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Club profiles: GAIS

August 2nd, 2011 by nict

When I first moved to Gothenburg, I only knew one team: IFK Göteborg.So without giving the matter much thought, I bought a blue-and-white scarf and a ticket to their next match. However the second match I went too was against their smaller, poorer local rivals Gais. Their fans made an immediate impression. Despite being outnumbered by their opposition and getting completely outplayed on the pitch, they managed to out sing and make more noise than their IFK counterparts for the full 90 minutes. I arrived at Nya Ullevi that day an IFK man, but I left a Gaisare and have been ever since. Now I’m a season ticket holder, never miss a home game, and even make the occasion away trip.

Gais are one of the oldest clubs in Sweden and one of the founding members of the Allsvenskan. In the 1920s, they were one of the most successful teams in the country, regularly winning trophies and boasting Swedish internationals in their squad. But since the 1950s, they’ve quickly diminished into perpetual strugglers flittering between divisions and frequently on the verge of bankruptcy. Yet, their long-suffering supporters are renowned for their passion and commitment to the team even in the most trying of times. They could travel all the way to some small village club in deep Norrland, spend 90 minutes standing in the cold and rain, watch their team go down 5-0, and yet in the 90th minute they’ll still be singing ‘always look on the bright side of Gais.’

Gais also pride themselves on playing attacking football, and refuse to reduce themselves to the dull, pragmatic, defensive tactics seen at many other struggling clubs. The perception many Gais fans like to have of their club as that they’re the team of choice for the romantics and real fans. IFK Göteborg, in contrast, is for the glory hunters and fair-weather supporters. While IFK were playing the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United, as recently as 2002, Gais were in the third division.

There is another common phase that goes along the lines of: “IFK are disco and Gais are rock ‘n’ roll”. In others words, IFK represents the clean-living mainstream Gothenburg, while Gais represents the city’s alternative counter-cultures, almost like a Swedish version of St.Pauli. Accordingly, Swedish indie-rock star Håkan Hellström is a big fan and one of his songs “Gårdakvar och skit” has been adopted as the club’s official anthem. Ebbot Lundberg from Soundtrack of our Lives and In Flame’s Björn Gelotte are also supporters. There is even one rumour that Frank Zappa performed a gig in Gothenburg in the 1970s wearing Gais’ famous green-and-black stripes.

If IFK is the champagne-sipping ‘stekare’ who spends his Friday night’s in the Avenue’s poshest night clubs, decked out in designer cloths and bragging about how much money he makes, then Gais is the uncouth metal head who languishes in Andralånggatan’s seedier bars spending what little money he has on ‘stor starks’ promising that while he is nearly forty, still living with his parents and has never held down a full-time job, any day now he and his band will get their big break.

Why might I have heard of them?

To be honest, if you’ve never been to Sweden, in fact if you’ve never been to Gothenburg, I’m not really sure why anyone would have heard of Gais. There green-and-black scarves are a common sight here and they have a strong cult-following, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t extend beyond the west coast of Sweden.

Gais have qualified for Europe twice. The first time was in 1975, when they were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the first round by Polish side Slask Wroclaw. The second time was in 1990, where a torrid 4-1 thumping by Torpedo Moscow probably put them off European competitions forever.

At some point in the past decade they played a preseason friendly against Celtic at the old Gamla Ullevi, but otherwise they’ve had no reason to leave Sweden’s shores.

Any players, past or present, I might know?

Roland Nilsson, who used to play for Helsingborg, IFK Göteborg and Sheffield Wednesday, began a successful career in management with Gais in 2003. He successful got the side back into the Allsvenskan, and even took the field himself a couple of times, including the final 25 minutes in a promotion play-off match. In 2007 he joined Malmö FF, and after a successful stint there, he was appointed the new manager of FC Copenhagen last summer.

In the early 1990s, IFK legend Glenn Hysen also joined Gais on a free transfer from Liverpool, with the club promising to build him a house as part of his signing on fee. To this day, he is still accused of nearly bankrupting the club due to his massive wages – an allegation he disputes claiming that he ended up paying for the house himself.

Colours: Green and black vertical stripes, white shorts.

Nicknames: Grönsvart (Green and Blacks), Makrillarna (The Mackerels.)

Ground: Gamla Ullevi, Göteborg

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Just over the halfway point

July 22nd, 2011 by nict

At the top of the table, we’re starting to see a three-way race for the title between Helsingborg, Elfsborg and AIK.

For the second year in a row, Helsingborg reaches the halfway point of the season on top of the league and seemingly unassailable having lost only one game. However we all thought the same thing this time last year. Despite dropping plenty of points early in the season, Elfsborg find themselves in second and only three points behind, and they’ve finally found some consistency. AIK has also been resurgent in recent weeks. In their last five matches, they’ve recorded 15 goals and five wins. As for Helsingborg, they’ll have to defend their lead without Alexander Gerndt, Marcus Nilsson and anyone else they might loose before the transfer window closes at the end of August.

