The hangover was palpable. Flashbacks of hugging and signing and Gy’s tears and Martin’s billiards and Colin’s blood. It was a heavy comedown from the joy of defeat from the previous day’s Frem-AB showdown. But the show must go on and what a way to go on. A trip to Sweden: land of Ikea, Volvos, expensive beer, meatballs, ABBA and other lazy stereotypes.
Welcome to the Swedbank
Malmo was just a short hop and a skip from downtown Copenhagen, but now it is slightly more jumpy after the imposition of border controls by the Swedish government. We had our passports, but the passport control people (other people typically call these guys the police, but not me) seemed to be going down the racial profiling route targeting a couple of Brazilian ladies who were unable to explain why they had no Danish stamps in their passports (it is called Schengen lads). Anyway, I am doing the usual first couple of paragraph drift.
Malmo is lovely. The sun was shining. We grabbed a couple of very expensive 3.5% lagers from the local shop (all sales of alcohol above 3.5% must be via the Systembolaget (or Swedish booze monopoly), which I was too hungover to make any effort to track down) and sat in a park watching some skateboarders do their boarding. I owned a skateboard once. Malmo could have been the dictionary definition of an idyll at this moment. We even caught a glimpse of some women playing football (women playing football!?!?) at the lovely little Malmö Idrottsplats, whilst enjoying falafel. Sweden is the future. (Although a strange feeling of walking around Wimbeldon Common with a far larger hangover depressed at a life I could seemingly never have was quickly suppressed to the back of my mind).
Except it got better. The walk towards the stadium turned out to take us through some oasis of calm and a lovely sculpted garden. My hangover had more or less dissipated and I was starting to plan how Gy and I could create a farm of small blond Swedish children (that sounds pretty odd). I have never been to a more relaxing approach to a stadium than this. We were even treated to the sight of the slightly erotic looking, but unoriginally named Malmö Stadion: the previous home to Malmö FF and current home to lower-league IFK Malmö. It looked like a communist spaceship turned upside and dotted with faded blue seats. There was even a disused water feature on the outside. I promise photos next time.
However, we were heading for the Swedbank Stadion. A modern stadium, which brought shudders down my spine. Is this the future, Sweden? Maybe the future looked better in the 1950s. We (now joined by our Swedish friend, Tobias (you’re famous now J)) collected our tickets despite my inability to count the number of tickets required (3 and 4 are very similar). Very friendly, competent ticket office people. Good job, Malmö FF. We were even given the red carpet treatment as we scuttled our way in through the VIP entrance to get to the wheelchair section. Knowledge of Martin’s previous indiscretions must have reached Sweden as he was the only person accompanied by three minders. And what an excellent section we found ourselves in right at the back of the main terrace.
The difference from the Swedish idyll outside was immediately apparent. That idyll combined with my hangover and the Ikea stadium had led me to fear the worst. I was wrong. What an incredibly passionate bunch of fans Malmö have. Some of that passion verged on balaclava wearing scariness, but only some. This group of 3,000 or 4,000 standing fans sang throughout and even snapped me into some of their more catchy numbers.
The Swedish league is played as a summer season so whilst the rest of Europe is winding to the business end, Sweden is a mere four games in. Malmö have had an average start having won exactly the same amount of games as they have lost without sharing the points with anyone (I have been flirting with adding more riddles to my posts). Today’s rivals were those uptown boys (looking for some downtown girls), Stokholm’s very own, Djugården. The only two Swedish people I knew before moving to Scandinavia were both Djugården fans (one of them was suppressing his emotions next to us). Djugården were sitting pretty towards the top of the table and from the get-go, it was apparent that they were happy to go back to the Venice of the North of Sweden (as I now call it) with a point.
But they were going to be disappointed (totally spoiled the suspense there). Malmö powered home a header through the frankly excellent Felipe Carvalho from a corner midway through the second half to send the fans below us into raptures and reignite dreams of meeting Europe’s elite again in 18 months or so. Malmö deserved it as well dominating the chances with Djugården reduced to hit and hope and no Plan B. (I would have been pretty disappointed spending 5 hours on a coach from Stokholm to watch that performance).
Overall, this was excellent fun. I fear that the Matrix of Truth would have scored Malmö highly although the cost (financial and time) and ready availability of vaguely reasonably priced beer weighs against making regular trips across the sea. But I will be back even if it is just to learn exactly what those people from Stokholm are according to the songs of the Malmö faithful…
As an absolute side note, you may or may not know that Zlatan comes from Malmö and is considered in understandable high regard in these parts. When his PSG came to town in autumn 2015, he paid for a giant screen to be erected in Stortorget (imaginatively named, Big Square) so the locals could watch. Anyway, I really wanted to call this post Zlatanarama, but it seemed too tenuous. However, I hearby reserve that name for some future more Zlatan related post. I just looked it up and it does not seem to have been taken but ‘zlaterna’ is Swedish for ‘to dominate’. When football meets linguistics, my sweet spot.
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