Stockholm Syndrome

Rarely can a major city have been divested of its three major stadia in a twelve month period. Here I appraise the three stadiums and look to the future for Stockholm football.

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Thursday November 22nd 2012 saw the gates close on the historic 75 year old Råsunda Stadion for the final time. A raucous and big crowd of 28,552 saw the final match which was a Europa League Group game against Napoli.

Rasunda Stadion (68)

The Råsunda was opened in April 1937 when AIK took on Malmö FF in the opening encounter. The stadium replaced a much smaller stadium on the same site that had been opened in 1910. The new ground was upgraded for the 1958 World Cup and its record attendance came in September 1965 when 52,943 watched Sweden take on West Germany.

Rasunda Stadion (89)

The capacity was reduced to 36,000 when it went all seater in the mid 1980’s and the old main stand was also replaced. The Råsunda also served as a host venue in the 1992 European Championships although the final was held at the Nya Ullevi in Gothenburg. The mid 90’s saw both ends replaced with some of the seats in the South Stand being acquired from the old Wembley Stadium. As the final whistle sounded against Napoli, cranes and diggers sat outside this lovely old stadium ready to pounce with seemingly indecent haste.

Rasunda Stadion (102)

From the new Allsvenskan season which started in April 2013, AIK have played at the new Friends Arena, their supporters having declined in a ballot to share the Stockholm Arena with Hammarby.

Work on the new Stockholm Arena (to be called the Tele 2 Arena) began in 2011 but progress has been relatively slow so Hammarby playing at the Söderstadion and Djurgården’s tenure at the legendary Stockholms Stadion have been extended to July 2013.

Stockholm Arena Nov 12 (2)

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The Söderstadion is the more modest of the three venues at a capacity of 16,197, but is famous for generating an incredible atmosphere. The current stadium was opened in 1966 on the site of an older stadium of the same name. The original Söderstadion itself was built on another former venue called the Johanneshovs Idrottsplats. The mainly wooden Söderstadion will be consigned to the history books when Hammarby move to the other side of the Globen Arena in July.

The Bajen will say goodbye to the Söderstadion on June 23rd against Ängelholm.

Hammarby IF - Soderstadion Nov 2012 (17)

Hammarby 059

Hammarby 056

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The future of football at Torben Grut’s iconic 1912 Olympic Stadium, known as the Stockholms Stadion, remains unclear. Djurgårdens IF will join their cross city rivals Hammarby at the Tele 2 Arena leaving the Stockholms without a resident club. While it does not have a huge capacity (these days 14,500) the Stadion is one of the most beautiful sporting venues in the world. Its carved wooden superstructure and tented royal box are beyond compare. Its record attendance for football came in august 1946 when 21,995 crammed in for the derby match between Djurgårdens and AIK. However, 13 years later 28,848 watched a bandy match in the arena. AIK called the Stockholms Stadion home before moving to the Råsunda in 1937, Djurgårdens moved into the venue from their previous ground at the Tranebergs Idrottsplats. While the Stockholms Stadion will of course remain as an athletics venue from July 2013 no football will be played there.

Djurgårdens play their last game at the Stockholms Stadion on June 30th against Öster.

Djurgarden IF (15)

Djurgarden - Stockholms Stadion (40)

Djurgarden IF (6)

(A version of this article first appeared in Groundtastic Magazine (Issue 72, Spring 2013)

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)

Gallery

And the morning after the night before