You have everything you need to take your kid to a Swedish football match this week? Program? Binoculars? Nunchucks?
Actually, if I were you, I wouldn’t take my kid. I’d take Manny Pacquiao. Swedish football stadiums are rougher than sandpaper thongs lately.
These days, football fans are making hockey fans look like Miss Manners. They’re often buy-a-vowel drunk, spewing cuss words and looking to fight. And the men are sometimes worse.
This past year alone:
A match in Stockholm between AIK and Syrianska was cancelled after a firework hit a referee, giving him permanent ear damage.
In August, a group of AIK fans threw stones and bottles at the visiting Levski Sofia team bus and clashed with police following a Europa League qualifier. The Bulgarian club’s media officer and a masseur were hit by stones while two players suffered cuts.
During a match between Hammarby IF anf IFK Norrkoping, the family section of the stadium, Idrottsparken, had to be evacuated after fighting broke out.
One of the co-managers of Hammarby IF resigned after being threatened… by the club’s own supporters.
Having fun, kids?
I wouldn’t take anybody not built like a side-by-side freezer to a match now. With insane popularity comes insane people, and we’re not just talking about Helsingborg IF’s Adrian Gashi. All the Allsvenskan is missing is crowds chanting, “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”
Don’t go. Just sit your kid in front of your HD screen with a bowl of Cheetos and the remote. Guaranteed, your HD screen won’t do the following:
(A) Follow her around blowing a vuvuzela in her ear.
(B) Throw punches at her so she misses a goal.
(C) Make just walking away a terrifying experience.
Still, if you INSIST on taking any child who isn’t at least a brown belt, here are some survival tips:
• Don’t wear a jersey.
In being a sports fan most of my life, I’ve learned one hard and fast formula: more jerseys = more mayhem. Sit at YouTube for two hours and watch all the Swedish football fights. Every single one will involve morons wearing jerseys. For some reason, fans think that once they put on that stupid 600 kronor jersey, they are now part of some army that must defend its colors at all cost.
And yet, if one of these jersey boys were on fire, the player whose name adorns the back of that jersey wouldn’t take the time to put him out with his water bottle.
For that matter:
• Don’t wear a jersey, ever. When I considered wearing my yellow Swedish national team jersey to a Helsingborg – Elfsborg match last month, my friend Martin told me that if I did so, I literally would be pummeled, even though Helsingborg has several players on the national team. So much for peace on Earth.
• Don’t bring a sign. At a Helsingborg – Häcken match last Sunday, objects were thrown at children with a large HÄCKEN sign. The oldest looked like he was maybe 12.
• Don’t sit up high. If you sit up high at a football match, more than your nose might bleed. Instead, pay through the nose and sit low, where the generally sober people are. (Exception to this rule: If you or your child is offended by the kind of language that would make a longshoreman blush, don’t sit anywhere near Halmstads BK manager Josep Clotet Ruiz)
• Don’t get within an area code of the Helsingborg/Malmö FF match. This rivalry is to Swedish football what Jennifer and Angelina are to the E! network. For a time, there were so many brawls at this game that the Malmö police installed a makeshift jail in the bowels of the stadium. Saved time.
The match is Tuesday, May 24 in Malmö and it’s the jersey-jerk capital of the world. It’s their own little World War III. For some reason, Malmö fans, especially, will risk broken hands, rearranged eyes and night court to “defend the honor” of their team. But you wonder if they realize that several of the current players weren’t even on their roster last season and probably \will be somewhere else next season, wearing jerseys Malmö fans must despise. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, these people are knifing each other over laundry.
And this is just what’s in the stands. The product that’s on the field now has gotten uglier, nastier and more violent. This brings out fans who not only want to watch violence but participate in it. Against Elfsborg, Helsingborg midfielder Mattias Lidström lay prone on the field. The announcer said, “Mattias Lidström is injured.” And the Elfsborg fans cheered. How will you explain that to your little Amber?
Svenska Fotbollförbundet (SvFF) – the Swedish Football Association – to its credit, is trying to make things safer and saner with increased police presence and tattle-text numbers at every stadium to bring security. “We’re getting very positive feedback,” says SvFF President Lars-Åke Lagrell. “It’s appreciated by fans and it’s working.”
We must be going to different matches. The matches I’m going to seem more menacing every time.
There’s an easy answer, of course, but it’s the third rail nobody wants to touch: beer.
Without beer, football would dry up and blow away, not unlike U.S. sports. But how about stopping sales after a certain point? How about telling the TV networks to stop showcasing single-brain-celled fans like Fireman Ed and Can’t Feel My Face Shirtless Buffalo Guy, dolts who give the impression that this game is slightly more important than their next breath?
Until then, leave the kids home. Let them do something safe and happy and nonviolent.
Like Halo 3.