Monday 10th August 2015 ko 19.07
A.I.K. 1 (Bangura 54) Sundberg sent off 32 (DOGSO)
DJURGÅRDEN 0 Arvidsson sent off 74 (2nd booking)
Picture the scene; I’m pottering around on a Sunday morning, and a message pops up on my mobile phone. “Would I like a free ticket to the Stockholm derby in 2 weeks’ time?” The answer of course was yes, but there was the not unsubstantial issue of how I was going to get there, and at what cost?
But sometimes you just have put good sense to one side and just do it. The flights were simple enough, Gatwick to Arlanda and back albeit at premium, last-minute prices, and with an early morning flight afterwards I used the opportunity to do something I’d wanted to do for years, stay in the converted PanAm 747 in the airport’s grounds. But how did I come by the ticket?
It’s a long story, but the abbreviated version is that back in 2011 I volunteered to be linesman in a Swedish 6th division game, and got on rather well with the couple that ran the club. Via social media we kept in contact, and each time I find myself back in beautiful Stockholm we meet up for a coffee and a chat. They own a grocery store near to the Friends Arena, and as official suppliers to the National Stadium of fruit and veg get complimentary tickets to fixtures. With them being away for this game, they were kind enough to offer me the chance to go! So tack/thank you to Per and Elisabeth, and the next coffee is now on me!
If there’s one Swedish match you really would want to drop everything for, it’s this one. In Swedish its referred to as “Tvillingderbyt”, or the “Twins Derby” a reference to the fact that the two clubs were founded within three weeks of each other in 1891, but neither actually extended their activities to include football for 5 years.
The two clubs are Stockholm’s most successful, and in 230 fixtures in all competitions prior to this, there have been 84 AIK wins with Djurgården winning 82. It’s always hugely competitive, and the rivalry also extends to the clubs’ other sports such as Ice Hockey, Floorball, and Basketball.
I was fortunate to meet with AIK fan and Swedish football statistician Mats Nyström. I remember his comment in an article we both featured in, that when the statistics society meets, “Victoria Silvstedt could walk in the room naked, and no one would notice.” After the obligatory Beer and Planksteak, we strolled over to what little is now left of the old national stadium, the Råsunda.
Its loss was keenly felt by many, me included, but also the AIK fans as they used the ground for home games too. Mats told me that the Brazilian Football Federation objected as it was where the talents of Pele reached the European consciousness during the 1958 World Cup, but with one end subsiding and funds needed to help pay for the new ground, the Råsunda had to be sacrificed. But however logical the explanation, Mats and I hated standing where the grand old lady of Swedish football once stood.
And let’s face it, the new ground isn’t entirely without its own issues. For a start, in a country known for the quality of its public transport, there is a rather off-putting walk from either Solna (rail) station, Solna (metro) centrum, or the newly-installed tram line. It’s fine if you’re able-bodied, but the 10 minute walk would put off,for example, my elderly father.
Once you’re there, the stadium is perfect for a national stadium with its capacity of 50,600 but is far too big for AIK’s needs. The proof of the pudding is this game with all that history, still saw the crowd over 10,000 under capacity. But for all that, this was one of those evenings where you really wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
For me it started slowly, enjoying a joke with the frankly stunning girl who sold me my programme. Showing remarkable customer service, she felt the need to inform me that the magazine was entirely in Swedish and therefore I wouldn’t be able to understand much of it! I responded that I would learn Swedish…. very slowly.
The terraces slowly filled (seats are added for internationals) and a DIF capo perched himself on a fence, and a long piece of material held by an underling served as a counterbalance as he yelled his choice of chant out via, would you believe his own public address system!? The teams arrived on to the pitch with that look of forced nonchalance that is only ever seen at huge games, but the fun really started just before kick-off.
In a highly choreographed display the DIF fans firstly waved flags, then those on the top two sections threw streamers before the front of the bottom two decks started a huge display of multi=coloured smoke bombs. All very colourful, but in a stadium with a retractable rood the gap for smoke dispersal was limited so kick-off was delayed 15 minutes until the TV producers were happy that the cameras could see.
Don’t think the AIK fans were to be outdone though, their display was just before the start of the second half, and the yellow smoke delayed matters for 20 minutes! I have to say I do think issuing the stewards with gas masks was a little over-the-top though!
With Djurgården in a fine vein of form and second it was hardly surprising that they made the brighter start. I looked at a static-looking AIK defence with the veteran Nils Eric Johansson (Leicester City, and Blackburn Rovers) and the pace of Sam Johnson up front for DIF, and wondered how long it would take the visitors to break through. Chances came, chances went with AIK keeper Patrik Carlgren in inspired mood. But it was only a question of time wasn’t it?
That feeling was increased the contentious dismissal of AIK centre back Noah Sonko Sundberg for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity after half an hour. I thought there were 2 covering defenders, but AIK now had a mountain to climb, and a decision to make. The obvious move was to put Johansson to centre back, sacrifice a forward and use substitute Kenny Pavey at full back.
Pavey’s career is interesting in that the English player has never played professionally in his home country. He started in Millwall’s youth set-up, but after a transfer to Aston Villa failed to materialise, he moved to Sweden in 1998 after a stint at Sittingbourne. Since then he’s played at Osters, Ljungskile and AIK, and comes with a reputation for being rugged and collecting yellow cards. In fact as he warmed up the fans around me joked that he’d be booked before half time.
That didn’t happen, mainly because he came on at the start of the second half, but the most obvious change after all the yellow smoke had cleared was that Djurgården weren’t imposing themselves as before, and just after the hour Pavey made the first of his contributions, and yes a yellow card was involved.
He bombed forward, overlapping on the left, and was taken out by DIF full-back Jesper Arvidsson who collected a caution for the challenge. Stefan Ishsizaki swung in the free kick, which looked too heavy, but Mohamed Bungura was lurking at the back of the box to stroke the ball home to send three-quarters of the ground into rapture.
Djurgården’s cause was made more difficult with the dismissal of Arvidsson 10 minutes later, and yes Pavey was involved. Arvidsson bombed forward in a similar way that Pavey had previously, but overstretched himself in a tackle with Pavey, and missed the ball, taking out Pavey instead. An obvious booking and he collected his dismissal phlegmatically.
Oddly, that stung Djurgården in to life and for the rest of the game only the heroics of Pavey, Johansson and the brilliance of Carlgren kept the visitors at bay. The final whistle went and the AIK fans erupted in joy as I quietly shuffled back the train to Arlanda. I’d completely failed to take into account the delays due to the pyro, so with reception at the Jumbo Hostel closing at midnight I was a little tight for time.
The train, two buses and an hour later, I spent probably the shortest time I’ve ever spent in a hotel. But I’ve no regrets, I needed that shower and I slept soundly, it had been quite a day! But it was beyond doubt the most expensive free ticket I’ve ever had!