Closing Time

1 Jun

“Closing time…every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

So here I am at last.  It has taken me five years of visiting this wonderful city to finally take my seat in the Olympiastadion, and not a moment too soon.  In just a few weeks, Djurgårdens IF will be packing their bags and departing from this historic venue to take up home in Johanneshov, where the new Tele2 Arena will open its doors in July.  The new stadium, close to the Globe Arena (the largest hemispherical building in the world as if you didn’t already know) will be shared with Stockholm’s third team, Hammarby IF meaning that in the space of twelve months two brand spanking new stadiums will have opened in the city(The 50,000 capacity Friends Arena in Solna being the other one).  It’s been like London buses around these parts.

If there is a stadium that oozes history more that the Stockholms Stadion then I’m yet to hear about it. Of course it is totally unsuitable for a club with lofty ambitions such as Djurgårdens IF, and finally the Swedish Football Association have given them notice to conform with new ground regulations and that is why they are finally moving out next month. But on a warm summer’s night with the stadium bathed in sunshine it was a perfect venue for the home side to prove that they had turned a corner. Defeat on penalties in the Svenska Cupen final to Göteborg last weekend had been hard to take, but even harder was the fact that they propped up the whole league with just two wins so far.

8900602326_9ca0118289_bEverywhere you look in the stadium it is old brick and wood. Grand entrances, century-old turnstiles and two iconic towers at one end of the stadium. The canopy that once protected the Royal Family and dignitaries at the Olympic Games is still in place, although it could do little to protect us from the slowly setting sun shining in our eyes. It was enough to get in here an hour before kick off and just soak up the history.

The other reason to watch a game here was to see the Djurgården ultras in action (in a positive sense) and they didn’t disappoint with an excellent move that saw them all swap flag designs mid-act. How in earth they get these sorts of thing right on the night is beyond me, especially as the extent of our “tifosi” displays involve holding up bits of coloured cards at a unspecified time which invariably looks a bit shit compared to what we see on the continent.

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But back to tonight.   Stockholms Olympiastadion,  or just Stadion to its friends, has its place in history already assured even after DIF depart in a few weeks.  Built for the Games of the V Olympiad in 1912, very little in the design of the stadium has changed in the past century. The wooden benches, the gothic-style brick entrances that would look more in place at a castle, the elaborate entrance to the arena at one end.  Alas it is doubtful that anyone who witnessed the drama of the 1912 Tug of War competition is alive today.  The event, which is still the shortest ever held in the Olympics history, was completed from start to finish in less than 5 minutes when Sweden beat Great Britain 2-0, being the only two competing nations, to take the Gold medal. The stadium is also famous for holding events in two Olympic games.  In 1956 it hosted the equestrian events for the Melbourne Olympics due to quarantine regulations.  Two facts in one paragraph to amuse and amaze your friends.  You don’t get that from behind a pay-wall do you?

The last golden period for DIF came a decade ago when the team won three Allsvenskan Championships in four years, including the domestic double in 2002 and 2005.  Unfortunately they weren’t able to make any progress in the resulting Champions League campaigns, a fact that was probably their undoing in the end, as the best players moved on and the gravy train didn’t deliver enough cash to re-invent a new, better, team.

Since then the club have floated around the lower mid-table in the Allsvenskan.  There have been many false dawns and even more disappointments.  Seeing arch-rival AIK win the double a few years ago was a bitter pill to swallow, but perhaps the move to the Tele2 Arena may well see the rise of the blue half of the city once more.  Despite a crap start to the season, the majority of sides were separated by just a few points and so a win or two could take them up into the European spots in just a week or two.

Djurgårdens IF 1 Kalmar IF 0 – Stockholms Stadion – Thursday 30th May 2013
Of course, Swedish football is the best in the world. Why? Because when all other options are exhausted at the end of the season in May, the Swedes are just getting going in their season. DIF’s campaign so far has been a bit of a nightmare.  Coming into this game against Kalmar, The Iron Stoves (Järnkaminerna) prop up the rest of the league.  The visitors came into the game just one point outside the European spots although having only scored 12 goals in their opening ten games didn’t really suggest they were the most attacking team.

8900669783_0e4f02f888_bWith the hope in their hearts the home side began the game with some purpose, having discovered their mojo with the first real appearance of summer. Cool, calm defending that belied the fact they had shipped an average of over 2 goals per game so far this season, and some good movement from the pacey front two Fenzullahu and Jawo. Fifteen minutes in and they had their reward as a ball over the top of the Kalmar defence saw Jawo outpace his markers and beat the keeper with ease from 10 yards. For the rest of the half they “Kalmar’d” the storm, with Kenny Höie called into action on frequent occasions to clear his lines.

The second half saw the teams welcomed back onto the pitch with a display of flares from the ultras, which meant that until they all had been extinguished they game couldn’t start – and that just encouraged them to light a few more through the half, which always resulted in a stern PA announcement that probably said something like “don’t go back to fireworks once they have gone out” or “don’t gargle petrol when holding a flare”.

8900661751_42308d86ea_bDespite forcing some early corners, Djurgårdens didn’t have that cutting edge that a player like Teddy Sheringham could bring. Oh Teddy, Teddy. Young Edward as Cloughie used to call him, had a very productive season in these parts back in 1985 and enjoyed his time in the Swedish capital – and who wouldn’t?  Stockholm is a fantastic city to relax in and I am sure Teddy made full use of his Saarf London persona in the bars and clubs of Gamla Stan. More of his adventures can be found in a new book, published this summer by Ockley Books called The Football Tourist, written by erm…me.

