Whatever Happened To All Of The Heroes? (PFC Levski Sofia)

PFC Levski Sofia were formed in 1914 and are one of Bulgaria’s most successful clubs with 26 championships, only CSKA with 31, have more titles. They were formed as a football wing of the Levski Sports Club who had taken their name from the Bulgarian national hero, Vasil Levski. Born Vasil Ivanov Kunchev, Levski he would be the spearhead for Bulgaria independence from the Ottomans. Sadly he would never see the end of his revolution, he was hanged by the Ottomans at the age of 35.

Levski originally played their home games on Levski Field (Grishte Levski) a stadium that would eventually hold 10,000 people. The stadium had only a short life, finished in 1934 it was knocked down 15 years later to make way for the new National Stadium. Levski were moved to the Yunak Stadium which was almost adjacent to their own ground. Here they shared with other clubs like FC 13 Sofia. Eventually the site of the Yunak was also needed for the National Stadium project and Levski had to find a new home.

Under the auspices of architect Lazar Parashkevanov the new Levski Stadium began construction in 1960 in the Suhata reka district of Sofia. Although the Levski Stadium was its official name the fans dubbed it “Gerena” (the flood plain) after the area it was located in. The stadium was opened officially in 1963 with a game against Spartak Pleven. It held some 36,000 spectators with the main stand being covered.

In 1969 the authorities merged Levski and Spartak Sofia and the stadium became a multi sport venue catering for boxing, gymnastics, volleyball and weightlifting. The adjacent training ground with four pitches was also built at this time. For a brief period following trouble at the Cup Final of 1985 against CSKA, the authorities changed Levski’s name to Vitosha Sofia. While some players and officials were banned for life, the club were allowed to re-adopt the name Levski after four years had passed under the Vitosha moniker. In 1990 the stadium was renamed in honour of one of Levski’s greatest players, Georgi Asparuhov. Known as Gundi he was one of the most prolific scorers of his generation and an icon for the Levski supporters. He was killed in a car crash in 1971 aged only 28.

From 1992 the plan was to turn the stadium into an all seater arena. Due to economic problems the project took seven years to complete with Levski having to play hone games at the National Stadium in the interim. The eyecatching scoreboard surrounded by the Cyrillic letter for “L” (Л), was built in 2006. Plans for the total redevelopment of the ground were announced in 2011 but so far only the new main stand, opened in April 2016, has materialised. Strangely this leaves the stadium without a roof on any part. The stadium which has held 60,000 on two occasions, against Górnik Zabrze in 1970 and four years later against Pirin Blagoevgrad, now holds a more modest 25,000 and is currently called the Vivacom Arena following sponsorship.

Tonight’s game is against FC Dunav from the northern town of Ruse close to the border with Romania. It is part of the end of season round of games when the league table splits in to a championship and relegation pool. With Razgrad based side Ludogorets looking odds on to win a sixth successive title, the chase is on for the other European competition places. On a bitterly cold night, there are periodic flurries of snow, a meagre crowd of 620 gather in the Asparuhov Stadium. The majority gather at the south end of the stadium where the Levski ultras sing constantly and let off a token bit of pyro in the second half. In the away end around 20 hardy Dunav fans who have made the long trip to the capital.

The game’s opening goal came as early as the sixth minute when a free kick from the impressive Spanish midfielder Añete took a flick off the head of Dunav’s Miroslav Budinov and nestled into the net beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. The rest of the game was played out in snowy conditions and just when it looked like Dunav would not find an equaliser, Lebanese midfielder Samir Ayass seized on a poor clearance to drill home from ten yards.

With Levski’s last Championship back in 2009 and a rich heritage of heroes like Vasil Levski and Gundi Asparuhov casting such a voluminous shadow the club are in real need of a new hero to help end the domestic dominance of Ludogorets and bring success back to the capital.

Friday April 21st 2017 – PFG First League
PFC Levski Sofia 1 (Budinov og 6)
FC Dunav Ruse (2010) 1 (Ayass 76)

Att:620 (at Stadion Georgi Asparuhov)

Admission: 20 Lev (c.£10) to main stand although tickets to other parts of the ground were priced at 5 and 10 Lev.

