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FOOTBALL

England’s Pavey hopes to pave the way for AIK

With play in Sweden’s top football league, the Allsvenskan, less than a month away, The Local’s Keith Moore hears from AIK’s English midfielder Kenny Pavey about how he ended up playing for one of Sweden's most notorious football clubs.

England's Pavey hopes to pave the way for AIK

AIK’s diminutive English midfielder Kenny Pavey relaxes on the couch in the stylishly decorated Solna apartment he shares with his fiancee and two young children after a week spent training hard for the upcoming Allsvenskan football season.

Since joining in 2006, the 29-year-old Pavey’s skill and work-rate have made him a favourite with the fanatical AIK fans.

“He always gives 100 percent and has a great attitude with the fans, on and off the pitch,” says chairman of the AIK-Alliansen supporters group, Daniel Perez.

“In many ways he represents what we lacked during the 2004 season when we were relegated.”

With the 2009 Allsvenskan season fast approaching, new head coach Mikael Stahre will take charge of AIK for the first time. As ever, expectations will be high for one of Sweden’s most well supported clubs.

“There is a new coach, new everything,” comments Pavey.

“We have a good mix of experience and youth and it is exciting.”

For newcomers looking for a Swedish football team to support, “there is a great atmosphere at AIK. It’s the closest thing to England,” according to Pavey.

“There’s a lot of singing,” he adds.

Playing in 2007 UEFA Cup qualifiers and in front of 34,000 people in his first Stockholm derby against Djurgården are high points of Pavey’s career thus far.

It could have been very different had he joined Premiership giants Aston Villa from English non-league side Sittingbourne in 1998.

“I got scouted playing for Sittingbourne, I was having a good season,” remembers Pavey.

“I went up to Villa, played a game and played well and scored a goal and Villa put an offer on the table.”

Villa’s offer was rejected by Sittingbourne.

“I remember I was at Gillingham train station when I found out,” Pavey continues.

“I picked up a newspaper and the headline on the back page was ‘Pavey’s dream move falls through.’”

Pavey would loved to have had the opportunity to test himself alongside Villa stars Dwight Yorke, Stan Collymore and Gareth Barry and says with honesty that the whole Villa saga is, “the highest and lowest point of my life.”

The Aston Villa scout that spotted Pavey then offered him the opportunity to play for Swedish lower division side Ljungskile.

A productive season in the first division, including a good performance against AIK then led to his dream move.

Having been in Sweden for seven years he speaks the language well and enjoys the lifestyle.

“I love Stockholm, I think it’s like a little London,” he enthuses.

“Sweden is a beautiful country with good values and having a family now makes me realize what good safe hands we are in.”

That’s not to say that the South Londoner doesn’t have some cravings from home.

“I miss proper pie and mash! And my family and friends,” he exclaims before stoping himself with laughter.

“I can’t believe I just said I miss pie and mash before my family and friends!”

When his playing career is over he hopes to continue to work in football.

Had he not made it as a professional Pavey is the kind of football enthusiast who would still be playing for a team with his friends and going to watch his beloved Millwall play.

“I know what it’s like to work on a building site and to try to find a trade, so I appreciate being able to play football for a living,” he says.

AIK’s fans will be hoping that Pavey’s drive to succeed will lead to a trophy this season.

SPORT

Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”

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