Tag Archives: Malmo FF

Playing away from home

3 Jul

I have a few mistresses in my life. Those loves that you try and keep secret, but almost like a drug you are drawn back time and time again. And damn they are expensive. I can see a few of you reading this nodding along sagely. We know it is wrong. We know that we are being unfaithful, breaking one of those seven deadly sins but on the other hand we only get one life and I am a firm believer in a “no regrets” policy.

Before everyone who knows we starts getting out the voodoo dolls and inviting CMF to various councilling sessions I am of course taking about football. What else would I be talking about on a website called The Ball is Round (well apart from cricket, baseball, handball and even the odd darts game). As every TRUE fan knows, you are married to our team, through thick and thin. For richer and poorer, until death do you part. Unfortunately I am stuck with a partner who appears to be living in a poor episode of Eastenders. Farce is high on the agenda these days at Upton Park and you couldn’t ask a team of Hollywood screenwriters of the calibre of Patrick Marber to make up some of the stories they seem to involve themselves in.

So a few years ago I started “playing the field”. I met a fine club in Lewes and am proud to have her as my second team in a world where it is still technically acceptable to have a favourite Non League Team. After all, with the momentum behind such initiatives as Non League Day and Non League Notes, everyone should have a little fling in the grass roots. During my frequent travels I came across one or two clubs who offered the “continental option”. “You don’t see many of those down in E14” I would often say, aghast at some of the things they would offer me in terms of experience. But one club has me coming back time and time again for more.

Confession time then….I am in love with Malmo FF. Ever since I saw them play Nottingham Forest in the 1979 European Cup final and stared in awe at the “ö” in their name and those pastel blue shirts I had a very soft spot for them. I loved them when they were winning the league every season under “Woy” Hodgson, yet back home nobody had heard of him. With my move out to Scandinavia I was at last within touching distance of my affections.

I saw them for the first time at the iconic Malmö Stadion, one of the architectural masterpieces built for the 1958 World Cup. Yes it was crap to watch a game in, but it looked pretty. Many things in Sweden are great to experience at but don’t have much substance – the beer for instance which is watered down just in case the locals get too excited. Björn Borg pants are another, but let’s not go there on a Sunday afternoon.

In 2009 they moved into a brand new stadium, the Swedebank Stadion literally behind their old one. It was built with the fans in mind with a big terrace behind one goal and two tiers of seats forming the rest of the stadium. No grand ambitions with the capacity, with 21,000 seats being perfect for the club.

Last season, after a six year gap, they won the Allsvenskan, the Swedish championship, playing some scintiliating football in the process. I was lucky enough to see them almost win the title at home to Helsingborgs, their greatest rival both for the title but also in terms of a local derby, before almost handing it back to them with a dreadful nervy performance against Kalmar. On both occasions the stadium literally bounced with atmosphere. The one thing that can never be levelled at the fans is that they lacked passion.

This season I had taken them for granted. Not returning their calls, ignoring important events and dare I say not even reading the emails when they came. But like an addiction to all bad things I was craving my fix. And when I sent an email on the off chance of a last minute press pass I was staggered by my reply from the club.

“Of course you are welcome. We have missed you”.

Four words that just melted my heart. How could I resist. I kissed goodbye to CMF and the Little Fullers at Kastrup airport and under the pretence of going back to work I changed platforms and carried on my journey under/above the Øresund to Malmö. Ten minutes after getting off at the new Trianglen station I was picking up my pass with a big smile from the familiar faces on the media desk. Just how long we would all be smiling was another matter.

The whole of Copenhagen had been shook to its foundations on Saturday night by a huge thunderstorm. We are talking biblical in its vericity and more rain fell in a two hour period than Denmark had seen in the past thirty years. Pity those people who were in a field at the Roskilde festival. No, really, there is nothing funny about being stuck in a tent during the worst rain in over a quarter of a century…..

And it appeared the storms were coming back. After another very hot day the clouds started gathering overhead. CMF’s flight back to London was delayed due to a very localised storm over Copenhagen (Thanks to Easyjet she was eventually delayed 3 hours, with no food or drink or even seats.  But what do you expect?).  I felt guilty about her pain, but I was being distracted. For in front of me the sky blues were turning on the style.

Sunday 3rd July 2011 – Malmö FF 2 Norrköping IF 1 – Malmö Stadion

It took just 90 seconds for the team to give me the perfect welcome back present. The usual stirring anthem had ended with a huge cheer, and with that still ringing in my ears Jimmy Durmaz tip toed through the Norrköping defence before curling the ball into the top corner. Bosh – take that and party.