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Alone Again In The Lap of Luxury (PFC Slavia Sofia)

PFC Slavia Sofia were formed in 1913 by students and the new clubs’ first president, Dimitar Blagoev-Palio, was only 21 years old at the time. Since those formative years the club has won seven League titles and seven Bulgarian Cups to its honours list. Their most recent League success came in 1996, the year they also last won the Bulgarian Cup defeating Levski 4-0 in the final.

Slavia had their best run in Europe in the 1966/67 Cup Winners Cup when they defeated Swansea City, Racing Club Strasbourg and Servette before bowing out to Rangers at the semi final stage. In 1969 Slavia briefly merged with Lokomotiv Sofia under the name of ZhSK Slavia. However, the merger last just two years after 100,000 supporters demanded the the clubs be allowed to operate as separate entities once again.

Originally the club played at the ground of its predecessor club Sport Club Razvitie. The club was then allocated land adjacent to the Russian Monument in Sofia where they played until they moved to their own Slavia Stadium in 1960. The stadium is located in South West Sofia in the area known as Ovcha Kupel.

After several attempts at renovation the Slavia Stadium holds a little over 25,000 people and also hosts the under 21 matches of the Bulgarian national team. Paradoxically new stadium criteria bought in by the Bulgarian FA means Slavia cannot play home games at their own stadium as there are no floodlights! For this season it means all their home matches are being staged at the 43,000 capacity Vasil Levski National Stadium well away from their traditional support. Their attendances have been ridiculously low, even though it is only 5 Lev (£2.50) to get in at the Vasil Levski. For today’s game it appeared that there were around 200 people rattling around this vast empty amphitheatre with around 40 in the sector allocated to fans from Plovdiv. The official attendance, presumably just the paid ticket sales, was 90 which makes the whole exercise frankly embarrassing for the League and for Slavia. Hopefully the Bulgarians can follow the Hungarian model in bringing their ageing stadia up to a decent standard.

Today’s game is part of the First League’s relegation pool. This has two groups of four whose top two proceed to a play off for a Europa League spot while the bottom two in each group go into a relegation play-off. Today Botev Plovdiv are the visitors to the capital and they easily outplay a dispirited looking Slavia. There is a small group of around 50 Slavia ultras in this vast stadium and unfortunately they seem happy, in between bouts of their anthem “Samo Slavia” (“Alone Slavia”), to direct monkey chants towards Botev’s French striker Omar Kossoko. However, almost immediately after the chants started Kossoko responded in the best way possible with a clinical finish following a poor attempt to save a shot by the home goalkeeper. The visitors doubled their lead before half time when Antonio Vutov, on loan from Italian side Udinese, waltzed through a cumbersome Slavia defence before finding the net with some aplomb. Kossoko netted the third in the second period and the visitors ended up as very easy winners.

Feels such a shame that such a vast modern stadium has a few dozen people watching matches with little or no atmosphere. Surely common sense should prevail and Slavia will be allowed to play games in front of something resembling a crowd at their own stadium.

Saturday April 22nd 2017 – PFG First League

PFC Slavia Sofia 0
PFC Botev Plovdiv 3 (Kossoko 34,53, Vutov 44)

Att:90 (at Stadion Vasil Levski)
Admission: 5 Lev (the Main A stand only open)

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Postcards From Belgrade 2 (Serbian Groundhop 2017)

Following last years pioneering Groudhop to Belgrade a second one was arranged for the first weekend of April 2017 with no less than 45 groundhoppers attending.

The first match on the agenda was the match between Dinamo Vranje and ČSK Celarevo Pivara. Vranje is a city in the Pčinja district of Southern Serbia, just 25 miles from the border with Macedonia and 40 miles from Bulgaria. The club were formed in 1947 and have spent much of their recent history in between the second and third tiers of Serb football. However, as recently as 2013/14 they were in the fourth tier but after two straight promotions they have returned to the Prva Liga. Dinamo play at the Yumco Stadion, Yumco have their HQ next door to the stadium and produce the uniforms for the Serbian military.