Gais and Gelfe continue to defy all preseason expectations. Gais are fourth and are bringing much joy to long-suffering fans with their Barcelona-esque football (at least as close as an Allsvenskan club can get to playing Barcelona-esque football). Gelfe’s high position continues to rely on a solid impenetrable backline, so they’re probably concerned that they’ve conceded six goals in their past two games.

Häcken are also enjoying a healthy run of form. Thanks to Mathias Ranegie, they’ve scored more goals than any other team, however until now their backline was letting them down. With the return of key defender Tom Söderberg, they’ve finally stemmed the flow and rising up the table as a result.

Malmö FF continues to underachieve and look like a shadow of the young dynamic side they were last season. Injuries have taken their toll, and since Rikard Norling replaced Roland Nilsson as manager, they’ve only won two matches out of five. Their Champions League campaign has gotten off to a fair start after a 3-1 aggregate win over HB Tórshavn of the Faeroe Islands, but their next match against Glasgow Rangers won’t be as easy.

At the bottom of the table, the season looks as good as over for Halmstad. Since my last post they haven’t been able to add to their solitary win. Mjällby, Syrianska and IFK Norrköping are stuck down there with them, however Djurgården has managed to turn their form around and pull themselves clear.

In the Europe League Häcken, Elfsborg and Helsingborg have all managed to progress to the third qualifying round, with Örebro being the only Swedish team to be knocked out.

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The transfer window

July 22nd, 2011 by nict

You may have noticed the standards in the Allsvenskan diminish slightly these past few weeks. As I write, clubs from Holland, Denmark and Belgium are pillaging the league and running off with the competition’s best players.

Dutch side FC Utrecht have been the greediest having bought both Alexander Gerndt and Marcus Nilsson from Helsingborg, and Johan Mårtensson from Gais. FC Copenhagen’s new manager Roland Nilsson was expected to clear out his old side Malmö FF and Helsingborg, but so far he has only managed to sign IFK Göteborg’s key defender Ragnar Sigurosson. Mjällby’s Moestafa El Kabir finally makes his long awaiting departure from Sweden and has signed for Serie A side Cagliari. Guillermo Molins has gone to Anderlecht where he’ll join his old MFF teammate Berang Safari, while Örebro defender Michael Almebäck has been bought by rivals Club Brugge. Too broke to pay up now, Glasgow Rangers has signed Örebro’s American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya on a pre-contract that will come into force in November. Even the kids aren’t safe, with Arsenal pouching 16-year old Kristoffer Olsson from IFK Norrköping.

The talent drain won’t stop there either. For Mervan Celik, Mathias Ranegie and Teteh Bangura, leaving is just a matter when and not if.

The flow of talent in the opposite direction is not nearly as rich. Andreas Vasquez returns to Gothenburg after three years in Switzerland, this time signing for BK Häcken. To date Vasquez’s most famous moment was scoring an impressive cross-kick goal from just outside the penalty area back in 2007 when he played for IFK.

The other notable ‘signing’ has been Halmstad’s assistant coach Michael Svensson coming out of retirement and registering as a player. Considering how many goals Halmstad have conceded this season, it’s a move that reeks of desperation.

UPDATE: The chase for AIK’s Tetah Bangura heats up and the longer he stays in Solna, the more ludicrous the rumours. A little over a year ago he was on trial at fourth-tier club Köping, and now he is supposedly being watched by Man U.

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A long overdue post

June 10th, 2011 by nict

It’s been a long time between blog posts so I hope there are still some people out there still reading. I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Since the last blog entry (last February), the Allsvenskan season has well and truly kicked off and we’re now ten games into the season. Just prior to the first round, I wrote this preview for The Local, and I’m pleased to report that I’m not radically wrong.

As it stands Helsingborg tops the table by one point, which will more than likely extend to four points once they are awarded an automatic win after their match against Malmö was suspended. Once again they have been the most consistent team in the competition, with the best defense having only conceded one goal at home all year.

Elfsborg remain the favourites with bookmakers, and currently sit in second spot. In typical Elfsborg fashion they have been wildly unpredictable. Lasse Nilsson and Niklas Hult have spearheaded an attack that has scored more goals than any other team, but they also concede goals at an alarming rate, including three against struggling Trelleborg.

Malmö also remain one of the league’s stronger teams but haven’t been as dominate as 2010. They can also expect to loose a few players in the summer transfer window as well as their manager Roland Nilsson, who will be moving to FC Copenhagen.

Kalmar are currently third and would have to be considered a title contender if it weren’t for their terrible away form. They have won all five home games, but only won one away.

IFK Göteborg should also be a title contender on paper, boasting the league’s highest goal scorer Tobias Hysen. But in terms of goals conceded they also have the league’s fifth worst backline. They also lost their first four games and have a lot of catching up to do.

