Saturday 20th November 2021 15.00
Allsvenskan (Swedish top flight)
Malmö FF 2 BK Häcken 2 HT: 1-0 Att: 17,218
Kolak 5, Abubakari 84 : Jeremejeff 63, Walemark 70
Sunday 21st November 2020 15.00
Superliga (Danish top flight)
FC København 1 AGF 1 HT: 1-0 Att: 25,814
Lerager 45+1 : Mortensen 90+5 (pen)
In November my mate and I went on a scandinavian football adventure. The cities of Copenhagen, in Denmark, and Malmö, in Sweden are separated by the Øresund Bridge, which is the one in the Scandi drama of the same name, you know, the female detective with a penchant for woolly jumpers?
I had always thought that it would be a great hop to do Malmö and Copenhagen over a weekend, fixtures allowing, with the bonus of ticking off two countries. I must’ve expressed this dream to my mate, who came back to me, unexpectedly, with dates in November for just such a double, with Malmö playing on the 20th and Copenhagen on the 21st.
Adding extra spice and incentive, both teams were vying for their respective championships; Malmö looking favourites to win the Allvenskan, sitting just above Djurgärden and Copenhagen trying to close the small gap on leaders Midtjylland in the Superliga
That wasn’t all though. In the last 18 months I’d taken on another groundhopping style hobby, called parkrun tourism. Parkruns take place in about 20 countries worldwide, mainly in Europe. They are a 5k run, every Saturday morning at 9am. They’re open to everybody and tend to take place in parks and trails, often old railway lines. They started in Bushy Park in 2004. Since then, around 700 new venues have popped up, in the UK alone. I have two within 5 miles of me. There is a free app simply called 5k, (like futbology), that has all the stats for your parkruns and various geeky challenges and badges.
The most popular challenge is to run a parkrun starting with every letter of the alphabet, save X (of which there are none). Others include the stopwatch challenge, where you try to finish in a time where the seconds part is every number between 00 and 59. The most obscure is the fibonacci challenge. At each parkrun the events are numbered, and in the fibonacci challenge you must run at an event number corresponding to all the fibonacci numbers from 1 to 610.
I just love the stats. I think the only reason I took up running is for these stats. Anyway, as a result of this newfound hobby, I thought I’d see if Denmark did parkruns (or Sweden for that matter). It turns out both do, and in fact Denmark was the second country to take them up. There are six Danish ones in total, with four in the Copenhagen area. I was spoilt for choice!
Two new grounds and one parkrun – doodah, doodah.
A new country for my 5k app and the letter A for Amager Strandpark Parkrun for the alphabet challenge.
All this geekernalia for just £19.99 Ryanair return flight from Liverpool to Copenhagen. Appropriately, given the destination, this really was a Carlsberg weekend.
We stayed in Copenhagen the first night, within walking distance of the start of the parkrun, on the reclaimed land to the East of the city known as Amager Strandpark. The start point was a jetty about 200m long from which you could see the famous Øresund Bridge and Sweden. The route was two laps of the park and conservation area, before finishing back at the start of the jetty. I finished in the bronze medal position, amazingly. It was scenic and bracing, a great start to the weekend.
From here we got the train to Malmö for their 15.00 game v Bolklubben Häcken (BK Häcken). Trains cross roughly every 10/15 minutes from the airport station, which in turn is on the subway line and cost around £10. I believe buses are also frequent from Copenhagen centre and the airport. The first part of the crossing is actually a 2.5 mile tunnel under the water, that emerges, molelike, on an artificial island, moulded with the land dug up to construct the crossing. The island is called Peberholm, named to go alongside the real island further north in the channel, called Saltholm (Salt and Pepper).
Where it pops up on Peperholm island, is the beginning of the 5 mile bridge to Sweden, with the trains taking the lower deck.
Public transport in Malmö is a bit limited. There is no subway for a start. However, it is very flat and bikes are available at multiple docking stations and are easy to extract using an app costing around £5 per hour. This was a good way to get around Malmö, we found, and quite an experience. Of the two cities I’d say Malmö was less impressive, probably not enough there to warrant a weekend in itself, but the city centre is pleasant with lots to do.
Also, a note of caution on the bikes. We left it quite late to drop the bikes off and the docking point near the ground had only one space left, which was faulty. Finding where to put the bike proved extremely stressful. They were on a clock that was only stopped by clicking it into a stand. Dumping it was not an option, unfortunately. I had to pedal 19 to the dozen to an alternative hub, the other side of the ground, where I had to wrestle the bike into a partially obscured docking point, the time to kick off counting down exasperatingly quick.
Both games cost just over £17 per ticket and were relatively easy to purchase online. Depending on where you want to stand or sit, you can pay between £15 and £50. Considering they are each multiple title winners in their countries, this is great value, reminding me of the good old days of top flight football in England, before the Premier League.