The stadium is a quirky two sided affair with separate entrances for both sides meaning you had to leave the stadium and walk round the perimeter to gain access to the open terrace on the far side. What set the ground apart was its location beneath the triple peaks of the Pljačkovica, Krstilovice and Pržar mountains, as initially the sun shone it really was a most beautiful vista.

Prva Liga (07/04/2017)

FK Dinamo Vranje 2 (Djokić 51, Suraka 62)

FK ČSK Pivara 1 (Mezei 89)

Att: c.600 (at Yumco Stadion) Free admission

The footballing offering for Saturday morning was restricted to under 19 matches in the Omladinska Liga. We opted for the game between second placed FK Partizan and league leaders FK Brodarac. They play at the Sports Centre Partizan-Teleoptik in Zemun which is also known as as “Zemunelo”. As well as being Partizan’s training ground it is the home ground of FK Teleoptik who currently lead the third tier Srpska Liga Beograd Zona.

A healthy crowd of almost 400 gather to watch a scintillating performance from Brodarac who win comfortably by four goals to one. Among the crowd was former PSV, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid striker Mateja Kežman who was very friendly and seemed happy to sign autographs and pose for photos.

Omlandiska Liga (08/04/2017, 10am)

FK Partizan U19s 1 (Maksimović 78)
FK Brodarac U19s 4 (Lukić 23,53, Bjelobrk 40, Kojić 66)

Att:397 (at SC Partizan Teleoptik)

The early evening game saw a trip to Stadion Partizan for the match against southern Serbian club Radnik Surdulica. Tension in and around the stadium, despite the modest crowd, was palpable with Red Star ultras apparently trying to steal Partizan flags. The mood wasn’t helped by Radnik taking an unexpected lead early on.

The second half thankfully was less worrying and Partizan almost inevitably came back to win 2-1 thanks to the awarding of a very soft penalty.
Partizan and Red Star have been at loggerheads since both were formed in 1945 after all pre War clubs were formally dissolved. Red Star have won 27 National championships to Partizan’s 26 so you can imagine the intense rivalry between the two on derby day. The Večiti derbi, the Eternal Derby,really is one of Europe’s greatest footballing experiences.

Super Liga (08/04/2017, 5pm)

FK Partizan 2 (Janković 53, Durdević pen 78)

FK Radnik Surdulica 1 (Arsenijević 18)

Att:1,500

On Sunday we could have stayed in Belgrade for the easy option of Grafičar but instead we decided on the derby of Mladenovac! Upon entering the ground of FK Selo Mladenovac you see an old railway carriage which is used as a refreshments bar! On the far side is a pitch length uncovered terrace whose concrete steps have been almost subsumed by weeds and wild flowers. Behind the terrace is the eye catching feature of a disuse mill tower. Behind the dressing rooms is the disused factory of Petar Drapšin which manufactured tanks for the old Eastern bloc countries.

Again the club are most welcoming and insist we don’t pay to get in. The hosts need to defeat OFK Mladenovac to remain in the division and a spirited comeback in the second sees them grab the points with a 4-2 triumph.

1.Beogradska Liga Grupa C (09/04/2017, 10am)

FK Selo Mladenovac 4 (Mitrović 46, Tolić pen 64,74, Vujić 79)

OFK Mladenovac 2 (Arsić 43, Stefanović 84)

Att:79

We headed back to Belgrade for the highly anticipated match between FK Rad and Red Star. We had reserved tickets on the advice of the Rad secretary as he anticipated a sell out. To get into the “neutral” sector he would charge us 700 Serb dinar (£5) instead of the normal 400 dinar. To our surprise the ground was not even half full and our tickets had 400 RSD written on them. The club had charged us 300 dinar per ticket for “reservation” for a game that we could have just walked up to and paid to get in. The poor experience with Rad was compounded by the searches conducted at the gates which saw all manner of items confiscated, the strangest being a packet of mints!

On the pitch zvezda eased to a 4-0 win helped by the referee failing to give Rad a clear penalty with the score at 0-1. The Rad ultras were housed in a section of uncovered terracing behind the goal and had just returned after their racist chanting had seen the club forced to play the previous three home games behind closed doors. Save for the odd bout of vigorous flag waving and a blue smoke bomb the ultras of Rad appeared to be on their best behaviour.