The two biggest overachievers have been Gais and Gelfe, who were both joint favourites for relegation at the start of the season. However after bolstering their attack with Razak Omotoyossi, Alvaro Santos, Amadaiya Rennie and Wanderson, Gais look a lot more potent upfront and find themselves in sixth. By contrast, Gelfe have defied preseason predictions through a solid dependable backline.

At the bottom of the table, Halmstad and Djurgården are both struggling. Halmstad has only recorded one win, scored only seven goals (the league’s lowest) and conceded 17 (the leagues highest) making them the competition’s worst team in every facet. Djurgården at least have the consolation of having beaten Halmstad, but at this stage it looks like they might both get relegated together.

Unfortunately the biggest talking points this season have been off the field. Already two matches have been suspended mid-match due to hooliganism.

Last month the Skåne derby between Helsingborg and Malmö

had to be suspended after Helsingborg keeper Pär Hansson first had a firework thrown from the crowd go off right next to his ear, and was then attacked by a pitch invader. Two months ago, Syrianska v AIK was suspended after an object thrown from the crowd struck the linesman. There have been a

lot comparisons made in the media with England in the 1970s and 80s, which seems a little unfair considering these incidents can hardly be compared with the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough. But for football fans it means we can probably expect to see a lot security at matches from now on. It’s unfortunate because basically the only time the Allsvenskan gets any attention outside of Sweden is when incidents like this take place. I feel obliged to mention it because you can’t really have a blog about Swedish football and ignore the one issue that is grabbing all the headlines. But on the other hand,

I really do want to ignore it because I genuinely feel the problem is nowhere near as big as so many tabloids make it out to be. England, Scotland, Italy, Serbia – these are countries with a hooligan problem, and it infuriates me when columnists try to equate the Allsvenskan with the same standards. I’d also rather focus on what is happening on the pitch rather than what a very small minority get up to in the stands.

In other news, the national team recently tore Finland apart and suddenly look a half decent chance of qualifying for the European Championships. The excellent Zonal Marking website has provided an analysis of the match, which you can read here, and you can see all five goals here.

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January/February Round Up

March 2nd, 2011 by nict

It’s been a long time between blog posts but the silence is probably a fair reflection of the lack of transfer activity in Swedish football. Of the five players I swore would not be playing in Sweden by 1 February, only one actually ended up leaving: Elfsborg’s Denni Avdic was signed by Werder Breman. But apart from that the January transfer window was more notable for the deals that didn’t happen and the players that came back, rather than the players that left.

Juventus was supposedly interested in Alexander Gerndt and Fulham was reportedly keen on Trelleborg keeper Viktor Norling, but apparently neither were interested enough to make a bid. It has been alleged that Schalke 04 made a bid of 25 SEK million for Helsingborg’s Rasmus Jönsson, while Malmö were busy rejecting bids from Germany for Daniel Larsson. The most recent rumours linked Birmingham City to Örebro SK’s American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, but even if that’s true, they’ll have to wait until July now.

In fact the talent was arguably flowing in the other direction. The biggest name to return to Swedish football was David Elm, who along with his brothers Viktor and Rasmus, was integral to Kalmar’s title winning team in 2008. David had spent the past two seasons with Fulham struggling to get a game outside of the League Cup, and will be returning to play for Elfsborg. Joining him will be Lasse Nilsson, who also returns to Sweden after an unsuccessful spell in Europe.

The transfer window also saw a number of players return to their original clubs: Martin Mutumba is back at AIK, Sharbel Touma to Syrianska, and Dioh Williams to Häcken. Most remarkably of all, Wanderson do Carmo could well be returning to GAIS nine months after signing for Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ahli Jeddah. It turns out the club can only sign three foreign players and since Wanderson has struggled since arriving last summer, they’re looking to loan him out to make room for another foreigner. They’re even prepared to pay 95% of his wages to make it happen, meaning Gais can potentially retain one of their better players over the past few seasons, retain the transfer fee from selling him, and save on the wages they initially used to pay him. What’s not to like if you’re a Gaisare?

On a sadder note, January also saw a number of veterans leave the game, either retiring or demoted to lower divisions. Teddy Lucic, a former Swedish international with 86 caps and three World Cups, retired. Despite being one of the Allsvenskan’s best players last season, Helsingborg did not offer 36 year-old Marcus Lantz a new contract. In fact no Allsvenskan club offered him a contract, and he’ll spend 2011 playing under former teammate Henrik Larsson at Landskrona. Per ‘Texas’ Johansson, who has been at Halmstad for the past ten years, was also denied a new contract and will now play for Superettan side Falkenberg FF. AIK veteran Daniel Tjernström looked destined to join them in the lower leagues with AIK reluctant to renew his contract, but he was eventually convinced to lower his wages enough to be granted one more year.