With ten minutes to go Martin Broberg should have doubled the lead when he headed over from six yards and then young Martin broke the offside trap to seal the victory but blazed high and wide. It hadn’t been the best night for him, but for the team as a whole it had been a performance that would give them confidence of the battles ahead. Relatively assured at the back, positive going forward. No Bayern Munich but certainly no Stoke City.

8901220232_a22eac7eb6_bWhen the clock hit ninety minutes the fans unfurled a banner – “Djurgården – we’re gonna live forever” accompanied by a rousing verse of the club’s hymn. The three points won’t give them immortality but it did take them up five places in the table which on a beautiful Stockholm night is about as good as life could get for the blue side of the city.

“Closing time. So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits.  I hope you have found a Friend”

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5 Responses to “Closing Time”

  1. Teddy Chabot June 1, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Good post. Cool blog.

    Scenario (and question) for you: Suppose that a Yank was heading to Sweden for a couple weeks in the summer (say mid-August of this year) and wanted to catch a game with his five-year-old football fanatic kid (and wife and daughter, but they don’t matter). Suppose trip starts in Goteborg, spends some time on an island around Stockholm and meanders around for a week in between (possibly into Norway, but that’s a different matter).

    Where would you suggest seeing a game? Where would you suggest NOT seeing a game? What would going to a game and rooting for a particular home team (and probably buying a jersey for the boy) – basically by default – say about someone?

    Example:

    If a Swede came to the US and wanted to go to a baseball game, I would send him to Chicago to see a Cubs game. Doesn’t get any better than that for a baseball game, and everyone who found out about it would completely understand (unlike, for example, a trip to Detroit to see the Tigers). However, if you’re a Cubs fan, you’re going to ultimately be a disappointed loser (unlike, for example, Detroit Tiger fans who have had good teams lately).

    If he went to a Yankees game, he would be going to one of the most modern stadiums in the league in one of the world’s great cities and would be watching one of the greatest clubs in baseball. He would be choosing a winner! However, by rooting for the Yankees, he would also be marking himself as a complete tool to almost everyone outside of New York.

    What are the analogs to the Cubs, Yankees, Tigers, and so on in Swedish football? Which teams have the best fans? And which stadiums are best to see a game?

    Thanks for any advice that you (or anyone who happens to read this) might have.

    • stuartnoel June 2, 2013 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks for getting in touch. An interesting one.

      Let’s take Goteborg to start. IFK are one of the biggest teams in the country and now play at a modern stadium close to the city centre. Passionate fans (always good to get a place in the stand opposite to see their displays). On 4th August they play Hacken, who are also from the city although their ground is an old athletic’s style stadium a fair distance out of the city centre. Also, there is a great little stadium called Valhalla which is a 5 minute walk from Liseborg (where I am sure you will end up a fair time – huge amusement park). THere is a team who play in one of the lower divisions called Orgryte who play there – if they are at home that is worth a visit.

      By the time you reach Stockholm it will be a two stadium city – AIK (the biggest team in the country and have a very passionate set of fans) will be playing at the 50,000 Friends Arena in Solna, which is 10 minutes on train from centre of the city. They are also building a massive shopping centre next door which could keep rest of family amused. Their fans are known for their displays and passion. You will not have any problems getting a ticket.

      Hammarby (in the second tier of Swedish football) and Djurgarden move into the Tele2 Arena in July – a 40,000 in the Globen area of the city. Both have passionate fans but not on same scale as AIK.

      If you give me the dates you will be in the cities I can advise on some matches.

      • Teddy Chabot June 5, 2013 at 2:37 am #

        Thanks for the offer to help.

        Here are our dates. We get into Goteborg on Sunday 8/11, are supposed to go to the place south of Stockholm (near Nynashamn) sometime on 8/17, and head back from Goteborg on 8/25, likely staying the night before somewhere near there.

        Based on that schedule, it would seem like a game on 8/17 would work best, and I can see three that would seem to work in the sense of letting us get to our destination in Nynashamn later that evening: Djurgardens, AIK, and Norrkoping. (Clearly, I may be missing something, either in the first division or lower levels, if I’m not misreading the match schedule altogether.) For some reason, the Norrkoping game is appealing to me – more of an old school stadium than the ones in Stockholm – but seems less practical than the others. So I’m completely open to suggestions.

        Thanks again for the help. It’s tough trying to navigate the Swedish club websites, and the coverage of the Allsvenskan is inevitably sparse in the States.

        And again, the post on this game was sublime. Really makes me regret missing a game at that old stadium.

      • stuartnoel June 5, 2013 at 8:26 am #

        Dates and times aren’t fixed yet for that period but possibilities for those weekends are:-

        Weekend of 11th August – Hacken v Oster (easy to get to by tram from centre of Goteborg – about 10 minute journey, not most exciting of grounds or fans though)
        Monday 12th August – Orgyte v Assyrika at 7pm – they play at Valhalla – almost next to Liseborg – perfect opportunity for a day

        The following weekend you could have a treat with games at Djurgarden and AIK as you say – they wont be at home at same time due to policing requirements.

        Following weekend in Goteborg – again you have lucked out with only Hacken at home!

      • Teddy Chabot June 14, 2013 at 3:47 am #

        Thanks for the info. I think that we’ll figure it out once we get closer to our arrival date. Should be a good time. And I’ll “post” an update if there’s anything worth reporting. Thanks again for all your help.

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