Tag Archives: Swedbank Stadion

The start of the gravy train for another season

13 Jul

“Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event!”

Of course we all recognise the above three lines as the opening verse of the Champions League anthem.  The music that stirs our loins for a night of the “best football in the world” ©UEFA.  For those trivia buffs amongst you you may want to know that the song was commissioned by UEFA in 1992 and was aired on the night of the first ever round of games in the tournament in August 1992.  In fact for you real real trivia buffs you may want to know that it was first played on the 19 August in the Ta’Qali stadium in Malta when the teams from Valletta and Maccabi Tel Aviv took to the field.

It was written by English composer Tony Britten and he adapted George Frideric Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” from the Coronation Anthems, and the piece was performed by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Well tonight Matthew I would be attending my first Champions League tie for over a year ‘cross the bridge in my second, sorry third home (oops forgot TBIR Towers in London there..CMF wont be pleased with that slip) Malmö as they took on 21 times Faroese champions Havnar Bóltfelag Tórshavn in the Second Qualifying Round first leg of the 57th year of Europe’s premier football competition, and the 20th since the start of the Champions League format as we know it today.  The 24th ranked nation according to UEFA versus the 48th.

Malmö, Swedish Champions last season have high hopes of reaching the group stages this year.  Only six games stand between them and a place in the Group Stages.  Easy peasy really.  If they did overcome the Faroe Islanders they could look forward to FC Copenhagen, Genk or even Rangers in the next round if they are unlucky (For a great view on the seedings, coefficients and all that stuff that is too complex for my brain, head over and see Bert)

As the Malmo anthem struck up four lone figures in the south stand stood up and held up a Faroe Island flag with great pride.  It is a long road to Munich in May but they were prepared for the long haul.  I just hoped that they weren’t the infamous HB Hooligan firm who, according to Wikipedia mind, “crushed the Dinamo Zagreb hooligans in 10 seconds”.

This was the Faroe Islanders eleventh Champions League tie.  They had won twice before, the last being against FC WIT Georgia back in 2004 and most online bookies I checked with prior to the game weren’t giving them much hope of a repeat tonight (25/1 on as Alan confirmed to me mid-match with the score still 0-0).  I would have bit his arm off on backing the Faroe Islanders who almost sixteen years to the day had beaten Skansin Tórshavn 22-0.  But that would have made me clinically insane.

Still as Greavsie used to say, “It’s a funny old game Saint”.  I officially declare my Champions League season open.  God bless it and all who get in my way.  Time for a delicious cake, a cup of strong coffee and an attempt to get my tongue quite literally around some very strange names.

Malmö FF 2 HB Tórshavn 0 – Malmö Stadion – Wednesday 13th July 2011
With the formalities over the singing started up from the Blues choir behind the goal.   The best thing about coming to watch football here is not the fantastic cakes in the press room, or pastel coloured shirts, or even the strange seats that you have to swivel your whole body to get it. It is without a doubt the constant soundtrack the game is played to by the Tifosi.  And tonight was no exception.

Twenty minutes gone and some nervous glances were being exchanged around the press box.  Apart from a great fingertip save by Teitur Gestsson, Malmö could not break down the 11 men HB put behind the ball at all times.  Well, actually it was 12 as HB’s “centre forward” Andrew Av Fløtum was the size of a bus.

Twenty eight minutes gone and here was the opening goal.  Strong run down the wing, great cross, keeper beaten and the ever reliable Rexhepi was on the far post to nod in.  Except he didn’t.  He head over.  Queue more groans, shaking of heads and kicking of cats (not literally RSPCA it is a metaphor in this case).

As the game drifted towards half time and the HB players took every opportunity to waste some more time I noticed a couple of things about the ground.  Firstly there were no Champions League partner ads.  No PlayStation, Amstel, Ford or even a Rainham Steel lurking behind the goal.  And secondly, the two screens that normally relayed the action, and more importantly the replays, were switched off.  Good job there wasn’t much to show!

It was a disappointing half, let’s be honest Malmö fans.  But for the visitors the best they could have hoped for was a draw and so the game plan needed to take this into account.

The second half saw the home side batter HB from the first minute.  In fact it wasn’t until the 55th minute that they actually got the ball out of their half.  By that stage Malmö’s corner count had reached double figures and at last the small HB keeper had been forced into making a save.

Two minutes later the goal finally came.  Another deep cross from the left and again Rexhepi was left unmarked.  This time he headed firmly downwards and not up and the ball hit the back of the net.  Cue 12,548 fans exhaling all at once to drive those wind turbines in the middle of the Øresund and light up Copenhagen.

The home fans expected the flood gates to open, especially as Tórshavn actually deployed a forward who even ran into the Malmö half once in a while.  But it took a further twenty minutes before they scored again.  Another cross, more confusion in the box and Thorleifson put through his own net.

Apart from  a couple more near misses there was no more action.  Malmö would have taken the score if not the performance at 7pm and the second leg in the wind and rain in the Faroes should not cause too many problems.  But then again, it is a funny old game.

More pictures can be found at our Flickr stream here.

twitter / theballisround

Advertisements

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.

 

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.

Ny grund, samma historie

22 May

For those of you who slept through O-Level Swedish (showing my age there – anyone under the age of 30 will assume O-levels are services offered by call girls and escorts)  you may not know that the above means “New ground, same story” and that sums up the history of Malmo FF in recent times.  Last season they looked like they may break the mid table mediocrity for a period in the summer, but in the end 6th place was a disappointment.  I had visited the lovely little town on the other side of the bridge from Copenhagen twice before (See my posts from last season here and there ) but since then they had built a spanking new stadium, and sold the naming rights accordingly. Continue reading