Finally, the most interesting transfer activity has been taking place in unfashionable Halmstad, suggesting they could be a club to watch in 2011. New Spanish manager Josep Clotet Ruiz, who last season was an assistant coach at Malmö FF, cannot be accused of not being ambitious as he has been off borrowing players from Real Madrid! In this day and age it is very rare for clubs of this stature to have any contract with Swedish football unless they’re looking to snatch child prodigies from youth academies. Yet being Spanish has obviously helped Ruiz to snare Real Madrid’s Zamora, Raul Ruiz and Javi on loan. Sure, they’re all youth players, but you’d think that anyone deemed good enough to be on Real Madrid’s books is going to star in the league like the Allsvenskan? Along with singings Ivan Diaz (also a former Real Madrid youth player) and Nauzet Perez, Ruiz has given Halmstads BK a very distinct Spanish ambience that could prove exciting to watch.

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The January transfer window: Players moving abroad.

December 27th, 2010 by nict

The whole country might be covered in snow and ice, making outdoor training impossible, but the Swedish off-season is over. Clubs are signing players again, and by the end of the week the January transfer window will open, allowing clubs all over Europe to pilfer Sweden’s playing lists. We’ll see some old heads retire or demoted to the lower leagues, we’ll see some talented future Swedish internationals pouched by richer clubs abroad, and if we’re lucky we might even see some mature Swedish stars returning to end their careers back at their home town club.

Considering they are the champions and have a squad laden with promising youngsters, Malmö FF can expect the most attention from abroad. Ivo Pękalski, Daniel Larsson, Guillermo Molins and Agon Mehmeti are just some of the young prospects that they’ll struggle to keep. Runners-up Helsingborg could loose Rasmus Jönsson, Pär Hansson, Alexander Gerndt and Joel Ekstrand. Fiorentina are rumoured to be interested in IFK Göteborg’s Adam Johansson, while Robin Söder is attracting interest in England and Italy. Below are five players that you can almost guarantee won’t be left in Sweden by January 31.

Alexander Gerndt

At the start of the season Alexander Gerndt was a once-promising youngster who had failed to come good and was struggling to hold a first team place at Gelfe IF. By mid-season he was the highest goal scorer in the league despite Gelfe being in the relegation zone. The notion that he was a big-fish-in-a-small-pond was soon put to rest by the fact that his goal-scoring proficiency continued when he signed for top-of-the-table Helsingborg, scoring 12 goals in 15 games. Dutch side SC Heerenveen were rumoured to be sniffing around in summer before he signed for Helsingborg and his second half of the season performance would not have put them off.

Daniel Larsson

Daniel Larsson continued to make huge improvements in 2010 and even broke into the Swedish national team. His ten goals and ten assists (the highest in the league) were invaluable to Malmö’s league-winning team. At only 23 years old, he will continue to improve and he will not have gone unnoticed by clubs abroad. English tabloids claim Birmingham City are keeping tabs on him.

Ivo Pekalski

In fact Malmö will struggle to keep a number of their players when the transfer window opens up, in particular Ivo Pekalski. The 20 year-old made his debut for Malmö FF at the beginning of the year and by season’s end was one of the best midfielders in the league. In his youth he has trained with Arsenal and Liverpool, and while they might have passed him up, it is inevitable that plenty of other clubs in Europe will be making some tempting bids in January.

Denni Avdic

I actually predicted that Denni Avdic would be pouched last summer, but after what turned out to be a relatively quiet transfer window, the 22 year-old was allowed to play out the year at Elfsborg.  The young striker went on to become the league’s second highest goal scorer with 19 goals, and Elfsborg will once again have to ward off poachers. Rumours have repeatedly linked him to a range of mid-to-lower table English premier league clubs including Birmingham City, Blackburn and West Brom.

Mostapha El Kabir

Dutch-Moroccan midfielder Mostapha El Kabir was undoubtedly the signing of the season, almost single handedly helping the newly promoted Mjällby become one of the most attacking and entertaining sides in the league. It is hard to believe now but the 22 year-old midfielder actually had to go on trial at Mjällby before convincing the club to sign him. Having gone through the youth ranks at Ajax and Feyernoord, El Kabir has always been a promising player but his career has been hampered by his off-field behaviour. After his debut season with Mjällby, a number of Dutch clubs will be more open to the idea of giving him a second chance.

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November 9th, 2010 by nict

The 2010 Allsvenskan season began way back in mid-March with IFK Göteborg and Elfsborg being the early favourites.

IFK’s 3-0 win over Kalmar in the opening match of the season, and Elfsborg’s 6-0 thrashing of Halmstad in week two, seemed to confirm the bookies’ predictions.

Meanwhile in the opening round Malmö were held to a 0-0 draw away to Gais, and Helsingborg only just beat Brommapojkarna (BP) at home thanks to a goal in extra time, with neither game giving any indication of the season that lay ahead.

Yet it didn’t take long for Malmö and Helsingborg to assert their dominance, which they’d go on to maintain all season. After six rounds, Helsingborg and Malmö were first and second respectively, leading up to a much-anticipated Skåne derby in late April.

Helsingborg completely outplayed Malmö, winning 1-0, and became the outright favourites from that point onwards. Meanwhile AIK and IFK, who were first and second respectively in 2009, sat in the relegation zone seemingly incapable winning.

