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Hooligan riot threatens AIK survival

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11:22 CEST+02:00
AIK is a football club in deep trouble.

Monday night's draw in the local derby against Hammarby left the Stockholm club teetering on the brink of relegation, just six years after winning the league title. But the team's insipid performance on the pitch paled into significance compared to the shocking scenes of hooligan violence that caused the match to be delayed for 40 minutes at the start of the second half when over two hundred AIK supporters attempted to storm the pitch.

"One of the biggest scandals to ever hit Swedish football", as Expressen put it, began when a group of 100 "supporters" from AIK and Hammarby met on Stationsgatan in Sundbyberg.

An hour or so before the start of the match they began fighting and police moved in. Three people were arrested for assault and 13 others were taken into custody, while a female officer was taken to hospital after being hit with a bottle.

Shortly afterwards "a large number" of AIK fans, who had congregated in the south of the city, began making their way towards the stadium. According to Svenska Dagbladet they "hunted down Hammarby supporters" on the underground between Midsommarkransen and Telefonplan stations.

There was more fighting in the vicinity of the stadium after the match had begun but the situation inside the ground reached boiling point when Hammarby scored in the 65th minute.

The crowd started throwing objects towards the players and AIK supporters in the stadium's north stand tried to get onto the pitch. The players and match officials took refuge in the dressing rooms but after almost half an hour the popular captain of AIK, Krister Nordin, "grabbed a microphone and appealed to supporters".

"You can't carry on like this," he admonished them. "You must respect us players and those who work in the stadium."

Eventually the police took control of the situation and the match restarted. But it could have been a lot worse, according to police. A few hours before the match they discovered "at least 25 homemade petrol bombs, so called Molotov cocktails, hidden in a playground near Råsunda.

"Football-Sweden does not want AIK in the Allsvenskan", declared Expressen, and held the club completely responsible for the incident because the club has never really tackled the so-called "gangster" element amongst its supporters.

Whether or not AIK manage to put in the kind of committed, inspired performance that's been missing all season in their two final matches remains to be seen. What's more, back-to-back victories against Öregryte and Trelleborg might not be enough to save the ailing Solna club from the drop if Hammarby get their way. Thursday's SvD claims the Southern Stockholm club want AIK to have their point deducted after Monday's incident.

If AIK do secure a place next season amongst Swedish football's elite, it's clear the club needs to stamp out the hooligan element. To that end former president of FIFA and staunch AIK supporter Lennart Johansson wrote to the fans via the club's official website describing his sadness at the week's events. Johannsson called for supporters to pull together and work with the community to ensure a "fitting climax to the season" and educate the upcoming generation of fans "who are behaving in an unacceptable manner".

Whether the comments of the ageing honorary AIK chairman struck a chord with the hooligan element in the club remains to be seen but the club's sponsors, who've called for an immediate crack-down on hooliganism from the club, appear to be unimpressed.

According to Wednesday's Aftonbladet the brewery giants, Åbro, have decided to withdraw their logo from team shirts for AIK's match against Öregryte because they "don't want to be associated with what happened at Råsunda".

What's more, other sponsors like Sony, Adidas and Sydkraft are "weighing up whether or not to stop pumping money into the troubled club".

But as Sundsvalls Tidning wondered: "Maybe relegation to Superettan is just what AIK needs".

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet

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