Super Liga (09/11/2017, 5pm)

FK Rad 0

FK Crvena Zvezda 4 (Plavšić 34,70, Ristić 65, Petković 73)

Att:2,000 (at Stadion Kralj Petar I)

With a few of the hoppers staying till Tuesday a bonus opportunity of the Prva Liga match between FK Proleter and FK Indija appeared from the fixture gods. We headed north to the stunning city of Novi Sad in good time for the 15.30pm start.

Arriving unannounced just before kick off at the Stadion Slana Bara (“salty pond”) the FK Proleter president insisted we would be his guests and again free entry was given as well as very welcome cold bottle of Coke or Fanta on a blisteringly hot afternoon.
Both Proleter and Indija have struggled for goals this season and prior to today’s match had both managed to score only 18 goals in twenty matches. A competitive and occasionally feisty encounter saw the hosts win 3-1 in front of 500 people with their third being an absolute peach of a free kick.

Prva Liga (10/04/2017)

FK Proleter Novi Sad 3 (Novaković 26,85, Mirosavljev 56)

FK Indija 1 (Marković 23)

Att:500 (at Stadion Slana Bara)

With grateful thanks to our Serbian friends Aleks Peković, Bodgan Mitrović and Teodora Rebić, Stephen Carpenter and I hope to arrange a third Serbian Groundhop in during the 2017/18 season.

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An extended review of Belgrade Groundhop 2017 will appear in the June 2017 edition of “Football Weekends” magazine. To order your copy please visit http://www.footballweekends.co.uk

 

 

Budafok are you?

Budafoki Labdarúgó Club’s history dates back to 1912 when they were formed as Világosság Football Csapat, the first of twelve different identities. The latest moniker has stuck since 2007. Prior to World War II this modest village in the 22nd District of Budapest was represented by two clubs, the other being Gamma FC who would eventually be consumed into the BKV Előre club in 1950.

Budafok play in the Nemzeti Bajnokság III, a division they have won on three occasions in 1972-73, 1985-86, 1988-89. The club has also enjoyed some success at the second tier, winning the title in 1944-45 and 1950-51. The club’s sole season in the top flight came in 1945-46 when they finished next to bottom winning only five of their 26 matches. Arguably the clubs’ best known players over the years have been József Zakariás, who was part of the squad for the legendary Hungarian national team fondly remembered as the “Golden Team”. More recently Márton Esterházy started his career with Budafok before winning 29 caps for the national team. He scored for Hungary against Canada in the 1986 World Cup tournament.

Confusingly Budafok’s modest stadium actually has several names BMTE Sporttelep, Budafok Stadion and Promontor utcai Stadion, and it forms part of a bigger sports venue which also accommodates athletics and tennis. The stadium has clearly undergone recent renovation with new plastic seats, electronic scoreboard and an elevated dignitary’s stand opposite the open seating. It’s a modest but tidy venue and it seems scarcely believable that 7,000 people crammed into it for a Magyar Kupa match against Ferencváros in February 1984. The venue now has 1,200 seats with standing available around the athletics track which would mean looking through a fence for the duration of the match.

A lack of floodlights means a 12pm kick off for this Magyar Kupa tie against mighty FC Videoton who sit in second place in NB I just a point behind leaders Vasas FC. On a cold day, the hilltop location of the stadium clearly unsettles the illustrious visitors and they are very slow out of the blocks. The hosts play well and skipper Tamás Grúz gives them the lead at half time. Thoughts of a cup upset dwindle as Videoton exert huge pressure on the home goal in the second half. Clearly the half time team talk and a triple substitution have galvanised the visitors. Therefore it is no surprise when Videoton draw level when Ádám Bódi cleverly disguises his shot enough to beat the home goalkeeper with ease. It was evident that Videoton did not fancy extra time as the temperature dropped and they upped the pressure further really throwing players forward. As the game drew to a close Videoton cracked a shot against the post before the unthinkable happened and a quick break saw Sándor Kovács lash home an unlikely and wildly celebrated winner. Who doesn’t love a cup upset?