Week seven was a turning point for many clubs: AIK recorded their first win, Malmö suffered their first defeat, and Åtvidaberg scored their first goal! Midfielder Haris Radetinac had the honour of ending the 575 minute-long goalless streak but unfortunately two own-goals meant their opponents Djurgården ended up winning 2-1.

While Åtvidaberg struggled all year, fellow promotion winners Mjällby were the season’s overachievers and spent most of the year in the top six, playing an attractive attacking brand of football seldom seen by newly promoted clubs.

At the end of May, the Allsvenskan took a long summer break to make way for the World Cup. At that point Helsingborg had only lost one game all season, due to a freak goal against Kalmar, and had a five-point lead over second placed Malmö. They looked unbeatable and passed Malmö it was hard to find a potential challenger.

AIK, IFK and Kalmar were in the bottom half of the table, while Elfsborg were way too inconsistent. Örebro and Mjällby were overachieving as it was, and it was questionable whether they could even keep their top four places, let alone win the league. Even if Helsingborg didn’t end up on top at season’s end, it seemed clear in May that the title would end up going to a team from Skåne.

When the season resumed in July, Malmö came out firing. They won six games in a row including 3-0 over third placed Örebro and a 1-0 win over Elfsborg. Helsingborg dropped points against Häcken and the gap between the two narrowed. By the time the two sides had to play each other again in the second Skåne derby, it was effectively a championship play-off. This time Malmö were the superior team, winning 2-0, and it became clear the power balance had shifted.

What followed was a gripping title race with many twists. In early October, Helsingborg lost their first home game of the season to Gais, while Malmö increased their goal difference with a 3-0 thumping of Trelleborg. However a fortnight later Helsingborg became the first team all season to beat Elfsborg in Borås, winning 1-3, while Malmö lost at home for the first time all season, going down to Kalmar 0-1.

Both sides kept matching one another for wins and went into the last game of the season on equal points, however the momentum was with Malmö who had a huge advantage in goal difference. They went into the final match at home to Mjällby, with their confidence high having scored eight goals in the previous two matches, and knowing a win would almost certainly guarantee the title.

Malmö’s final performance was clinical as they brushed Mjällby aside to clinch the club’s 16th title, and celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary in style. Meanwhile Helsingborg were held to a scoreless draw against Kalmar, and will always look back on 2010 as the one that got away.

Here’s a quick review of each team’s 2010 season, listed in order of their final ranking in the Allsvenskan table.

Malmö FF

Summary: Easily one of the best sides all year but spent most of season second best to Helsingborg. After the summer break they went on an eight-game unbeaten run, which soon saw them overtake Helsingborg. Once on top, they refused to move and were able to celebrate their 100th anniversary with yet another league title.
Highlight: Obviously clinching the title at home in the last game of the season.
Lowlight: Losing to Kalmar in October, the club’s only lose at home all season, and at the time could have potentially cost them the title.
Verdict: Worthy winners, and unlike past champions they did it in style, playing attractive attacking football. It is great to finally see the SM-Guld go to an exciting young team. 5 out of 5.

Helsingborg IF

Summary: Undefeated for the first twelve games of the season, Helsingborg were very much the early pace setters. Their backline looked impenetrable and as we entered the summer break there was every chance they were going to run away with it. Instead they buckled under the pressure being applied by Malmö. They lost games to Häcken and Gais, which proved vital in a tight premiership race.
Highlight: Completely outplaying Malmö 2-1 in the first Skåne derby of the season back in April would have been the point at which most fans dared dream of winning the league.
Lowlight: Losing to Gais at home, their first and only lose of the season at home, was arguably the point where they lost the league.
Verdict: The first half of the season was flawless but some poor performances in the second half means this will always be the one that got away. Ordinarily 65 points in a season would win the league, but not this year. 4.5 out of 5.

Örebro SK

Summary: After losing a few games early in the season, Örebro steadied and just got better as the season went on. Even losing key target man Kim Olsen in the summer failed to slow them down, and they had secured European qualification with a handful of games to spare.
Highlight: Beating Helsingborg 3-0 in late August proved to themselves and everyone else that they deserved to be title contenders.
Lowlight: Early in the season Örebro lost to Mjällby and Gais, and there was very little to suggest they’d be challenging for the title later in the season.
Verdict: Örebro were an effective solid unit that keep getting stronger. Finishing third is a fantastic result for the club, who are reminiscent of Kalmar as they built up a title-winning squad prior to 2008. Could be one to watch in 2011. 4.5 out of 5.

Elfsborg

Summary: Elfsborg started in spectacular fashion with a 6-0 win over Halmstad, but it would prove to be their only win for the first five games of the season. For all their talent Elfsborg often failed to take their chances, recording an incredible 11 draws.
Highlight: Beating Halmstad 6-0 was the biggest win of the year and made the club worthy title favourites.
Lowlight: Losing 5-1 to IFK Göteborg would have hurt, but losing 3-0 to Örebro killed off their slim chances of winning the league and suggested they were never going to get higher than fourth.
Verdict: Yet another season of underachievement and missed opportunities. 3 out of 5.

