The Råsunda’s Last Hurrah (AIK)

When one of FIFA’s official ten classic world stadiums was having its last game, I felt compelled to be there. Even if AIK (Allmänna Idrottsklubben) somehow qualify out of their Europa League Group F, the first knockout round home tie would be played at their new home in the Friends Arena, all shiny and new and with a liberal splashing of UEFA-sanctioned santiser no doubt.

A little over 75 years old the curtain comes down on the Råsunda Stadion, a much loved institution, it’s 36,000 capacity deemed too low for UEFA’s liking and Sweden’s hosting of the 2013 Women’s European Championship. Situated in the suburb of Solna, the stadium is a saucy melange of single tier, double tier and triple tier stands the result of periodic piecemeal redevelopment. The miniature roof mounted floodlight pylons are redolent of the white plastic Subbuteo lights that allowed evening kick offs on the hallowed green baise of my childhood.

I wondered what the atmosphere would be like on the final encounter, would it be a teary farewell or would there even protests against moving to the Friends Arena. After scaling the stairs to the vertiginous upper tier of the North Stand, I realised it would be neither, AIK were in the mood for a party to send the Råsunda off in style. Banners lay at the front of the stand and every seat had its appropriate piece of coloured plastic waiting for lifting at the appropriate moment.

Just before kick off the decibel level rose, AIK anthems were sung ever more lustily and the “Legends of Råsunda” banners enveloped the upper tier. Fireworks crackled and soared into the cold night sky. It was a total joy to be part of it.

The match was almost secondary to the occasion, Edison Cavani, the star Napoli striker, lissom of movement and fleet of foot, spoilt the occasion somewhat by bagging an injury time winner.

It was terribly sad to see tractors and demolition gear lined up outside, preparing to raze this historic stadium to the ground with seemingly indecent haste. However, AIK sent the Råsunda to its imminent demise in fine style. Now one more time, with feeling!…Na na na na, Na na na na, hey hey hey Aw Ee Koi!

A.I.K. (1) 1 (Danielsson 35) SCC Napoli (1)2 (Dzemaili 20,Cavani 90+4)

Attendance:28,552

AIK:

27.Ivan Turina; 16.Martin Lorentzson; 3.Per Karlsson; 2.Niklas Backmann; 4.Nils-Eric Johansson(c); 15.Robin Quaison; 20.Ibrahim Moro; 7.Helgi Danielsson; 28.Viktor Lundberg; 10.Celso Borges; 75.Mohamed Bangura.

Subs: 5.Robert Ahman Persson; 6.Daniel Tjernström; 13.Kenny Stamatopoulos; 22.Kwame Karikari (for 15,76 mins); 24.Daniel Gustavsson; 29.Gabriel Özkan; 45.Daniel Majstorovic.

Napoli:

22.Antonio Rosati; 55.Alessandro Gamberini; 5.Salvatore Aronica (c); 5.Miguel Britos; 16.Giandomenico Mesto; 4.Marco Donadel; 85.Valon Behrami; 8.Andrea Dossena; 20.Blerim Dzemaili; 7.Edinson Cavani; 9.Eduardo Vargas.

Subs: 1.Morgan De Sanctis; 11.Christian Maggio; 13.Omar El Kaddouri; 17.Marek Hamšík (for 20,73 mins); 18.Juan Zuniga (for 16,64 mins); 28.Paolo Cannavaro; 88.Gokan Inler (for 4,62 mins).

Yellow cards: Backmann and Moro (AIK), Cavani and Behrami (Napoli)

Red card: Aronica (Napoli)

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And the morning after the night before

Pigeons or Fighters (Hajduk Beograd)

After the craziness of the derby, the Sunday morning fixture in the Serbian Srpska Liga (Belgrade Area) could have been a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show. The third tier fixture between FK Hajduk Lionu and FK Zemun took place at the Stadion Hajduka na Lionu, home of “The Pigeons” since 1953. Pigeons seemed a somewhat of an ill-fitting nickname for a Serbian football team, however, Hajduk itself translates as “fighters” so maybe this is more suitable.

