When KB Copenhagen and B1903 merged in 1992 to form FC København, it created what many people felt was the first Danish “superclub”. With its plethora of abbreviations and acronyms comprising formation dates and the odd BK or FC, it’s not always easy to navigate Danish football and the latest round of mergers and club recalibrations makes it difficult for the casual onlooker.
FCK and Brøndby (themselves the result of a merger) hog the limelight in Copenhagen, but there’s a dozen or more clubs that surround both of these giants of the Danish game. Some play in front of miniscule crowds and others struggle to make ends meet. Surely, the Copenhagen football landscape is ripe for further consolidation?
Kim Vilfort, one of Denmark’s 1992 European Champions, and a goalscorer in the national team’s 2-0 win over Germany in that never-to-be-forgotten final, doesn’t think that there is an appetite for more mergers in Danish football. “There was a time when people thought it was the way to go, especially after FCK’s success, but there is less talk about mergers now.” If there is a possibility, Vilfort looks at the cluster of clubs in the Island of Amager which forms part of Copenhagen. “There you have Fremad Amager, B1908 and Tarnby – I guess there is potential but I don’t see it at the moment.”
Clubs like Frem, from Valby, and Hvidøvre, also look like good merger material, but Vilfort, who started his career with Frem, and former Brondby colleagues Joergen Henriksen (goalkeeper coach) and Henrik Jensen laugh it off. “They are big rivals,” says Henriksen. “So I don’t see that happening. There was some talk a few years back, but no, it won’t happen.”
Henriksen, in his playing days, lined-up in goal for Hvidøvre and played in their Danish title winning-side of 1966, appearing against Real Madrid in the European Cup the following season. He recalls the days of local derbies with Frem that attracted relatively big crowds. “People used to sit in trees to watch the game and crowds would be around 10,000, there was a big game atmosphere when we played Frem,” he says.
Frem have endured financial problems on more than one occasion in recent years, but they are a club that inspires great loyalty from his hardcore support. “Frem is something of a cult club,” says current Head Coach, Henrik Jensen. “We have good crowds for the level we are playing (2.Division øst) and our supporters are quite fanatical. Frem is an old institution of the people – the workers – so people love the club with a passion.”
Frem and Hvidøvre are just two of the clubs in the capital. There’s B93, who play next door to the national stadium, Parken, and AB out at Gladsaxe. Then’s there’s Bronshoj and just outside Copenhagen, Lyngby and FC Nørdsjaelland – not to mention the clubs out on the line to the airport.
Forty years ago, half of the top Danish division came from Copenhagen. Today, only FCK and Brøndby are on the top rung of the ladder and the latter is currently in crisis mode. But Brøndby can still outshine the outfit from the Parken – “the city’s club” – when it comes to public attention. Explains Vilfort: “Last season, Brøndby had to win the final game against Horsens to stay up. We won [Vilfort is still employed by the club at youth level] and the TV and newspapers were full of Brøndby – while FCK were winning the Superliga. The club is still the big news in Denmark.”
Brøndby [and FCK] may be the big news, but the plethora of smaller clubs makes Copenhagen an interesting footballing location. And let’s not forget that Denmark was right at the forefront of the game’s development in the late 19th century.
Thanks to the Danish international trio of Jorgen Henriksen, Henrik Jensen and Kim Vilfort for their cooperation with this article.