Trelleborg FF

Summary: Trelleborg started slowly, winning only one match in their first ten, and the season looked set for another grim relegation battle. However they managed to slowly turn things around, losing only four games of their final 17, and gradually moving back up the table all the way to fifth.
Highlight: Winning four games in a row midseason was a record for the club, and begun a revival that pushed them into the top half of the table.
Lowlight: Losing 3-0 to fellow strugglers Åtvidaberg suggested they’d struggle for a win all season.
Verdict:: Trelleborg were very much the quiet achievers, and they got better as the season wore on, winning their final four games. One can only wonder how much further they would have gone if it weren’t for their poor start. 4 out of 5.

Mjällby AIF

Summary: Mjällby took everyone by surprise in the first half of the season, and went into the summer break in fourth spot. However when the season resumed, they went into a slump that saw them win only one match in the next ten. A 3-0 win over Djurgården helped turn things round and they finished the season strongly.
Highlight: Beating Malmö 4-2, a week after beating Elfsborg. This was the point where their success could no longer be dismissed as a fluke.
Lowlight: Losing to Helsingborg in September stretched a winless streak to five games, and it looked like their season was disintegrating.
Verdict: Tremendous season for the small club playing in the Allsvenskan for the first time in 25 years. They weren’t afraid to play attacking football, and made some inspired signings, such as Dutch striker Mostapha El Kabir. 5 out of 5.

IFK Göteborg

Summary: The season started in spectacular fashion with a 3-0 win over Kalmar, suggesting they were right to be favourites. When Blåvit played well they were excellent. They scored some big wins and won by three goals or more on seven occasions. But when they were poor they were awful, winning only three games before the summer break.
Highlight: Take your pick: beating west coats rivals Elfsborg 5-1, or getting revenge on AIK winning 4-0.
Lowlight: Losing to 2-1 to Åtvidaberg, who hasn’t won a game all season, came at a time when it looked like they had just gotten their season back on track.
Verdict: On paper, IFK are arguably the strongest side in Sweden, and some performances proved it. But overall they were huge underachievers. 2.5 out of 5.

BK Häcken

Summary: With three straight wins to open the season, 2010 was looking bright. But it was followed by an eight game winless streak and Häcken spent most of the season in midtable.
Highlight: Beating IFK Göteborg, the big-time Charlies from south of the river, for the second year in the row would have been satisfying.
Lowlight: Getting torn apart 5-1 by the same opponents later in the year.
Verdict: Not quite as spectacular as last season, but Häcken were still a decent side despite a shoestring budget, and overall played better than the sum of their parts. 3 out of 5.

Kalmar FF

Summary: Along with AIK and IFK, Kalmar had a poor start and didn’t win a match until Gameweek 9. But from there they went on a seven-game undefeated streak to lift themselves back into title contention. When they couldn’t maintain it, they were doomed to midtable.
Highlight: Beating Helsingborg, even if it was from a freak goal, restored some confidence put their premiership campaign back on track.
Lowlight: Losing 0-3 to AIK, who at that point hadn’t won a game all season.
Verdict: While they’re not as strong as their title winning 2008 side, there is still some talent on Kalmar’s books, they should have done a lot better. 3 out of 5.

Djurgården

Summary: Djurgården fans will claim the mantle of “bäst i stad”, but it hides the fact that this was very much a season of mid-table mediocrity. They spent most of the season hovering above the relegation zone before finding some form in mid-August, where four wins in a row pushed them into the top half.
Highlight: Beating AIK twice in one season was always going to please long-suffering fans, especially the second victory which put their much hated rivals back into the relegation zone.
Lowlight: Losing 3-0 to Häcken at home would have made fans fear another relegation battle.
Verdict: Considering they were nearly relegated last season, 2010 was a big improvement, but otherwise there wasn’t much to get excited about. 3 out of 5.

AIK

Summary: Despite being the defending champions, AIK were woeful in 2010. They only won two games for the first half of the season, and spent most of the year in the relegation zone. Luckily the fixture list was kind, and an easy run home let them win their last three games to pull themselves to safety.
Highlight: Beating IFK Göteborg in the Super Cup (Sweden’s version of the Community Shield) meant they at least got a trophy, and at the time it gave no indication of the travesty to follow.
Lowlight: So many to choice from…where do you start?
Verdict: Absolutely atrocious. 0.5 out of 5.

Halmstad BK

Summary: Halmstad were capable of the odd performance, such as 4-0 win over Åtvidaberg and 3-0 win over Gais, but for the most part they struggled.
Highlight: Beating Åtvidaberg 4-0 helped restore some confidence and negate the battering to the goal difference inflicted the previous week (see Lowlight).
Lowlight: Losing 6-0 against Elfsborg was the biggest defeat inflicted on anybody and set the tone for much of the season.
Verdict: Expectations were never high and there were few positives that could be taken from this season. 2 out of 5.