The ground itself is interesting, hemmed in at both ends by flats, tall nets preventing balls landing on residents’ balconies. The near side has a smart clubhouse, dressing rooms and a scaffolding and wooden plank stand which was rammed for this 11.00am match. Opposite is a pitch length uncovered terrace, the left hand end being segregated with its own entrance for visiting fans. Zemun’s supporters arrived just before kick-off and in impressive numbers. Their match-long singing would preclude any possibility of a lie in for the local residents. There was edginess to their chanting, local reports of anger at the release of a Croatian warmonger was said to be the cause of their ire. The Zemun fans covered the fencing with colourful banners including one of, presumably, a heavily bearded Serb leader.

The Pigeons started the stronger and took the lead early on when full back Hema Tolovic lashed in a powerful strike. This goal separated the sides at the break. Zemun grew into the game, their young coach loudly berating his charges. His voluble instructions and the constant support of their ultras had the desired effect when skipper Nikola Rnic curled in an unstoppable free kick. Zemun looked like they were in the ascendancy and this was borne out when Rnic’s free kick was nodded in by centre back Borislav Terevic. The Zemun coach ran on the pitch to celebrate with his players, only to be ordered from the bench by the punctilious referee. This caused several moments of comedy when first a security guard and then an elderly Hajduk supporter stood in front of him to ensure he complied with the referee’s wishes. Like a caged tiger he paced at the back of the stand until the final whistle.

The whistle sounded and the Zemun players joined their supporters to celebrate a deserved victory over the course of the 90 minutes.

FK Hajduk Lionu Beograd (1)1 (Tolovic 13) FK Zemun (0)2 (Rnic 73, Terevic 84)

Attendance: 400 (approx)

Hajduk:

Dragoslav Poleksic; Hema Tolovic; Philip Belak; Milan Nisnic; Predrag Topuvic; Marko Tepavievic (c); Aleksandr Stamenkovic; Dejan Filipov; Ernes Dalifi; Bojan Bazhovic and Zdravko Kovacevic.

Subs: Milan Pantelic; Marko Zhivkovic (for Stamenkovic,46 mins); Sasa Paunovic (for Kovacevic,79 mins); Zoran Curic; Sasa Filipovic; Igor Milovic; Marko Vujovic.

Zemun:

Bojan Knezevic; Milos Zivkovic; Marko Rajovic; Nikola Rnic (c); Mirko Vunevievic; Borislav Terevic; Milos Terevic; Milos Malovac; Nikola Vukailovic; Nikola Moisilovic; Igor Miladinic and Dino Dolmajic.

Subs: Marko Pavlovic; Marko Divjak; Monsto Stojakovic; Philip Savic (for Moisilovic,88 mins); Stefan Okrebo (for Dolmajic,58 mins); Dejan Vukojevic; Goran Vukovic (for Vunevievic,63 mins).

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The Eternal Derby

My write up and gallery for the Eternal Derby, Red Star v Partizan in Belgrade on Saturday will be exclusively featured in Issue 3 of the superb Stand AMF fanzine, available from standamf.com from December 6th at the ridiculous price of £2.

In the meantime here are statistics from the game and a few pictures as a preview.

FK Crvena Zvezda (1)3 (Kasalica 14, Milivojevic 49, Milijas 74)  FK Partizan (2)2 (Mitrovic 9, Jovanovic o.g. 16)

Attendance: 44,155

Red Star:

1.Bojan Bajkovic; 15.Milan Jovanovic; 14. Nikola Mikic; 25. Filip Mladenovic; 5. Uros Spajic; 10. Nenad Milijas (c); 8.Darko Lazovic; 19.Luka Milivojevic; 4.Srdan Mijailovic; 17.Filip Kasalica; 91.Ognjen Mudrinski.

Subs: 29.Marko Vesovic (for 14,46 mins); 16.Luka Milunovic (for 8,68 mins); 7.Milos Dimitrijevic (for 10,85 mins).

Partizan:

30.Nikola Petrovic; 18. Aleksandar Lazevski; 2.Aleksandar Miljkovic; 15.Ivan Ivanov; 40.Milos Ostojic; 22.Sasa Ilic (c); 99.Milan Smiljanic; 7.Nemanja Tomic; 21.Sasa Markovic; 50.Lazar Markovic; 45.Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Subs: 39.Milos Jojic (for 7,65 mins); Stefan Scepovic (for 22,80 mins), Nikola Ninkovic (for 50;85 mins).

