So after my drunken anti-Rangers outburst last time out, let’s continue the journey into the depths of hell that is Scottish football by becoming a Hibernian fan for their away day to Brøndby.
Incredibly (a word that my strike somewhat of hyperbole), this is my first visit to Brøndby. Brøndby play at the beautifully named Brøndby Stadium although known by the locals as the Vilfort Stadium after legendary moustachioued midfielder, Kim Vilfort, who played over 300 games for the club. He started his career at BK Frem – just saying.
Where are we?
The stadium is located in (surprise, surprise) Brøndby, a suburb located on the Western fringes of Copenhagen; therefore, requiring a train trip and a deceptively long walk to reach the arena that holds between 22,000 and 29,000 people depending on whether it is a domestic (with) or European (without standing) match. We were a little late arriving, not helped by the fact that we had to do a full orbit of the stadium to reach the away section. For today, we were to be Scottish!!
This match was the second leg of the Europe League Second Qualifying Round. Brøndby won the first leg after scoring more or less straight from kick-off thanks to a howler from the Hibs goalie (dropped for this game) allowed a tap-in from a yard or two out. Hibs had their own goal ruled out for a soft looking offside which saw Neil Lennon (new Hibs manager) sent to the stands. All in all, a little harsh.
You may be asking why Hibs (of the Scottish second tier) are in European competition at all. Their participation (and the reason for the perpetual sunshine on Leith in 2016) is thanks to their Scottish Cup victory last year over Rangers (a purely neutral, factual statement). At this point, I would like to point out that I don’t have anything particular against Rangers or Celtic except that Scotland may be better off without them. (They’d also be better off without the English, but that is another story.)
Entering the bowels of the away end, we were surprised to find Carlsberg on sale. I was under the very strong impression that alcohol sales were prohibited at all UEFA games. The server woman insisted it was real beer, but with Carlsberg it is very difficult to work out if it is booze free given that the original tastes likes pig swill anyway. We bought a glass anyway.
Scots on Tour. Some detritus.
Just over 11,000 turned up for the game of which I would guess there were 600 or so Hibs fans. I have said this before, but I am always amazed how much swearing a Scottish football fan can actually manage. They are not a hugely reserved bunch and my ears were hit by a deafening wall of cursing. Gy loved it! “Get to fuck, fuck you”. Powerful words.
I quite enjoyed the game. It was very much a blood and thunder Northern European game and the Romanian ref probably didn’t really get to grips with it. When both sets of fans are howling disapproval, you have probably not had your best night. For example, the referee played advantage as a Hibs player knocked the ball forward to a teammate who was offside. The referee gave offside. I am fairly certain that that does not constitute an advantage. He was also incredibly lenient with the yellows given the number of boots being left in and had every right to dismiss a Hibs player late in the game for a professional foul.
So much swearing. So at home.
The game was competitive, but to be honest Brondby looked fairly comfortable in the first half. Hibs needed to score, but big man Grant Holt (!) was looking so immobile he was struggling to keep himself onside. The second half Hibs came out with a bang roared on by the end towards which they were attacking. You had a feeling a goal was coming as the momentum swung ever towards the team in green. In came the corner, the ball fell lose at the back post to Davie Gray who popped the ball over the keeper whilst performing some weird diving yoga move. Bedlam.
So many double handed fist pumps. So at home.
Gy and I had just been discussing before the difference between British and European fans. For want of better words, I described British fans as more organic and more attached to the flow of the game. European fans on the other hand are far more choreographed. They will make the same amount of noise win, lose or draw and irrespective of the state of the game. This Hibs goal illustrated my point. Absolute bedlam. The space between the front row of seats and the fence turned from a good natured dance floor into an absolute mosh pit. We observed from a relatively safe distance. An incredible outpouring of joy the likes of which I don’t quite think European teams get (I may well be wrong).
The noise in the Hibs end was turned up to maximum and Brøndby looked edgy that they may be on the edge of a knock-out blow from a Scottish second tier side. Hibs could not find the knockout blow and their threat was diminished when Hun Slayer, David Gray was forced off injured after a cynical body check. Brøndby composed themselves and finished the game stronger and had a couple of gilt edged chances to kill the tie off.
Extra-time. It was tentative, but surprisingly high-paced given the huge effort especially from Hibs. I don’t think Hibs consciously closed up shop, but they were definitely on the back foot and by the last five minutes, they were hanging on for penalties. Gy was getting tired.
And then came a moment in sporting history. TimmyBacsi does penalties. It has been something that I have been waiting for for a long time (actually this record stretches well back past the birth of TimmyBacsi). Somewhat surprisingly, I was nervous. I have written before how my love for a football team is fleeting. But maybe the drama of penalties turned this into a holiday romance.
Fortunately the penalties were at our end meaning there was no need to be asquinting through the netting that Brøndby kindly erected in front of us. Brøndby up first. 1-0. (I realize that this next passage could become a series of random numbers) 1-0. F’’k. Johnny McGinn 2-0. 2-1. 3-1. 3-2. 4-2. 4-3. 5-3. Game over. Only the agonizingly off both posts fourth penalty for Brøndby was close to missing. In real time (versus TV), penalties seem to be over incredibly quickly. Possibly thanks to the absence of the incessant drivel of football commentators. Given how involved I was in this shootout, I am not sure I could cope with one even closer to my heart.
Time to face the walk and then the train home. Lots of police milling around adding an unnecessary threat. IF I could describe Scottish football fans in three words it would be drunk, happy and angry. Fortunately, the first two adjectives tend to trump the last as proven when the angry man in a bra and cycle helmet on the train was quickly told to pipe down.
Danes. Like Germans. At penalties.
Scots. Like English. At penalties.
In summary, I was impressed with Hibs and thought the players gave it all. I would be worried as Brøndby fan losing at home to a team from the second tier of a nation whose champions just lost to the Gibraltar champions. It was not great watching and maybe I have overestimated the quality of Danish football. Hertha Berlin up next week. It could get messy.
The sun will never set on Leith. (I once had the cheesiest pizza ever in Leith. Honestly must have been a block of cheddar on that thing.)
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