Gais

Summary: While Gais were never spectacular they at least managed to pick up some points early on. Losing Wanderson during the summer robbed them of a lot of their attacking flair and they struggled to score goals all season. In the end they survived not so much because of any effort from themselves but because those below them failed to catch up.
Highlight: Beating Helsingborg away was an unexpected three points and made their relegation battle significantly easier.
Lowlight: Conceding three goals in the final 12 minutes at home to Trelleborg, after absolutely dominating for most of the match.
Verdict: Typically Gais. Often playing well but rarely scoring and frequently conceding goals late in games. If matches were 80 minutes long, Gais would be much higher up the table. 2 out of 5.

Gelfe IF

Summary: Gelfe won three of their first five matches to earn a respectable midtable position, but this was followed by four consecutive defeats and they struggled from that point onwards.
Highlight: Beating AIK early in the season made it three wins in the first five matches, and suggested Gelfe could have been this season’s overachievers.
Lowlight: Losing Alexander Gerndt to Helsingborg midseason. He would go on to score another 12 goals, become the Allsvenskan’s leading goal scorer, and could have made the difference between relegation and survival if he stayed.
Verdict: Struggled all season and never looked likely to escape relegation. 1.5 out of 5.

Åtvidaberg FF

Summary: Åtvidaberg started slowly and looked doomed to be relegated very early on. They didn’t even score a goal until Gameweek 7. They never went higher than 12th, and yet still had every chance of surviving right up until the second last game.
Highlight: Beating IFK Göteborg 2-1 for their first win of the season. It gave fans hope that they might survive despite such a poor start.
Lowlight: Conceding two own goals against Djurgården to blow a 1-0 lead. You know nothing will go right with results like that.
Verdict: Struggled all season but this was always expected. 1 out of 5.

Brommapojkarna

Summary: BP started well and at one stage threatened to be this season’s overachievers. However after beating Mjällby 1-0 in late July, they wouldn’t win another game for the rest of the season, and rapidly dropped to rock bottom.
Highlight: Beating Halmstad 1-0, which took the club to fifth, their highest position all season.
Lowlight: Losing 4-1 to Åtvidaberg, who had barely won a game up until that point, was the first suggestion that BP didn’t have what it takes to stay up.
Verdict: Very ordinary and deserve to be relegated. 1 out of 5.

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D Day

November 4th, 2010 by nict

Here it is. This Sunday, at 4.30pm the 30th and last round of Allsvenskan 2010 kicks off with the title poised between Malmö and Helsingborg. Obviously the two games to watch will be Malmö v Mjällby and Helsingborg v Kalmar. The two sides are both on 64 points but Malmö have managed to build up a goal difference of 10 over Helsingborg so its fair to say that if they win on Sunday, they’ll win the title. However working against Malmö is the fact that Helsingborg’s opponents have nothing to play for. Mjällby on the other hand still have a chance of qualifying for Europe in the off chance Elfsborg slip up at home to Gais.

Åtvidaberg’s 2-1 lose Mjällby last Monday night ensures they’ll finish the season in the relegation zone and came as great relief to Halmstad, Gais and AIK. The three can now go into the last game of the season knowing there is no risk of going down. There is little hope for BP, while Gelfe and Åtvidaberg’s only chance of staying in the Allsvenskan is to finish 14th and hopefully survive a play-off against Sundsvall.

Gelfe will be playing away to IFK Göteborg, who seemingly have nothing to play for yet manager Jonas Olsson may think differently as his job seems to be on the line. Considering they started the season as title favourites, 2010 has been a big disappointment for Blåvit. Putting further pressure on his job is the fact that Lars Lagerbäck is looking for a new job and has made it known he’s keen to work in the Allsvenskan. What better club than one of the best supported in the country, and at least on paper, strongest squads? Today he even made it publicly known that he’s “always liked IFK” which is effectively saying he’d take the job if it were offered. The powers to be at IFK have hardly given Olsson their full backing either – when confronted with questions on Olsson’s future, they’ve only come back by pointing out he has a year left on his contract. Not much of an endorsement. A poor performance against Gelfe might be all they need to make a switch.

In other news, the Royal League might be back as soon as this winter. For those new to Scandinavian football, this was a short-lived knockout competition involving the top four sides from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. It was forced to shut down in 2007 due to an inability to find a sponsor, but there is a chance of bringing back if they include teams from other countries who also have a preseason during the winer. Such as Russia, Finland…and eh, Faroe Islands?

This morning Aftonbladet also ran an article claiming the SM-Guld trophy, the same one that Malmö and Helsingborg are playing for this weekend, has a deep secret. Allegedly the text “Bajen Forever” has been engraved on the inside of the trophy ever since Hammarby won it in 2001. No doubt an engraver somwhere in either Malmö or Helsingborg can expect a call on Monday morning.