Yellow cards: Mladenovic, Milivojevic, Mijailovic, Kasalica (Crvena Zvezda); Smiljanic, L.Markovic, Mitrovic (Partizan).

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Heroes and Gravediggers (FK Crvena Zvezda)

So the Lav is slipping down a treat in the Three Carrots in Knesa Milosa when Nenad, an affable Red Star fanatic, hands me my ticket for the derby match tonight, “Don’t worry it’s free” he says when I look to pay him. “How’s it free I ask?”, “Ah, tickets they appear like magic here”. Soon we pile onto a bus downtown and within minutes we are at the Stadion Crvena Zvezda, an hour before the 7pm kick off and it’s loud already inside and out. There is, of course, a heavy police presence but I see no trouble and do not feel intimidated in the slightest, everybody is just excited.

Everything is in place for a night to remember, giant old school eastern-bloc floodlights loom over the proceedings and the atmosphere builds. The Delije (“Heroes”) are gathered in vast numbers in the north stand and their bitter rivals the Grobari (“Gravediggers”) are at the other end. The south stand has been shorn of its seats so the visitors cannot throw them onto the pitch. What is noticeable is that there are two sectors of the Partizan fans, the bulk of the Grobari are under the electronic scoreboard but to their right and separated by an empty sector and lines of riot police and stewards are a smaller section, the Zabranjeni (The Forbidden), a group of outcast Grobari excommunicated in 2011 for the treacherous crime of accusing the Grobari hierarchy of turning police informant and of stealing money earmarked for tifo displays.

The players emerge from the underground tunnel and this acts as the cue for the Delije to start their spectacular tifo display. Flares so numerous the entire end appears at times to be on fire and beautiful, powerful fireworks are propelled into the night sky from launchers at the front of the stand. Soon however Red Star fall behind, they cannot lose this, a defeat will see them fall eleven points behind Partizan. It’s the Grobari’s turn to get the pyrotechnics going, though they seem more intent on exchanging flares with the Zabranjeni. The home side level with a superb volley, only to fall behind to a comedic own goal moments later. Jesus, 17 minutes gone and you can barely take it all in.

Red Star level the encounter just after the break and when the match looks like a stalemate, the home skipper knocks in the winner. The stadium literally erupts and the noise levels increase further still. The Delije rub salt into the Partizan wounds by unveiling a Grobari banner which they had previously stolen and taunting their rivals by singing “This is yours, come and take it back”. The match ends and it is notable that the Delije and the Grobari are let out at the same time, the Zabranjeni, however, remain locked in their sector at least an hour after the final whistle.

So that was the 143rd edition of the “Eternal Derby”. What was notable from this epic clash was sensible refereeing, no booking players for celebrating with their fans. Also the security and policing was heavy, but low key and effective. Of course, more than anything, the colour and the noise will live with me always. For Belgrade, Red Star and Partizan, do a derby match as well as anyone in the world, unbridled passion, noise and above all fun. Just like football was always supposed to be.

(A version of this article also appears in the third edition of the outstanding magazine Stand AMF. For great football writing and photos, please visit http://www.standamf.com)

FK Crvena Zvezda (1)3 (Kasalica 14, Milivojevic 49, Milijas 74) FK Partizan (2)2 (Mitrovic 9, Jovanovic o.g. 16)

Attendance: 44,155

Red Star:

1.Bojan Bajkovic; 15.Milan Jovanovic; 14. Nikola Mikic; 25. Filip Mladenovic; 5. Uros Spajic; 10. Nenad Milijas (c); 8.Darko Lazovic; 19.Luka Milivojevic; 4.Srdan Mijailovic; 17.Filip Kasalica; 91.Ognjen Mudrinski.

Subs: 29.Marko Vesovic (for 14,46 mins); 16.Luka Milunovic (for 8,68 mins); 7.Milos Dimitrijevic (for 10,85 mins).

