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Djurgarden Trip

FC United were once again extremely fortunate to be invited to play a friendly abroad. After 3 hugely enjoyable trips to Germany, this year we were delighted to be offered a chance to play against a Djurgarden All Star XI in Stockholm. Links to previously published details about the Djurgarden, their fans organisation, Jarnkaminerna and why they wanted to make an association with our club can be found here.

The squad flew out on Thursday 21 May in readiness for the game on Friday evening. On our way from the airport to the hotel we had a short stop at the historic Olympic Stadium, so we could see where the game would be taking place. It was then that we realised what a stunning ground it is; a brick built bowl with arches all around the back of the stands and couple of towers more reminiscent of church bell towers than any structure you’d associate with a football ground. The only slight downside to the ground is the athletics track, which means the fans are further from the pitch than you’d like, but after all, this stadium was built for the 1912 Olympics not picky 21st century football supporters.

The Olympic Stadium in Stockholm

There was a short delay while lunch was sorted, so players being players they decided to have a bit of a kick around on the pitch. Unfortunately there were no footballs, but magically a mini American Football appeared - people pack some strange things for a football trip abroad. A few nifty skills were displayed by the boys kicking around their strange shaped ball and one or two showed flashes of good handling skills too. That was reassuring, because at that point the squad had no goalkeeper, after Sam Ashton had suddenly been unable to travel. His late replacement, youth team keeper Jake Edwards, was due out the following day, but his flight was scheduled to land only a few hours before kick off time, so we were making notes on which of the outfield players were the best at catching just in case.

On Friday, while the squad went training, a seminar was held at the ground with the title "United Supporters - Power and Possibilities". Several fans questioned whether an educational seminar was a sensible start to a matchday, but those who braved it discovered it was quite a laid back interesting day and it was held in one of the bars. The representatives of the Swedish Fotbollsalliansen, who organised the day, seemed to suggest the conference was partly an excuse to be allowed to serve alcohol in the ground. They might have got a larger uptake from the FC contingent if they’d advertised that benefit a bit more. All the presentations were done in English and most of the people who used notes were the native English speakers. It was amazing to hear our Swedish hosts speaking so passionately about the game in their second language. The 3 presentations given by FC United representatives will be put up on the members’ pages of this website when we get time to do it [contact office@fc-utd.co.uk if you don’t currently have access to the Members’ Pages].

Inside the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm

During the seminar, one of the organisers came over to check which flag we’d like to have flown in the stadium to represent our team, the England cross of St George or the Union flag? It was difficult to explain that actually we’d prefer neither. I did ask if they had a Yemen flag, which is a red, white and black tricolour, but not surprisingly Djurgarden’s stock of international flags didn’t run to that one.

In an echo of the problems we face at Gigg Lane, the match organisers discovered their plans to have a short kids’ game before the main match had been scuppered, because the groundsman refused to allow a second game on an already wet pitch. This was only one example of the complications Jarnkaminerna had faced in organising the game, because they didn’t have the well-oiled machinery of the main Djurgarden club behind them, so the fans organisation had to organise everything themselves. There had been one scare when they realised no one had thought to source any footballs, but in the end everything went smoothly. The Jarnkaminerna members on the turnstile were highly amused that they were now in charge of the stewards, who usually tell them how to behave on a match day. As usual we’re too disorganised to have taken proper notes for a full description of the game, but there is a brief write up here.

Inside the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm

After the game there was a party held in a function room inside the stadium, where both sets of fans could mingle with both sets of players. Later in the evening the guest of honour arrived, former Djurgarden and Manchester United player, Jesper Blomqvist. Jarnkaminerna had tried very hard to get Jesper to play in the game, but unfortunately he had a prior engagement for the evening. However, he kept his promise to drop in to the party on his way home. As he took to the stage, the crowd burst into a spontaneous rendition of "Oh Jesper, Jesper Blomqvist, Jesper Blomqvist on the wing" and Jesper told us how Jarnkaminerna had asked him if we had a song for him, but he’d said no and now he remembered that we did. He was clearly pleased. He posed for photos and signed some autographs, then went off to continue his journey, while we continued partying.

On Saturday about 50 FC United fans went to watch Hammarby, another one of the three Stockholm teams who are in the Swedish Allsvenskan (premier division). It was very generous of our hosts to help us arrange this via Hammarby fan Ulric Jansson, who had been the chair of the previous day’s seminar. I’m not sure we’d have felt so benign if a team visiting us had expressed a desire to take in a Manchester City game. They got the last laugh though, as we endured a turgid 0-0 draw, which was only enlivened by being in the midst of their raucous crowd who sang and bounced non-stop throughout the game. It was a bit like our 90-90, but as they had a drummer and a singer leading their chants and their team play in green, perhaps it was a little more like Nantwich. Some FC United fans had taken in an AIK game on the Thursday, which also finished 0-0, so our fans had seen a lot of football in Sweden, but mostly only goals scored by our own players.

FC United of Manchester and Djurgarden All Star XI

At the Hammarby game we noticed that the chocolate bars on sale were called Plopp and Kex. Unable to resist the double meaning of those words in English, Margy bought one of each, but was passing them round rather than eating both himself. You don’t get a figure like his from eating two chocolate bars (twenty-two, maybe!). It led to the sight of several FC fans eating our manager’s Plopp and Kex. Toilet humour; it was the theme of the weekend really.

All in all it was an excellent trip. Club captain, David Chadwick said "We’ve been very lucky to have played so many times in Europe, starting at Leipzig in our first season. This was another fantastic chapter in the FC story and a great ending for us beating their All Stars."

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First Posted ~ 08:42 Tue 26 May 2009
News ID ~ 2266
Last Updated ~ 08:42 Tue 26 May 2009