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Wednesday November 30th 2016 – Magyar Kupa 8th Rd

Budafok LC 2 (Grúz 29, Kovács 84)
FC Videoton Fehérvár 1 (Bódi 66)

Att: 336 (at BMTE Sporttelep)

Admission free, teamsheet free

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Distant ETO

Győri Egyetértés Torna Osztály Football Club or ETO FC Győr as they are more commonly known were formed in 1904 and have a rich history of European competition participation and the no little matter of 69 seasons in the Hungarian top flight, the Nemzeti Bajnokság I.

The club are four time champions of Hungary, the most recent of which came in 2012/13. So why you might be asking are the club currently languishing in the murky depths of the regionalised third division? Győr’s most recent season in NB I was 2014/15 when despite finishing eighth in the then 16 team league the club were found guilty of breaching licensing and financial regulations and were demoted to the third tier.

The Győr club has undergone many name changes over the years and these Include the name of Rába Vasas ETO Győr for which they are probably best known to English football fans. This was the club’s name in the 1984/85 when they were drawn against Manchester United in the old Cup Winner Cup competition.

Győr’s past European pedigree is truly impressive. They had been crowned Hungarian champions for the first time in 1963/4 and the success meant a tilt at the European Cup the following season. The green and whites defeated Chemie Leipzig, Lokomotiv Sofia and somewhat forgotten Dutch club Door Wilskracht Sterk before drawing the mighty Benfica in the semi final. The home leg was played in front of 62,000 people at the old Népstadion in Budapest and the Portuguese won 1-0. Braces from the legendary Eusebio and José Torres in the second leg ended Hungarian hopes of success.

Continued success in Europe saw the club move into a new stadium in 1967, the ETO Stadion. Initially it had a capacity of 25,000 but in its later existence this had been savagely cut to 14,000. In 2008 Győr moved again to a new stadium, hotel and a total white elephant of a shopping centre complex on the eastern edge of town called ETO Park. It has two huge modern double tiered stands on either side, one end has nothing other than a scoreboard while the hotel end has a blink and you will miss it tiny section of terracing for away fans. After the old Ferenc Puskás Stadion in Budapest was decommissioned and the Groupama Arena was opened the Hungarian national team played several home internationals at ETO Park.

After the success of clinching the NB I championship in 2012/13, the club faced huge problems when in 2015 its owners, Quaestor Financial Hrurira, went bankrupt. Unable to operate ETO Györ declared debts of 200 million florints (over £500,000) to the Hungarian FA. The enforced demotion was inevitable as the club looked to just survive and regroup in the third tier.

This season has been one of hope for Győr as they are challenging for promotion from NB III and also enjoying a run in the Magyar Kupa. Having already eliminated top flight Debrecen (1-0) and Komárom (7-1), the draw was harsh for the green and whites as they were pitted against NB I league leaders Vasas FC.

Tonight Győr played some scintillating attacking football with Lukas Szabó really catching the eye up front. The hosts were never out of this contest until virtually the last kick of the game when Vasas substitute Yevhen Pavlov prodded home an undeserved winner.

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Tuesday November 29th 2016 – Magyar Kupa 8th Round 

ETO FC Győr 2 (Rácz pen 39, Szabó 46)
Vasas FC 3 (Saglik 11, Remili 80, Pavlov 90)

Att: c.2,000

Admission HUF 1,000 (£3) Programme Free

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Glorious Előre

For the last few years, while the redevelopment of old Hungarian football stadiums has marched on apace,  I have felt somewhat left out as the likes of the Ferenc Puskás Stadion (the old Népstadion), the Albert Flórián Stadion (former Ferencváros home stadium) and more recently  Vasas’ Illovzsky Rudolf Stadion and MTK’s iconic Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion (we all surely remember its’ starring role in “Escape to Victory”?) have been erased from the footballing map if not its consciousness.

