With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.
Saturday 18th June 2011 ko 16.00
HAMMARBY IF 1 (Ayranci 11)
IFK VÄRNAMO 0
Att 7,478 at Söderstadion, Stockholm
1 Swedish Krona is roughly 85p
The standing joke here was that this was the highest attendance ever to attend as hop game, as this was the 3rd game of a day that had started with my flag waving exploits at Åkersberga. The attendance was of course exceeded when the 2019 Swedish Hop visited Denmark’s (!) Parken Stadium which proves nothing else than any hop organiser should measure their success on how many extra people the event attracts, rather than on the absolute attendance figure.
And for the record Swedish Hop organiser Kim Hedwall saw it the same way- albeit with a twinkle in his eye!
Of course Hammarby are the achingly hipster club from Södermalm, in Stockholm’s now gentrified but formerly working-class southern suburbs. If fan activism, pyro displays and loud, English-influenced chanting are your thing then you’ll love “The Bajen!” I really must be in Stockholm for Hammarby’s first game of the season one year to watch the “Bajentage” tradition of 10,000 fans walking to the stadium through the streets of Södermalm.
But there is very much the spirit of the underdog about Hammarby, even though they are one of the biggest clubs in Sweden. They have won just one championship, in 2001 under under coach Soren Cratz. Frankly seeing them in the second tier Superettan was a shame, the club was and is far too big to to be playing at that level and the next year, 2012, on in the Swedish hop we saw the fun/chaos the Hammarby fans caused at Degerfors.
They’d been at the Söderstadion since its opening in 1966, but there’d been stadia at the site since Johanneshov Idrottsplats opened in 1928 and Hammarby moved here in 1950 after leaving the ground the football section of the club was formed at- Hammarby IP. Interestingly the Swedish Hop was due to visit there in June, as the now redeveloped ground now hosts Hammarby TFF, a feeder club to the main team and its canalside stadium (often referred to as Kanalplan) is well worth a visit. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually.
But back in 2011 we were at the Söderstadion for the simple reason that it wasn’t long for the world, it was demolished in 2013 and yes I know the posters do say 2012- it got delayed a little! But as iconic as the ground was, it was obvious why a new ground was required. The capacity was a mere 12,800 – too small for either a side wanting to establish themselves back in the Allsvenskan or for major European football. Even derbies against A.I.K. or Djurgården tended to be played at the Råsunda Stadion in Solna. Then there was the question of the East stand….
This was of course the Swedish Hop that had Lars and Christian from “Offside” magazine embedded with the party. For this game we were also joined by Mats from the Swedish Society of Football Statisticians. He gained a certain fame by commenting,
“If Victoria Silvestedt walked into one of our meetings naked, no one would notice”
I remember the coach dropping us off the other side of the ring road, and seeing the huge scaffolding erection that served as the eastern stand and thinking that I hoped our tickets weren’t for that edifice. It didn’t look massively secure, although being Swedish it undoubtedly it was!
There was a quick press call, the Swedes do seem to find the idea that British people would be remotely interested in Swedish football charming but incomprehensible. And yes our tickets were for the East Stand…. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d feared, far better than the similar but smaller away end at Gillingham FC’s Priestfield.
Truthfully I rather enjoyed it up there, and the view of the Globen to our left and the Stockholm skyline to our right was spectacular although I’m bound to say my view may well have been different if it had been cold and hammered down with rain! We caught Hammarby in a tough season, this win was important as they only avoided relegation by winning their final game against Angelholms. Seeing Hammarby playing in regional football would have been unthinkable.
We arrived back at the coach as were treated to a talk by a representative of one of Hammarby’s fan groups. The English influence was clear, he was a Liverpool fan, and since the club has stopped doing so, and his group thought they should, took over production of the matchday programme. The editorial policy put in place to allow the magazine to be sold in the stadium’s environs was complicated to put it mildly!
We departed, bound for planksteaks at a Serb-owned Italian restaurant in Solna with Christian and Lars very creditably in tow. We passed the building site the other side of the Globen that 2 years’ later would become the Tele-2 Arena- just a 10 minute walk south of the old ground, with the Globen metro station equidistant. I was fortunate enough to visit the new ground in 2015, in time to take the cable car up to the top of the Globen and take in both the new and old grounds. And before you comment, yes it was for groundsharers Djurgården! There was also time afterwards to go for a pint with Christian too, I told you he was a good bloke!
IFK Värnamo survived the Superettan’s relegation playoffs in 2011…. and 2012 and 2013. They managed some short of stability after that but in 2018 were once again involved in the relegation playoffs. This time they did get relegated, and have played in Division One Södra (south) since.
Hammarby did make it back to the Allsvenskan; they won the 2014 Superettan and since then have established themselves back in the Swedish top tier. They finished third in the 2019 Allsvenskan and qualified for the Europa League. The short move has benefited the club in terms of attendances too. The final complete season at the Söderstadion in 2012 saw an average attendance of 8,463 but for the 2019 the average was 24,232.
But what do the Bajen fans think? Do they miss the Söderstadion? I think you know the answer to that!