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)
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.
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)
And the morning after the night before