They have been replaced by undoubtedly better facilities but as always the shiny new arenas lack the grace and elegance that can only be achieved with the reverence and patina that only old age affords. I hasten to add that one new Hungarian stadium that is the exception to the sterility of modernist construction is the Puskás Akadémia stadium in Felcsút, which is audacious in design and alluring in appearance. Felcsút is a small village which has become synonymous with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a huge football fan, and one of the driving forces behind the provision of better football facilities. The collective hope is that better stadiums will lead to the country challenging on the world stage once again.

With the wind of change sweeping across the football landscape of Hungary I was determined to get to a few grounds this season and probably top of the list was BKV Előre’s quite magnificent Sport utca Stadion. Erstwhile neighbour to MTK’s old, and now new, Hidegkuti Nándor Stadion, Előre’s huge grandstand rightfully holds a lofty status among football stadia aficionados.

Előre currently ply their trade in Hungary’s third tier and since formation in 1912 have never really hit the heights of success, a sole appearance in the final of the Magyar Kupa came in 1934, but ended in defeat to Soroksár. The club has spent a total of four seasons in the top flight of Hungarian football during their 1940’s and 1950’s heyday. Előre’s wider sports associations have produced several Olympic Games medallists. The club has its roots in the cities’ iron workers and in 1923 a merger occurred with a team representing transport workers. The grandstand at the Sport utca Stadion dates from this merger era, the original pre-merger club played at a field simply known as Nova Pálya (New Field). The rest of ground is, by comparison, somewhat of a disappointment. Opposite the gargantuan grandstand is a small sized all weather training pitch with a token few rows of seating and a couple of dugouts. Previously there was a large covered standing area on this side of the ground. One end of the ground houses MTK’s old offices and the other end is BKV’s indoor bowls club.

This afternoon’s match sees Előre gaining some much needed additional income as MTK’s second string use the main pitch for their Nemzeti Bajnokság III Keleti fixtures and today sees Debrecen’s second XI role into the capital.

A muddy pitch sees the hosts ease to comfortable win in a game low on excitement, although strangely all three goals come from substitutes. The real excitement comes from the wonderful grandstand, some might say a draughty almost redundant relic of yesteryear but most will regard it for what it is an iconic and beautiful old stand belligerently still doing sterling service in a throwaway society. And after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

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Sunday November 29th 2016 – Nemzeti Bajnokság III Keleti 

MTK Budapest II 3 (Csicsek 31,71, Lustyik 80)

Debrecen II 0

Att:42 (at BKV Előre)

Admission free, teamsheet free

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Three’s a Crowd, a Short History of Malmö Football

There cannot be many clubs in existence that have all its previous grounds still standing and in use for football, but such is the case with Malmö FF.

Malmö Fotbollförening were formed in 1910 after BK Idrotts had merged with IFK Malmö a year before only to de-merge following a difference of opinion between the two. Malmö FF initially played at the magnificent Malmö Idrottsplats which they shared with rivals IFK Malmö. Opened in July 1896 the Malmö Idrottsplats is located north of Pildammsparken off the junction between Pildammsvägen and  Karl Gustafsväg. The first football matches in the Malmö area had taken place on a field at Rörsjöstaden, and featured local men against the already established Kjøbenhavns Boldklub. The local cycling club  Malmö Velocipedklubb, who also used Rörsjöstaden, were so impressed with this new sport they immediately formed their own football wing. In 1893 MVK were notified that their sports ground was needed for housing and after consultation with Malmö Stad the land north of Pildammsparken was offered as a replacement.

The Idrottsplats was home to IFK between 1903 and 1958 and for Malmö FF from 1910-58 before both decamped to the Malmö Stadion newly opened for the football World Cup. A third club, Malmö Boll and Idrottsförening, now called FC Rosengård, also played at the IP from 1904 having been formed by former MVK members. Initially the IP had a cycling and athletics track but after MVK folded and athletics moved to the Malmö Stadion, the IP was reconfigured to a football only venue from 1999. After the big two clubs moved to the Malmö Stadion, lower division football remained at the IP in the form of FC Rosengård and IF Allians. The former moved to their own district IP in 1973 and Allians moved to Kronsprinsen. The IP had fallen into disuse and disrepair so the renovations of 1978 and later in 1999 saved this wonderful venue from an ignominious end. Despite Malmö FF’s glorious history, including that memorable European Cup Final defeat to Nottingham Forest in 1979, crowds for both them and IFK fell massively towards the end of the century and it was decided that an improved Malmö IP was the answer. After just a season back at their original home, however, FF decided that it was far from suitable to their needs and swiftly returned to the Stadion. IFK stayed at the IP until 2008 when in protest to the installation of an artificial pitch, they rejoined FF at the Malmö Stadion. The IP is used by Malmö FF for pre season friendlies as invariably the artificial turf is perfect for their winter warm up games.

