“Have you seen John Terry?”
As random questions go, this was up there with some of those uttered from my parents. I was queueing to get some more beer underneath the Sud tribune in Brøndby Stadion when the question was asked by a complete stranger who somehow figured I was English (perhaps it was the socks with sandals combination?).
“Do you mean, have I ever seen John Terry?” I had once seen the much maligned Chelsea captain in Huck’s restaurant at Elveden CenterParcs back in 2001 apart from playing for Chelsea and England so I wasn’t lying when I answered in the affirmative.
“No, here. He is sitting over there” the women said, waving her arm in a direction that was either towards the Gents toilet or the Main Stand depending on how literal you wanted to be. I hoped for Terry’s sake it was the latter otherwise he’d be all over the front pages (again) for the wrong reasons (again).
Depending on which rumour you care to believe, Terry was at tonight’s Superliga derby between Brøndby IF and FC Nordsjælland because a) he’s good friends with club owner Jan Bech Andersen and accepted an invite to pop over as he would not play again this season (or ever) for Chelsea due to suspension, b) he was about to take over as head coach from Aurelijus Skarbalius who had joined a long list of managers who had heralded a new dawn but simply made the club darker or c) he was actually planning on buying out Andersen and running the club himself. There was a fourth reason of course, which was why I was here with Ben. And that is you can’t beat a beer (or three), a sausage (or two) and a good jump around on the terraces on a Monday night.
This used to be a regular occurrence for me. For over two years Copenhagen had been my midweek home and instead of spending every night in my apartment watching Kroning Gade (Danish Coronation Street), I went off in search of football. In two years I managed to watch games at 37 different Danish and Swedish grounds but there was nowhere really like Brøndby (OK – apart from Malmö). My very good friend and Ultras expert Kenny Legg ranked the Copenhagen Derby played at the Brøndby Stadion as, as he eloquently put it, “F’ing insane” – and he’s a man whose experienced Weymouth versus Dorchester Town (twice!). Quite simply it should be one game that every football fan takes in once in their lives.
A rare need for a work trip to Copenhagen fortuitously fell on the very day Brøndby were hosting their cross-city rivals, FC Nordsjælland from leafy Farum. Whilst it’s currently the fashion to talk about clubs overcoming insurmountable odds to win the league (Leicester City were 5000/1 to win the Premier League in case you missed that little fact), we should pause and reflect on the story of FC Nordsjælland who broke the FCK dominance of winning seven of the previous nine titles. Whilst the club had always been respected for its youth development, they hadn’t really made a mark on domestic football in Denmark until 2010 when they won their first major honour, the Danish Cup. A year later they retained the trophy, once again beating FC Midtjylland in the final. However in 2011/12 they led from the front almost on day one and never looking back. Not only did they cap that season with the title but five of their players were called up to the National team.
It was always felt that the dominance of FCK on the domestic game, fuelled by perennial Champions League money would never be broken but FCN proved it could be done. Whilst FCK won the title twelve months later (with FCN hosting Chelsea and Juventus in the Champions League ironically at FCK’s Parken), the last two titles have been won by two more “upstarts”. Alas, neither were Brøndby.
Last season the story over here, and also back in England, was of FC Midtjylland who again if you believed the media, won the league through the footballing equivalent of card counting. The club, based a few miles up the road from Legoland had been on the fringes of the honours for a while but it took the investment of Brentford owner Matthew Benham and his statistical approach to both recruitment and retention of players to reach that Tipping Point that saw them crowned as champions.
But back to today. Ben had procured the tickets for a ridiculous 60DKK (£6) each but failed to remember that we were in Denmark and so a 7pm kick off meant 7pm Danish time, not 6pm that was displayed on Soccerways….Ben has only lived in Denmark for 8 years now. He was quickly forgiven when we took our place at the front of the beer and sausage queue though. He brought me up to speed on the state of play in Denmark’s Superliga. FCK were as good as champions again, holding a seven point league over this season’s surprise package, SønderjyskE. Then came AaB (champions in 2014) and FC Midtjylland (champions in 2015)…and then Brøndby, some seventeen points behind FCK with six games to play. “So the title still isn’t out of the question Stu”. He is a Spurs fan and up until the draw with Chelsea was absolutely convinced Spurs would win the title on goal difference.
With only 2nd and 3rd place qualifying for the Europa League and having painfully lost a two-legged Danish Cup semi-final to FCK it looked bleak for a return to European football. That was unless they could get three points tonight.
Brøndby IF 2 FC Nordsjælland 1 – Brøndby Stadion – Monday 9th May 2016
The warm, yellow liquid currently raining down on us reminded us why it’s a bad move to stand at the bottom of the Sud Tribune. Fortunately the liquid appeared to be beer, thrown in the air to celebrate Kamil Wilczek’s goal. Brøndby had conceded in an all too familiar manner just three minutes before much to the groans of a number of fans around us. A rather animated chap, in full kit with the name “Aggar” on his back tried to show his mate how to clear an attacking ball that had led to Marcondes’s equaliser, using a small teddy bear. She wasn’t impressed and stormed off just as Wilczek’s goal went in.
Whilst the game was fairly entertaining, with Brøndby understanding that they key to winning the game was to stop the opposition getting the ball (possession is 9/10th of a win as well as the law), the real spectacle was the fans. It may have been five years since I was last standing on the terraces here but you never forget the feeling of the ground beneath your feet literally bouncing as the fans jumped up and down, sank their lungs out and waved the flags. You cannot fail to be impressed. This was what watching football should be like. Passion. Of course it helped that you were trusted enough to have a beer, although it did seem to be the standard pratice to throw it up in the air when the home side scored.
John Terry couldn’t help be impressed by the atmosphere – certainly a little less manufactured some of the grounds in England. He at least won’t have to learn a new language and of course their liberal attitude to the vices means he may stay off the front pages. Then again, it is just as likely that Celtic boss Ronnie Deila will pitch up here in a few weeks once the Celtic gig has finished.