Goals have been a bit of an issue this season for Malmö. It is fair to say that if they had a player in form up front they would not find themselves in 8th place with over a third of the season gone. They had scored just 14 from 14 games, a far cry from last season’s title winning performance. Time moves on, as too did last season’s manager Roland Neilson who had hopped on a Øresundstag train to Copenhagen to manage FCK. New boss Rikard Norling hadn’t yet endeared himself to the Malmö faithful and with their first Champions League campaign due to start in just a few weeks time it was important that their form started to return.

The visitors should have equalised and even taken the lead as Khalili headed wide, obviously taking too much inspiration from his Christmas present of Carlton Cole’s greatest headers, whilst Ajdarevic smashed a shot against the inside of a post whilst the keeper Melicharek could only look on. It was only at this point I noticed he was actually wearing a Spurs home kit. Absolutely identical to their home kit from last season bar the sponsors logo. Perhaps Spurs could try and take them to court…no stop it Stuart, don’t go down that road.

One became two on the stroke of half time when top scorer Larsson was set free, drew the keeper before curling the ball into the top corner. Foreplay, mere foreplay I hoped for what was to come.

The second half was much of the same. Malmö tried to get the ball wide as much as possible, using the pace of Larsson, whilst the away side obviously fancied their chances from distance against the Gomes-a-like in the Malmö goal.

The saying “the calm before the storm” was so evident here. On seventy five minutes with the sun still shining brightly on half of the ground a deathly hush fell over the stadium as Norrköping attacked. The clouds had filled the sky overhead, the wind picked up and then the rain started. Norrköping saw this as a sign of divine intervention and took advantage of the home side’s nervous looks to the heavens to pull a goal back when Khalili headed home a free kick unmarked.

It is amazing how easy you slip back into the old ways, and as I sat at the press conference afterwards awaiting Rikard Norling’s words I was amazed how many familiar faces I saw. I couldn’t feel more at home than if I had a pair of slippers on and I was sucking on a Skippers Pipe (before anyone jumps to any rude conclusions it is a licorice pipe which is very popular in Denmark). Sure Malmö had huffed and puffed to a win, and I am sure they will need to up their game to make progress in retaining their title as well as reaching the land of milk and honey in the Champions League, but for one night let’s forget all about the world outside and just bask in each other’s company.

We’re gonna party like it’s 1989

18 Oct

Right straight to the point.  We love Malmö FF.  We love their new stadium (we actually loved their iconic old stadium which still sits next door to the new Swedbank Stadion), we love the pale blue shirts, we love their passionate fans and we love their press office who on asking for accreditation this week told us that:-

“Of course…We appreciate all of the interest around the club at the moment, but when it comes from the home of football it warms the heart a little extra.”

They had me on “of course”.  But this season has been special for Di blåe.  With just four games to go they went into round 27 with a 3 point lead over local rivals (and also a top club by the way) Helsingborgs IF thanks to the passionate win last month.  With both teams kicking off at 7pm on Monday night, the right result could almost put the Allsvenskan on a bus down to Malmö from Stockholm where AIK had been hiding it in a cupboard.  Helsingborgs were away to recent champions IF Elfsborg whilst Malmö were hosting Kalmar FF, themselves Allsvenskan Champions in 2008.

Monday night, 7pm kick off – of course we would be there.  In the not too distant future our whole Scandinavian adventure will end, and who knows where we will end up (please Mr Wicks not Paris!) but we will miss the trip over the water to Sweden to the lovely little city of Malmö.  So best make the most of it.  This was to be our last trip here of the season, and we came in hope that the club could regain its position at the top of the Swedish tree, a position that last really held in the late 80’s when they won five consecutive titles between 1985 and 1989.  To celebrate their last title, Roxette released Dressed for Success around the world, as a homage to the club and this fifth title..And now eleven years later Roxette are back, playing sell out gigs across Sweden…could this be an omen???

I met up with a few fans, of course over a low alcoholic beer (no really – remember we are in Sweden so the thought of a 4% beer sends the government into COBRA mode) and discussed the season and what was going on in England.  Their main interest was of course Liverpool.  As we have reported here before Mr Hodgson is a bit of a God in the city, and has a special Hodgson Corner (Roy’s Hörna) in the stadium, complete with his own flag as testament to the five titles he won back in the late 80’s.  Oh how he wished he was back there today, dancing away to “The Look” and regretting the day he was offered a lifetime contract to stay with the club.