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Two Games Left

October 27th, 2010 by nict

Since the last update, the title race between Malmö and Helsingborg remains the same, although it has taken some unpredictable turns. In early October, Helsingborg lost their first home game of the season to Gais, while Malmö increased their goal difference with a 3-0 thumping of Trelleborg. However a fortnight later, after the international break, Helsingborg became the first team all season to beat Elfsborg in Borås, winning 1-3. Meanwhile Malmö lost their first home game of the season, going down to Kalmar 0-1. Both sides recorded healthy wins this weekend, meaning the title race will go down to the last weekend of the season. As it stands both sides are level on points but Malmö’s goal difference is better by 8 goals. Helsingborg must play Halmstad away and Kalmar at home. Malmö have BP away and Mjällby at home. Keep November 7th free because the last game of the season is going to be a corker!

Swedish football also made a rare appearance in the British media last week, although unfortunately for the wrong reasons. An article on AIK’s recent hooligan problem featured on the Guardian’s football website. Like many of the people who posted comments after the article, I think Sweden’s supposed ‘problem’ has been hugely exaggerated…but I suppose when the quality of football isn’t worth writing about you’ve got to find something else to write about instead. Having said that, within days of the article’s publication AIK away fans were accused of physically threatening Halmstad players, suggesting they’re not too fussed about adverse publicity abroad.

AIK have spent of the season in the relegation zone, but by winning their last two games, they have managed to pull themselves free. Which is more than can be said for BP who look almost certain to go down. Gelfe’s 1-0 win over fellow struggles Gais last Sunday has given them slim hope but with games against Djurgården and IFK Göteborg, they’ll struggle to get the points to pull themselves up. Åtvidaberg, AIK, Halmstad and Gais will all be desperately trying to salvage any point they can in the next two games to avoid the relegation play off.

Regardless of who ends up going down, we at least now know who will be replacing them with the Superettan season concluding last weekend. Syrianska, the club started by Syriac immigrants in Södertälje back in 1977, won the competition and will be playing in the Allsvenskan for the first time in their short history. Due to their Syriac roots, they’ve built up a cult following that extends all over the world, and no doubt their fans will add some much-needed colour to the top division next season.

IFK Norrköping, who have been on top most of the season, will also be promoted. Unlike Syrianska they have a long history in the Allsvenskan, and played their as recently as 2008. GIF Sundsvall will get the chance to win promotion through a play-off against the third last team in the Allsvenskan.

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Capital Crisis

October 19th, 2010 by nict

The last decade has been good for Stockholm’s football. Since 2000 each of their three main clubs (Hammarby, AIK and Djurgården) have won titles. In fact collectively they’ve won five of the last ten. As you can read here, life in the 2000s was good for the capital. Yet today, less than a year since AIK clinched the league and cup double, the prognoses for Stockholm has never looked bleaker.

With only four games to go AIK and BP are both lodged in the relegation zone, and at least one is likely to go down. Hammarby are already there and don’t look likely to come back up anytime soon. Djurgården narrowly avoided relegation last season courtesy of the play-offs, and this season can only claim the mantle ‘bäst i stad’ by default. All four are dead broke and with no wealthy Russian or Middle Eastern financers prowling, neither looks likely to mount a title challenge anytime soon. In 2009 the Allsvenskan contained four teams in Stockholm. By 2011 it may only contain one.

For AIK, their troubles started almost immediately after winning last year’s title. Like many clubs all over Europe they spent well beyond their means and financed their success with short-term high interest loans. The bulk of their squad was sold off, while manager Mikael Stahre quickly fled the sinking ship in favour of Greek side Panionios. Further compounding their problems have been continuous problems with hooligans in their recent European fixtures, which have attracted heavy fines from UEFA.

Last week I predicted AIK would avoid relegation, and I stand by it. But if I’m proven wrong and they do go down, it could prove crippling for their finances. They only need to look across town to see how disabling relegation can be. Hammarby were relegated last season after 12 years in the Allsvenskan, and really needed to make a quick return to keep their finances in check. But currently in 8th spot, they haven’t even come close. They’ve already sold their prized asset, talented youngster Linus Hallenius, and more sales will surely follow. They could be stuck in the second tier for a while longer yet.

The ironic thing is that this universal downfall in onfield fortunes is taking place just as Stockholm embarks on a massive stadium expansion. Råsunda is about to be abolished and replaced by the new Swedbank Arena. Hammarby is supposed to move to the new Stockholm Arena (due to be completed in 2012), while Djurgården have been talking about building a new stadium for years. AIK were supposed to move to the new Swedbank Arena once Råsunda is demolished, but a growing movement of fans want the club to build a stadium of their own.

How they are going to pay for these stadiums, and who is going to full them, is another question. Last year SEK 335 million was spent redeveloping Gothenburg’s Gamla Ullevi to increase its capacity to 18,000, and now it is rarely more than half full. The way things are going the folly will be even greater in Stockholm.

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