imageIN 1971, Danish football was a backwater, an amateur game played by butchers, bakers and postmen. The Danes had their moments, though, and the Scots certainly underestimated Denmark around this time. In June 1971, Denmark surprisingly beat Scotland 1-0 in Copenhagen in a European Championship qualifier, thanks to a goal from Finn Laudrup, father of Michael and Brian. Two months later, B1903 (who became part of the Danish super club, FC Copenhagen), beat Celtic 2-1 in the first round, first leg, of the European Cup. The goalscorer for the Danes that evening was Benny Johansen, who would become FCK’s first manager.

In 1971, Scotland underestimated the Danes

I was fortunate to interview Johansen in 1992 in the season he led FCK to the Danish Superliga title. I remembered, from my Rothman’s Football Yearbook 1972-73, that Johansen had scored both the goals in that first leg. B1903 lost the second leg 3-0, but they had scared the Scottish champions. “Ha, ha…,” he recalled. “They did not expect to lose that first game. I think they were a little over confident? They were too strong for us in Glasgow. In 1971, Danish football could not compete with the likes of Celtic, who were a good team…European champions a couple of years earlier.”

Most of Johansen’s contemporaries played football in their spare time and in Copenhagen there were dozens of clubs. B1903 and KB were the two most well known, but their attendances barely reached 2,000.

In this days, the Danish league was played during the summer, so B1903 were in fact 1970’s champions. In 1971, Vejle from Jutland, boosted by the goals of Iver Schriver, won the first of two successive titles. Schriver was prolific, scoring 48 goals in 96 games for Vejle and winning a call-up to the national team. He then went on join Austria’s Sturm Graz. I read about Schriver’s exploits from the tissue-like pages of Politiken Weekly, the Danish ex-pat newspaper sent to my father from deepest Frederiksberg.

The Copenhagen district of Frederiksberg was the home of Dalgas Boldklub, a minor outfit formed in 1922 as part of the local gasworks. My cousin, Erik, played for Dalgas as a central defender. When I asked him who he modelled himself on, he said, grinning: “Bobby Moore.”

Erik played with his spectacles on, which made me realise that I was not the only person who needed his glasses so badly on the field of play. Like me, Erik had his specs on elastic bands to ensure they stayed on his head.

Tuborg or Carlsberg, you chose your allegiance

My father and I went to see Erik and his team-mates play in a vital Danish Cup match against fellow Copenhagen side Vanløse. It was played on a Sunday evening in July, a week before we returned to England after a brief sojourn Denmark. My uncle Kurt, husband of my Dad’s sister, Asta, and father of Erik, took us to the ground. It was a basic arena, with hundreds of men standing around the perimeter fence with bottles of Carlsberg or Tuborg in their hand. The local sport was dropping the empty bottle over the fence and attempting to  leave it standing upright on the track. Each time this happened, the crowd cheered.  As the humid evening went on, fewer and fewer bottles landed as planned.

In the first round of the DBU Pokal, Dalgas had beaten Rønne from the Baltic island of Bornholm – hardly a local derby. Vanløse, meanwhile, had beaten Viby. The game between Dalgas and Vanløse was dull, a series of misplaced passes on a bumpy pitch along with suspect ball control. Vanløse netted halfway through the second half, the goalscorer an ageing forward with a Max Wall hairstyle. My cousin was sent-off in the latter stages, apparently for reacting to a Vanløse player spitting at him (who can blame him for that?).

It looked all over for Dalgas, but then there was divine intervention. As the game had progressed, dark clouds had descended upon Copenhagen. The air had become dense and very humid. Suddenly, bibilical lightning broke out across the “Wonderful” city. It got worse as lightning of the type normally reserved for disaster movies filled the sky. I had never seen fork lightning before – and it was right overhead.

Kristus, er det farligt nu

Players from both sides started to look anxiously at the pyrotechnics above them. I heard my Dad (never a football fan and probably itching to get to the local Bodega) commenting to his Brother-in-Law. “Kristus, er det farligt nu,” which loosely translated meant, ”Christ, it is bloody dangerous now.”

The refereee agreed and with eight minutes remaining, called the game off. The replay was a few days later, on the evening we left Copenhagen. Vanløse won 3-2 to earn a tie with B93. The club went on to have some success in the 1970s, but they’re now in the third tier of the Danish game. As for Dalgas, they merged with B1972 Frederiksberg IF in 2000 and are nowhere to be seen today.

I visited Frederiksberg recently and walked by where the ground once stood. It brought back happy memories of a golden few weeks for a 12 year-old back in 1971.
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