They also admitted, begrudgingly that rivals Helsingborgs had done well this season, and if anyone was to finish runners up it should be them.  Cannot see Everton and Liverpool (I know that Malmö and Helsingborgs aren’t city rivals) fans being so open about each other.  But that situation would have to wait for a few weeks as there was a championship to win first.

As usual the fans in the stadium surpassed themselves.  A huge semi-circular banner went up behind the goal to welcome the teams celebrating the 1999 near miss and then another to show the elation of the last Allsvenskan in 2004.  Fan choreography at its best and something that unfortunately we will simply never see in England with the ridiculous amount of regulations that treat all fans like potential criminals.  The last time I checked a simple flag, with a pole was a banned item in most stadiums in the UK.  Sit down and shut up, but don’t forget to buy your branded water/coke/burger.

Malmö FF 0 Kalmar FF 1 – Swedbank Stadion – Monday 18th October
Fifteen minutes into the game with neither side really able to create an opening news filtered through that Helsingborgs had scored at Elfsborg.  as the goal was relayed on the big screens (I still cannot get my head around this practice of showing action from other games during the match) there was a collective groan from the fans.  However it did jerk the home team into life for a minute and they went close as Agon Mehmeti ran into the box but saw his lob bounce onto the top of the net as opposed to in it.

Kalmar started to come back into the game and if it wasn’t for a smart save from Johan Dahlin on 21 minutes they would have been in the lead.  The team from the west of Sweden had surpassed all expectations in the past few years winning a Swedish Cup and then the 2008 Allsvenskan.  Their first appearance in the Champions League last season had ended at the Qualifying stages as they lost to Debrecen on away goals, but they couldn’t be underestimated.

With Elfsborg scoring a late equaliser against Helsingborgs, both title challengers went in at half time hanging onto a point, a situation that would allow for the perfect team talk surely?

Just to prove how much my Swedish had come along, at the start of the second half the Malmö fans unravelled a banner that said “Staplats reducering – Nej Tack!” which I impressively told my colleague next to me, who was from Poland, that it was a protest against a plan to reduce the amount of standing places in the stadium…Next you’ll know I will be singing Abba songs in their original language (Tak för musiken, Vinnaren tar allt and En an voss if you must know).

As the temperature dropped, and my regret for leaving my gloves back in Denmark rose the air of frustration rose.  Kalmar put ten men behind the ball whenever they could, and with Helsingborgs taking the lead in Boras it was left to the home fans to try and motivate the team to retain the initiative in the title race in the final fifteen minutes.

But then it took a turn for the worst.  Begloved (is that a word?) Kalmar forward Daniel Freire Mendes received the ball some twenty five yards out from goal, saw the keeper off his line and placed the ball perfectly into the top corner.  A harsh reward for 85 minutes worth of defending, but football can be a cruel game.

Five minutes of stoppage time sent the fans into a frenzy, and a almost freakish own goal by the Kalmar keeper raised spirits but it was not to be.  Helsingborgs win took them level on points at the top, and with just three rounds of games left it looked like being the closest championship since, erm, last season when AIK beat IFK Göteborg on the last day to pip them to the title.

If it does all go wrong in the final few weeks I am sure Roy will be available in good time for the start of next season…..

More photos from the evening can be found at our Flickr stream here.


And now for some proper atmosphere….

20 Sep

Skane and Abel

16 Sep

I’ve been to a few tasty games in my life.  Those where you wake up the next morning with cordite still wafting around your nose, a persistent ringing in your ears from the screams and chants, and if you are really lucky wearing nothing but a strange football scarf (hats off to Mr Danny Last for the last one).  Whilst we may claim to have the “Best League in the World” (©Sky Sports) we are woefully bad at generating a real atmosphere at a game.  Occasionally we get a game that may have some passionate followings, but we are so scared of the thought of two sets of fans in the same postcode at the same time that we are now experts at the “Bubble Games” – where away fans are bused in and out of a city/town/village/out-of-town shopping centre irrespective how they want to get to the game.  All in the name of safety the authorities will have us believe.

Probably the best atmosphere I had experienced was at a Milan derby in the days when Inter were crap.  So crap that they lost 6-0 in this particular game.  I had a seat, well bit of plastic bolted to the concrete in the top tier.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure, the top tier in the San Siro is a long way up.  You can either walk up approximately 200 steps, or take the long winding slope around the edge of the turrets you see on the edge of the stadium.  I chose the latter, taking around 7 minutes to get to the top.  Just as I stopped for oxygen there was a huge roar – 1-0.  I rushed into the stadium to be met with a cloud of smoke.  I was above the tifosi and their flares had created an immovable blanket.  After a few minutes it cleared enough for me to see that Milan had taken the lead, only for them to score again, and thus another five minutes of watching nothing but my neighbour chewing his nails.

