Crunch time in Denmark

MAY 16 2023: It almost summer in Copenhagen this weekend, with crowds flocking to see the Danish capital’s marathon and Brøndby playing FC København in the Superliga. The home side, from the west side of greater Copenhagen, are not in the running for the title, but FCK are battling it out with FC Nordsjaelland with Viborg hoping they will both slip-up. In a few days, the Danish Cup final will take place with Aalborg facing FCK.

FC Nordsjaelland are from Farum, a sleepy town of 20,000 people about half an hour from the city on the S-Tøg. They’ve been champions once, in 2012 and that earned them a Champions League campaign that saw them in the group stage and up against Chelsea and Juventus. Their Right to Dream stadium holds 10,000 people and has an artificial pitch.

By contrast, FC København play at Parken, the national stadium in Denmark in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Østerbro. Founded in 1992 from a merger of B1903 and KB, FCK are drawing some good crowds at the moment and their second stage games have attracted 90,000-plus. Interestingly, Parken also has one of those exceedingly expensive Nordic cuisine restaurants, Geranium, where lunch, called “Spring Universe” can cost you DKK 3,800 (around £450). Tickets for games at the ground are somewhat cheaper.

FCK beat Brøndby 3-1 with goals from leading scorer Viktor Claesson, Christian Sørensen and Claesson’s fellow Swede, Jordan Larsson. Later in the city centre, a few FCK shirts could be seen in Nyhavn, celebrating with probably the best lager in the world. FC Nordsjaelland drew 1-1 in Aarhus, and are one point behind FCK.

With UEFA introducing the Conference League, clubs from countries like Denmark can hold realistic hopes of a very decent European campaign. This season, Basel have demonstrated what can be done with focus and a little good fortune. Danish domestic football is still overlooked by many people, but a team like FCK should be able to hold its own in the Conference League. They may not be able to compete in the Champions League or Europa League, but the third tier should be far more comfortable for the best Danish teams.

Neil Fredrik Jensen

National anthem and football – why?

I WAS IN Liverpool on Bank Holiday Monday, not for the Eurovision Song Contest prep but to see Tranmere Rovers over at Birkenhead. It was my 86th ground of the current 92, a project that started for me in the 1980s. I had two interesting chats with Uber drivers about Liverpool, the city, and of course, the football clubs. A day or so earlier, Liverpool fans had jeered the national anthem and of course, this caused some controversy. The Uber drivers were both interested in knowing what people “down south” thought about the reaction of the Liverpool fans.

They were asking the wrong person as they were talking to an anti-monarchist, but it has often crossed my mind why football seems so compelled to attach itself to things like the national anthem, the military and faux nationalism. We’ve seen it many times over the decades, from using football as a recruitment drive in World War One to flypasts and poppy day demonstrations. Sometimes, football seems to think we are still in the age of conscription and empire, today people choose to go into the army, navy or air force, it is a occupational choice. They are not volunteers, they are not being made to join the services.

There is no more a connection between football and the armed forces than any other job or career. Similarly, do office workers or retail staff sing the national anthem at every opportunity? Remember that in the past, British television used to close down at night with “God Save the Queen” and some cinemas would play it at the end of their screenings. Fortunately, we got out of that habit, but football still insists on this outdated form of homage, allowing itself to be cast in the role of master and servant.

The royals have never been particularly fond of football, which dates back to the class system – football was the game of the sweaty-handed songs of the soil, not top-hatted Etonians. Prince William supposedly supports Aston Villa, but this seems totally unimaginable in reality. Like David Cameron, the so-called Villa fan, it may suit him to say he is a football man.

In the modern age, supporting the royal family, like religion, is a personal choice and individuals should not feel they are being commanded to pay homage to them. As for the Liverpool fans, my Uber drivers both explained that the jeering was not against the King or his family per se, it was against the establishment. This goes back a long, long way, longer even than the Thatcher era when her government was keen to forget about the city of Liverpool.

I don’t usually agree with many things that come from Liverpool’s fans, but on this occasion, I’m with them.

Neil Fredrik Jensen