In front of Stadion Malmö is what I thought at first was their ground, but is actually a big athletics stadium. Stadion Malmö is fairly uniform with two-tier stands skirting round the whole ground, with light blue seats, in the club colours. The stands are close to the pitch making for a good atmosphere. Iv I could compare it to an English ground it most resembles Loftus Road, or even more so Highfield Road, Coventry’s old ground. It has a capacity of 22,500.
It was a great atmosphere in the ground, with lots of singing and letting off of flares. Malmö made the perfect start with a goal in the first five minutes. Despite the home team’s domination they would come to rue their profligacy in the second half. Only 1-0 down at the break, Häcken fought back, equalising through a tap in from the two-names-in-one player Jeremejeff. A small cohort of away fans, having travelled 300 kilomtetres from the north, exploded behind the goal. And it got even better for them seven minutes later when Walemark smacked it in the the bottom corner after some penalty area pinball. This was not in the script and Malmö fans were floored, fearing losing the title to Djurgården.
Spurred on by a raucous crowd Malmö managed to equalise on 84 when Abubakari powered a header home from a perfect cross. A winner would have been a magical end to the game, but 2-2 was probably fair. A dent in Malmö’s title challenge.
We stayed the night in Malmö before heading back along the Øresund Bridge Sunday morning. Both Sweden and Denmark were astronomically expensive, I’d say more or less equal. Beforehand, I’d read that Denmark prices were OK, similar to England. Well, that reviewer must either live in Kensington & Chelsea or a motorway service station, as this is most definitely NOT the case. The cost of food and drink in Denmark is eye-wateringly expensive; it’s difficult to acclimatise to, every new café or restaurant experience it’s difficult not to wince and suck in breath, like a dodgy mechanic about to give you a quote for a new gearbox. I can’t underestimate just how staggeringly expensive it is. Pints start at about £8; for nicer pints around £10. If you want a meal anywhere you’re looking at £20. That’s not for fine dining either, that’s for bog-standard fare. The first night in Copenhagen, we went to a dive of a place on the outskirts and paid £20 each for two meals that had probably been microwaved and were very poor and lukewarm. God knows what you pay for a decent meal. Coffees start at around £4.50.
It is the same story in Sweden. It is difficult for the cost of food and drink not to put a bit of a dampener on the weekend. After paying so little for the flight, one’s fooled into believing the whole weekend will be a frugal affair. Not a chance, unless you want to starve and dehydrate. If you wanted to do it on a tight budget, I’d recommend an Airbnb place with cooking facilities, as the supermarket prices weren’t so bend over and take that.
Back in Copenhagen on the Sunday, we walked down to Telia Parken and Copenhagen’s must-win game against AGF (full name: Aarhus Gymnasticforening) who play 200km away, just above the middle of the main peninsula, that attaches to Germany. They were lying in mid table. The Telia Parken Stadium is iconic and was used for the 2020 Euros, distinctive for it’s steep stands hugging the pitch in a very boxy formation, that reminds me of a lego or subbuteo stadium. The capacity is 38,500.
Again the atmosphere was electric, even more so than Malmö. There was a real sense of occasion as, building up to kick-off, they played some rousing songs to get the fans going, starting with Metallica’s Enter Sandman. At the kiosks you could get a six-pack of lagers in a cardboard tray, which were proving very popular, and lay at people’s feet all along the stands. It was tempting, as the economy of scale reduced the price per pint considerably. However, having already had two, we weren’t sure another three each was wise. We did get one each however, for about £10 a piece, and soaked up the pre-match atmosphere.
I was well impressed with the away support from AGF. At least 2,000 made the long trip from the mainland for this tie, not something I’d have expected from a mid-table Danish side, and they made a lot of noise throughout. The atmosphere was tense, as København tried to break the deadlock in order to keep their title challenge against Midtjylland alive. In first half added time a speculative 30 yarded from Lerager went through the keepers arms into the top corner to send the crowd wild, going in to half time.
AGF dug deep in the second half and kept the score down to 1-0, and were finally rewarded with an equaliser from a dubious penalty decision in the penultimate minute of added time. It was heartbreak for the home fans as surely this took the title away from them. To rub salt in the wounds Mortensen Panenka-ed the penalty softly over the keeper, to send the fans behind the goal into ecstasy and, for the second time in 24 hours, the home crowd were stunned.
It was a great double of football. Having known how expensive eating and drinking was, I might have been reluctant to go, maybe looking at a different double with two other countries. However, there is something quite unique about these pair, the way the two cities in two countries are separated like a dumbbell, with the bridge being the connecting bar. Also, with both teams being giants in their respective leagues, and both needing to win to keep their championship hopes alive, meant both games were vital. All these factors combined made it a unique and serendipitous trip, that was probably worth being monetarily flayed alive for a few days.