Monday, May 14, 2007

Malmö FF – Hammarby IF (08-05-2007)

Although I had been already in Malmö for five weeks, I had yet to see a game of the local pride: Malmö FF. As the end of my stay in Sweden is drawing nearer, and the number of potential visits is decreasing rapidly, I was happy to find that this Tuesday evening featured a game in the Allsvenskan (Swedish Premier League): Malmö FF-Hammarby IF. After having left my (visiting) mother and girlfriend at my apartment, I walked from the city centre to the stadium, a decent 20 minute walk.

Malmö Stadion is a somewhat smaller version of the (Nya) Ullevi stadium in Göteborg (see 30-04-2007), also built for the 1958 World Cup, with a capacity of 26,500 people. As in Göteborg, the city of Malmö is currently building a new, modern stadium that will house 21,000 people.

When walking to the stadium, I was reminded of an earlier attempt to visit Malmö FF in 1995, when my brother and I drove to Malmö (which at that time still included a short boat trip to Helsingborg) only to find out, one hour before kick-off, that they were rebuilding the stadium and were playing their home games 50 km outside of the city. Fortunately, this time the old, concrete Malmö Stadion was the venue of the game, and just in time for the kick-off (at 19.00) I arrived, paid 150 SEK (ca. 16 euro), again didn’t receive a ticket (what’s wrong with these people?), and entered the stand with the hardcore home fans.

I was surprised to find the stadium quite full. Officially 15,607 people were present, which is a good turnout for a Tuesday evening game in dodgy weather (although it didn’t rain, despite the predictions). Undoubtedly the opponent, Hammarby IF, which brought some 500 fans of its own, played a role. Hammarby is one of the Stockholm teams, which has established itself as a major force in Swedish football in the 21st century.

The game started in a good atmosphere, with the home fans chanting and waving flags and the away fans regularly breaking through with some songs too. Already in the 9th minute Malmö FF scored 1-0 to the great delight of the people around me. All seemed to expect a glorious victory, but wouldn’t get what they wanted.

Despite the 1-0 lead, the teams were equal to each other and kept each other in balance. Indeed, in the 32nd minute Hammarby IF scored the rather deserved equalizer. 1-1 was also the half-time score. Time to ease the bladder.

Having used the impressive facilities, I went to the ticket offices to ask for a ticket. As expected, the people in the booths said they didn’t have any, but fortunately the proved both helpful and resourceful and came up with one ticket. To celebrate, I scored a very decent hamburger; I guess the first one I saw in a Danish or Swedish stadium so far.

The second half was much the same: the home team looking for the attack, and the visitors being more careful and looking for counter opportunities. While this led to some good set plays, neither team was able to create many clear-cut chances and there were no more goals.

Though the game was not that amazing, Malmö FF is definitely worth a visit for football fans. It belongs to the few Swedish clubs with a strong following and home games tend to have a real football atmosphere. While the old stadium doesn’t feature a souvenir shop, you can buy an unbelievable variety of fan goodies online or in the Malmö Support shop in the centre of town.

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