Partizan:

30.Nikola Petrovic; 18. Aleksandar Lazevski; 2.Aleksandar Miljkovic; 15.Ivan Ivanov; 40.Milos Ostojic; 22.Sasa Ilic (c); 99.Milan Smiljanic; 7.Nemanja Tomic; 21.Sasa Markovic; 50.Lazar Markovic; 45.Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Subs: 39.Milos Jojic (for 7,65 mins); Stefan Scepovic (for 22,80 mins), Nikola Ninkovic (for 50;85 mins).

Yellow cards: Mladenovic, Milivojevic, Mijailovic, Kasalica (Crvena Zvezda); Smiljanic, L.Markovic, Mitrovic (Partizan).

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Ultra Boys Memorial

Delije

Match programme

Match ticket

A Day When Football Really Did Come Home

Restage the 1872 FA Cup Final at the original venue of the Kennington Oval? What a jolly spiffing wheeze but the bounders at Surrey County Cricket Club would never let it happen! Except they did.

I have followed the activities of the revived Wanderers club since their 2009 reformation and the official restaging of the 1872 Cup Final was to be the biggest night of their rebirth so far.

Wanderers won the first ever FA Cup Final in 1872 when Morton Petto Betts, playing under the pseudonym of A.H. Chequer, scored the only goal of the game against the Royal Engineers. These days Wanderers compete in the lower levels of the Surrey South Eastern Combination while the Engineers, or more specifically 28 Regiment Engineers, are multi-time Army Cup winners. Suffice to say a repeat of the 1872 victory for Wanderers looked unlikely.

Interested spectators from far and wide gathered at The Oval in Kennington for the rematch, Wanderers in their traditional chocolate, pink and gold hooped shirts and the Engineers in navy and red hoops. FA Cup winner Bobby Gould guest coached the Wanderers for the event.

The superior fitness of the Engineers ensured the hosts were ran ragged in the first half, the army side rattling up a 6-0 lead with Wanderers goalkeeper Adam Wood facing a barrage of shots from the powerful Engineers front line. The Engineers made multiple substitutions at half time but it was a Wanderers substitute, the sublimely monikered, Daniel Flash, who received the loudest cheer of the night when he deftly headed in a goal for Wanderers seven minutes after his introduction to the field. A clever lob by Mike Crane, however, restored the six goal advantage.

The final whistle sounded with the score 7-1 to the Engineers and David Gold was on hand to oversee the presentation of the original trophy (his own property) to the victorious captain, James Hubbard.

Wanderers (0)1 (Flash 66)

Royal Engineers (6) 7 (Hubbard 9, Carter 17, Griffiths 21, Cottam 23,45, Ellis 33, Crane 87)

Attendance: 2,287 tickets sold (800 approx watching)

Wanderers:

1.Adam Wood; 2.Simon Fulwood; 3.Ross Sibbit; 4.Sean Hearn; 6. Ross Edmonds; 16. Tom Nicholson; 11. Darren Tracey; 8. Robert Goodall (c); 9.Guy Bird; 18.James Byrne; 14.Stephen Samson.

Subs: 19.Mark Wilson (for 9,59 mins); 10.Ashley Stokes (for 2,59 mins); 21.Daniel Flash (for 6,59 mins); 7.Tony Alvarez (for 18,63 mins); 23.Ed James (for 11,70 mins);15.Steven Bowers (for 6,76 mins); 32.Steve Bradley (for 4,76 mins); Sai Yung Ng (for 1,87 mins).

Royal Engineers:

1.Luke Cairney; 2.Dean Ellis; 3.Robert Cooper-Tompkins; 4.Gavin Greenfield; 5.Mike Williams; 6.Alex Stacey; 7.Gerwin Griffiths; 8.Alex Wright; 9.Andrew Cottam; 10.James Hubbard(c); 11.Paul Carter.

Subs: 12.Rob Ridley (for 2,46 mins); 14.Scott Ray (for 3,46 mins); 15. Mike Crane (for 19,78 mins); 16.Danny Hounsell (for 4,46 mins); 17. Tom Smith (for 6,46 mins); 18.Steven Bulger (for 8,46 mins); 19.Ryan Williams(for 9,46 mins)(for 5,89mins); 20. Chris Chianca (for 10,46 mins). Sub not used:Mathew Price.

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