Ask anyone the name of a Danish football club and the inevitable answer will be Brøndby or FC Copenhagen. It’s pretty certain the names Vanløse or Svebølle will not come into the conversation. The Danish game doesn’t have strength in depth when it comes to its club football, but then that’s not surprising in a country of five million people.
While FCK and Brøndby dominate Copenhagen football, the city is awash with clubs, some very old and established but unable to attract spectators and players. Outside the top two divisions, the game is very much an amateur concern, with attendances close to lower non-league levels in Britain.
Vanløse is one of those clubs that struggles in the shadow of Greater Copenhagen’s big guns. But it is a club that spawned the Laudrup legend, with Brian and Michael’s father, Finn, playing for Vanløse and the much-feared striker, Preben Elkjaer, starting out with the club.
Vanløse have certainly seen better days. They did spend a couple of years in the top flight in Denmark and won the Danish Cup in the mid-1970s. But it did not last long and the club barely attracts 250 people to its games at the Vanløse Idraetspark. It’s a ground that has that obligatory stand with a multi-vaulted roof – whoever designed this type of grandstand – a Danish Archibald Leitch*, perhaps – did well out of the Copenhagen municipality, for AB, Frem and Hvidovre all have this type of structure. Opposite, a long bank of wooden terracing – the type largely outlawed in Britain – looks precarious and impractical given the Danish climate.
Ten minutes before kick-off for Vanløse game with Svebølle, the gates remain closed. You get the feeling that it’s friends and family only and the crowd at kick-off is barely 200. On the far side, by the wooden terracing, two disabled supporters have three pints of Tuborg lager each to get them through the game. At the opposite corner of the ground, a trusty volunteer and Vanløse stalwart, one Roy Johansen we are later told, prepares the matchday polser sausages, the staple diet of local football crowds. Vanløse also sell “merchandise”, though what exactly that means is unclear – there are no scarves or replica shirts here. The teams run out – Svebølle in what can only be described as “EasyJet orange” and Vanløse in German national team white and black. Neither team has won a game, so expectations are low, and I am not disappointed.
The game starts badly, with passes rarely finding their man, challenges clumsy and formations lacking subtlety. Vanløse do not look especially fit, something that the club’s chairman had identified in his pre-match address in the programme. Svebølle, who have two frontmen who look identical – Fead Rama and Arman Mehakovic – cause problems for Vanløse awkward defence, which was asleep when Rama opened the scoring after 38 minutes from close range. Just afterwards, Svebølle should have scored again, but Mehakovic struck the outside of the post with a shot from 10 yards.
Vanløse equalized three minutes into the second half, a scrambled effort by Nicolai Nielsen and you could see this acted as the catalyst for a big revival. Indeed, if anyone looked to lack self-esteem, it was the Svebølle goalkeeper, Nicky Jensen, who tripped over his own feet and allowed Jonas Juhler the chance to put Vanløse ahead in the 63rd minute. Vanløse made some substitutions, among them a small African midfielder called Freebody Appiah. A broadly-grinning man leaned back to inform me that this was his son and that he was on FCKs books last season and but for a passport, would be treading the same path as Cardiff’s Andreas Cornelius. “When he gets his passport, he will be off to Fiorentina,” he beamed. “He is a very talented player.” Footballing parents, I thought, are the same the world over, their boy is always the best and most under-appreciated.
The game is petering out, however, and some of the crowd are heading out of the ground. In the final minute, Sebastian Hansen goes on a run down the flank, cuts in slightly and sends a chip over Jensen’s head for an absolute corker of a goal. It is out of character with the game, but it secures Vanløse first win of the season. 3-1.
In the end, it was better than the first half suggested, but the two teams looked precisely what they are: strugglers in 2.Division øst. But perhaps it is the first step on the stairway to better things for Vanløse
“Vanløse stairway” is a song by Van Morrison, by the way!
* Archibald Leitch (1863-1939) was a Scottish engineer who designed many of Britain’s football grounds in the early 20th century.