Nowadays the IP is home to FC Rosengård once again, the clubs ladies team are in the Damen Allsvenskan and take priority use of the IP. If there is no conflicting fixture the men also play there in preference to their own Rosengård IP in Frölichs Väg. The IP has five separate stands all beautifully clad in that pale yellow weatherboard so prevalent in old Swedish grounds. Thank goodness Malmö Stad decided against demolition all those years ago for it is a real treasure.

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So the story moves on to 1958, Sweden World Cup hosts, a teenage Pelé and Brazil sweep all before them to win the Jules Rimet, the first nation to do so away from their own continent. France’s Just Fontaine peppers the Nordic nets no less than 13 times an all time Mundial record. Football becomes a true global game. The Swedes are magnificent hosts with the stadiums in Stockholm (Råsunda), Gothenburg (Ullevi), Borås (Ryavallen), Eskilstuna (Tunavallen), Norrköping (Idrottsparken), Helsingborg (Olympia), Sandviken (Jernvallen), Uddevalla (Rimnersvallen) and Malmö being selected to stage matches.

Malmö’s Idrottsplats could hold 20,000, and indeed a 1956 derby with Helsingborgs saw an all time record gate of 22,436 cram into the old IP. However a crowd crushing incident for the same game in 1951 weighed heavily on the minds of the commune and it was decided that a new bigger venue would be built for the World Cup on a site to the south of Pildammsparken.

Designed by architects Sten Samuelsson and Fritz Jaenecke the Malmö Stadion is a real monument to reinforced concrete, all graceful curves and extensive external load bearing cantilevers. Even nearly 60 later it is still a magnificent venue and can hold 27,500. It is a great pity that its sole tenant, IFK Malmö, struggle to attract three figure crowds now their glory days are very much behind them.

In 2009 the mighty Malmö FF moved to the newly opened Swedbank Stadion, built directly behind the Malmö Stadion. Designed by Fojab architects it is UEFA 4 star compliant and as bog standard as you would expect for a new arena style stadium. However, moving there has seen an upturn in fortune for the Sky Blues resulting in three Allsvenskan titles and regularly income from Champions League campaigns.

I saw Malmö FF play IF Elfsborg at the Swedbank Stadion and it was a tense encounter. The hosts are second in the table with eight games left and a 22nd Allsvenskan in their sights. Meanwhile, Elfsborg are sixth and hopeful of a Europa League place come the final reckoning. A very tense game eschewed with neither side really pressing fearful of a fateful mistake. However, as the stadium clock struck 90 minutes, substitute Erdal Rakip jinked past three Elfsborg defenders and guided the ball into the corner of the net. The stadium erupted and the magnificent supporters of this great club went home relieved and happy.

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Allsvenskan (22/09/2016)

Malmö FF 1 (Rakip 90)

IF Elfsborg 0

Att:16,597

Admission SEK285 (£25) programme free

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Two days later I saw IFK Malmö take on Nybro IF in a Division 2 (fourth tier) match at the magnificent Malmö Stadion. Sadly only 125 people paid the eight euros entry to this glorious place. An entertaining match first swung in the favour of the visitors but some excellent finishes from IFK ensured the points stayed in Malmö. This stadium is so good it seems somewhat criminal that the incumbent club attract so few supporters even with their illustrious past.

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Division 2 Södra Götaland (24/09/2016)

IFK Malmö 3 (Asekzaj 29, Ljung 59, El-Kayed 90)

Nybro IF 1 (Johansson 26)

Att:125  (at Malmö Stadion)

Admission SEK80 (£8) free programme

Gallery

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