Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Compare & contrast.
Two major events & the same result for both English teams.
Beforehand it was tricky to pick a definite winner of either game. In the end Middlesborough didn't perform & Seville won relatively easily.
Boro had a tremendous run that ran out of momentum at the last hurdle & though it could be a while before they get close again their supporters certainly seemed to enjoy the experience (despite some ticket issues)
Barcelona surely deserved their victory despite Arsenal holding on until the last quarter of the game.
For the Londoners it could be the first of more such finals (but surely Chelsea will be next ?)
This time they met a team that delivered when it mattered - from Ronaldinho & Eto-o to 2 or 3 sublime touches from the departing Henrik Larsson.
Maybe it would have been different without the (inevitable) sending off , maybe Henry, Fabregas & Co. could have conjured the win but probably Barca had the stars anyway who would perform on such an occasion.
From a heatwave in Eindhoven to the rain (and later winds) of Paris my 2500 miles of driving , 6 hotels, also involved a celebration in Sedan (promotion to French League 1), some end-of-season affairs (eg at Metz) & a curious Belgium game (vs Saudi Arabia) played before 3000 or so at Sittard in southern NL.
Oh & I did see Christ .... play (moderately) in midfield for Aalen in the German Regional League against Trier's Stuff (at 6 foot 7 or so there was a lot of him)
Saturday, May 06, 2006
AIK vs Djurgardens 27th April
Considered the biggest derby in Sweden & arguably in the entire Nordic region AIK vs Djurgardens played at the Rasunda delivers a night of well-coordinated passion with the two sets of fans arrayed at either ends of the stadium.
Since there are not too many big European derbies, these days, where there is an even split of supporters the event harks back to earlier times - not least as it is staged at an old-fashioned style stadium (to English eyes)
Although not quite full the Rasunda with its the fairly steep ends does allow the atmosphere to develop.
The two sets of supporters work hard to outdo each other with modified English style chants being popular but best of all is the pre-game presentation this time ‘won’ by the AIK black army with their two sided representation of the club’s history & the name of the club.
The game initially offered typical derby fare – a fast pace but not much of a pattern.
But as is often the case a goal improved the spectacle & AIK, inspired by Derek Boateng, went on the win fairly comfortably. Apart from a couple of brief spectator interventions (one running on from each end) the game ended peacefully.
I did see some minor skirmishes outside beforehand but nothing serious - there was a reasonable sized police presence but certainly not overbearing.
At the end of the game I left quickly via Solna station with the Djurgardens support (no problems) whilst AIK celebrated back at the stadium.
FC Copenhagen vs Brondby 30th April
The big Copenhagen derby took place at 5.30pm on a coldish, wet day at the Parken stadium – for me a fairly short walk from Osterport station after I’d been to Fremad Amager vs Lyngby (who brought some lively supporters) towards the south of the city.
There seemed to be an evident mixing of fans (more so than in the Stockholm derbies for instance) without any apparent trouble.
Inside the stadium the Brondby support were at the 3-tier end with the ‘ultras’ at the front & unusually in such a stadium,the main FCK support were arrayed in the side - opposite the main stand (again with ‘ultras’ in the lower tier)
Though not comparable to ‘the Jungle’ during an Old Firm game they were nevertheless quite loud.
Both sets of supporters had their visual presentations well coordinated & a noisy atmosphere continued no doubt fuelled by the amount of beer (mainly Carlsberg ?) being drunk.
FCK with a 6 point over Brondby in the league generally had the upper hand and could have clinched the win near the end when Ijeh (on for Alvaro Santos) missed a good chance.
GAIS vs IFK Gothenburg 2nd May
The first meeting between GAIS and IFK for some years, traditionally the top two teams in Gothenburg, was switched to the (new) main Ullevi stadium to accommodate the largish crowd expected.
Although aesthetically pleasing this stadium is not really best suited to watching football or for the generation of a pulsating atmosphere.
Despite that both sets of fans, tucked away in the corners of the stadium, produced some good noise during the game with the GAIS support not missing the chance to highlight to the slightly larger IFK group the continuing tax problems currently associated with that club.
During the game GAIS had a generally good first half but once IFK got on top the result seemed (and was) inevitable.
On a pleasant day in this old port city both sets of fans mixed easily enough & to me there didn’t appear to be any aggro.
Hammarby vs AIK 3rd May
My final derby (of four) during an 8 day trip to Scandanavia was in some ways the most intense being played in a smaller more intimate stadium in the south of Stockholm.
The feeling of arriving at Gullmarsplan station and the short walk to Hammarby’s Soder Stadium, seemingly surrounded by offices and a shopping centre, together with the green & white colours of the milling fans gives you the feeling of probable intensity.
Wherever you are in this stadium is close to the action - although those watching from the overlooking buildings have more of a birds-eye view.
The 2000 or so AIK fans (streamed in away from the main shopping area/station) are allocated half of the right hand terrace (it was later announced that they did not take their full allocation) & the remainder of the stadium is Hammarby support with the ultras over in the opposite (to the main stand) side.
These 'bayen' guys beat out the hammarby… hammarby… rhythm.
The teams entered to flags & flares from the black (AIK) army and green & white from hammarby.
And the noise continued pretty much thoughout – though the black army drifted away sometime before the end (when their team conceded a second goal)
With both teams at the top of the league this was a fine win for Hammarby who despite sacrificing the extra revenue that would have been gained from playing at the Rasunda enjoyed the benefit of a passionate home crowd.
Like many I drifted away with that hammarby…hammarby …hammarby sound in my mind.
Though none of these Scandanavian derbies have the visceral intensity of (say) Turkey or Greece or South America they certainly do have their own passion & style.