And the relevance for this trip down memory lane?  Well here I was sitting in the Swedbank Stadion in Malmo watching two sets of fans putting on quite a show of support for their team.  Two questions at this point – when (and where) do they have the time to practice their “moves” and two, how do they get these massive flags made and transported.  I mean the Helsingborgs offering stretched the length of the whole stand – about 30metres.

Football in Sweden as you will know from reading our fantastic sister blog, called Football in Sweden is normally quite sedate and a raised voice can sometimes lead to ejection from the ground.  And away support isn’t always made in great numbers (our lone IP Bromma fanfor instance at Helsingborgs earlier this season) but there are a few games that really tick all of the boxes for a passionate affair.  Two such “rivals” are Malmö FF and Helsingborgs IF, separated by 40 miles of west coast highway in Skåne.  Normally these affairs are loud and noisy, but throw into the equation that after 22 games the two teams were locked together at the top of the table – something that has not happened for quite a few years.  In fact it is six years since Malmö last won the league, and over ten for Helsingborgs so the meeting of these two great rivals was seen simply as the biggest game of the season.

I love a trip over the Oresund to this part of Sweden, and since Malmö moved into their 24,000 seater Swedbank Stadion two years ago I have been a regular visitor, thanks to Patrik Jandelin, the Press Officer for the club who is a big fan of our work and is on our Christmas card list.  So a pass for this one was never going to be turned down, and as luck would have it I was in town for work (now that is a surprise!).

The festivities in the stadium started some ten minutes before the teams emerged with the Helsingborgs fans pulling their huge flag across the away end.  Impressive.  Malmö, as you would expect from the home fans, pulled out all of the steps.  Every man, woman and child in the away end had been given a flag and the simultaneous waving created an impressive blue and white carpet that rippled with excitement.  Then from the top of the stand their huge flag slowly rolled down, engulfing them all whilst the clubs anthem blared out of the sound system.  Painting a good picture yet?

Then from underneath the banner came the flares, lighting up the whole show.  Not to be outdone the Helsingborgs fans unleashed their firecrackers, making the whole stadium sound like a war zone.  In the theme of OptaJo…Special.

Malmö FF 2 Helsingborgs IF 0 – The Swedbank Stadion – Wednesday 15th September 2010
Both teams gave 100% from the first whistle and the referee had to have eyes in the back of his head, or at least once in a while look up at the big screens to see what he missed off the ball (such as Helsingborgs Mattias Lindström deliberately running at a MFF player and giving him a kick whilst the ball was nowhere near).

Despite some near misses it took until the 17th minute for the first shot on goal, and that produced the opening score as Dardan Rexhepi smashed the ball home after the Helsingborgs team had failed to clear and then gave him too much space.

Both teams had good shouts for penalties turned down in the opening period as passions ran high on and off the pitch.  It is still strange to see in Swedish football the sight of goal highlights from the other games being played at the same time being shown on the big screens during the game.  And interviewing players from both teams on the pitch as the teams go off at half time.  Strange.  Very strange.

The second half started much as the first had ended with both teams attacking each other with pace and just a slight hint of aggression.  The game ebbed and flowed with both keepers put under threat, but without actually having to make a save.

With four and a half minutes of the three (yes you read that right) played, Malmö went on one last attack and the ball was played out to Wilton Figueiredo who jinked inside before unleashing a powerful shot into the roof of the net to seal the game for the home side.

The final whistle was treated by the home fans like a cup final win, but with still half a dozen or so games left it could be a bit premature.  Bragging rights for now would be with the light blues. The official crowd of 23,743, a record for the stadium certainly got their monies worth (bear in mind the average price for a ticket for this game was less than £20).

And for me?  I had the usual Swedish transport experience on the way home – the one that makes our railways and Easyjet look competent that essentially involved sitting on trains that were due to go that didn’t, moving to other trains and then watching the original train depart and then finding out the train you are on has been cancelled and is now heading Stockholm.  A normal experience in Sweden really.  Five games in six days (plus last night’s marathon Champions League session in the pub in Copenhagen – marathon in terms of bank balance) has left me with a bit of football fatigue?  Could I get my mojo back in time for the Lewes 125th Birthday on Saturday?  Well only time will tell!

More pictures (and video now we have learnt how to press the right buttons) can be found from our Flickr stream here.