Recollections

It all started among the beer bottles of Copenhagen

Photo: HjalmarGD via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

I’VE BEEN fortunate down the years in having some useful contacts in football. For a start, my cousin’s husband was a Danish international goalkeeper who played for Hvidovre when they won the Danish League in 1966 and later became goalkeeper coach for Brøndby and the Danish national team. Another cousin was a player with a Danish minor league club. As a result, I’ve been lucky to have occasional access to players from Denmark’s 1992 European Championship-winning team and coaches like Sepp Piontek and the late Richard Moeller-Nielsen.

But my first exposure to Danish football came in 1971. The Copenhagen district of Frederiksberg was the home of Dalgas Boldklub, a minor outfit formed in 1922 as part of the local gasworks. Erik, my other football connection, 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, he had his specs on elastic bands to ensure they stayed on his head.

My father – who was a Dane – 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 an extended stay in Denmark. My uncle Kurt, 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, apocalyptic skies had developed over Copenhagen. The air had become dense and very sticky. Suddenly, biblical 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 and very dramatic.

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. Sadly, Erik has a savage illness that has left him immobile.

I visited Frederiksberg recently and walked by where the ground once stood. It brought back happy memories of a few golden weeks for a 12 year-old back in 1971 – a pivotal moment in time that inspired my interest in European football, travel and of course, reinforced my Danish heritage. Every Monday, my Dad received an expatriate newspaper from his mother, Politiken Weekly, and after my glorious summer, I would scour it for football results. I became a closet  Randers Freja fan, but despite visiting quite a few Danish clubs in recent years, I’ve yet to visit Randers – but that’s absolutely on my list.

This article was my column in Football Weekends magazine for October 2017, reproduced with kind permission.

 

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