end of the second world war. The ground went through significant redevelopment work in the early 1990’s and re-opened with a friendly against Germany in September 1992. The stadium is, unusually for a national stadium, owned by a club side – FC Kobenhavn who purchased the rights over the ground for 138m DKr.
The stadium is built on similar lines to a number of English grounds, with four separate box-type two tier stands. All of the stands offer unobstructed views of the action. The stadium has a UEFA 4-star rating, and has hosted the Cup Winners Cup Final in 1994 when Arsenal beat Parma, and the UEFA Cup final in 2000 when Arsenal were the visitors again when they lost to Galatassaray on penalties. The stadium recently hosted a sell out crowd for the friendly with England. However, its sub 50,000 capacity means it can’t be included in future UEFA Champions League Final matches. The stadium has a retractable roof which is used primarily for concerts, such as the U2 in 2005 and the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest.
The next phase of redevelopment will see a hotel built behind one of the goals that will also be used for Executive facilities. This work started in late 2007 and is due for completion in 2009.
How to get to the Parken Stadium
The best way to reach the Parken from the city centre is to catch bus 15 from Østerport Station. Alternatively the stadium is just a 15 minute walk from the station or 10 minutes from Nordhavn. Both of these stations are served by most S-Tog lines. If you are coming from the central station then Bus 1A runs to Trianglen which is a two minute walk from the station. The stadium is also easily walkable from the Nyhavn area of the city centre. Just head back towards the city and turn right and follow the main road – the stadium will be a 25 minute walk away.
How to get a ticket for the Parken Stadium
Crowds in Danish football are not known to be too high, and for most games buying tickets in advanced for the Parken are not necessary. The biggest game in Danish football is the Copenhagen derby when Brondby come visiting. For tickets to see FC Copenhagen log onto http://www.billetlugen.dk or http://www.billetnet.dk . Tickets for top matches range from 120DKR to 190DKR.