Sunday evening saw the latest installment in the biggest football rivalry in Scandinavia – The New Firm Derby. The game sees FC Copenhagen welcoming their near neighbours Brønby IF to their Parken home.
The New Firm Derby. Even the name of the game conjures up images of passion, tradition and modernity – textbook Scandinavia really. FC Copenhagen and Brønby IF fixtures are usually the first game many Danes look to when the fixtures are drawn. And in April 2016, the Danes are in luck, with a run of three different derby games scheduled in the space of just two weeks. I attended the middle game – on Sunday 17 April, a 6pm kick-off.
Staying in the district of Nørrebro, we decided to walk through the city to the Telia Parken stadium. Located north of Copenhagen’s city centre, it’s about three miles from the centre but less from Nørrebro itself. Of course, there are trains there too – it’s close to the Østerport station, with trains leaving Copenhagen central station super regular for the six-minute ride up there.
Nørrebro was a great place to stay. Multicultural, cool, lots of street art and hip bars, shops and everything else you could want really. Be warned, our usual pre-match pints were quickly curtailed when we realised it was almost a tenner a pint (!) If your wallet can stretch to it, there’s a great craft beer place selling a mixture of local ales and Belgian beers called Mikkeller And Friends.
But Danes are cool with you drinking on the street. So, after trying one of the locally brewed IPAs, we set off on a walk to the stadium with a beer in hand from a neighbourhood off licence. The walk was brisk, the Danish winter had still not given way to spring – so it was a case of winter coats, collar turned-up and our hats pulled down tight.
So, what’s the approach to the stadium like? Well, much like Copenhagen – it’s a special combination of history and modernity, and of concrete and green. The approach to the stadium is across a beautiful park, with neatly trimmed grass and ponds and lakes, The crowds approaching the stadium seemed well-behaved too.
We were a bit surprised. One of the inspirations behind this trip was seeing the incredible work the Tifo put into their pre-game rituals. This video from the Copa90 crew a couple of years ago is a good introduction actually.
But chatting to a couple of fans on the approach to the stadium, we found out a lot of the Brøndby IF fans were in fact boycotting the game due to a Tifo ban for some of their fans. This meant the atmosphere was rather subdued.
But seeing the stadium for the first time, rising out like a stark grey monolith behind the park’s trees, is an impressive sight. The Telia Parken is the biggest football stadium in Denmark, and is also the regular venue for the Denmark national team.
There’s an interesting history too, the Parken being built on the site of Denmark’s previous national stadium – the Idrætspark – which had stood there since 1911. The new stadium was finished in 1992, and was the result of something of an engineering marvel. The stadium’s original old stand remains, but the whole pitch turned 90 degrees. And the 16 bottom rows of seats were removed to make space for concerts (a regular occurrence over the summer).
Anyway, we were there for the football. Our ticket was for the C Tribune, high up in the stand close to the away supporters. We timed our walk to the stadium to arrive just 15 minutes before kick-off. Just enough time to be impressed by the Kop’s display – the home fans putting great energy and effort into a brilliant display of their club colours. Just before kick-off, the flares are let off – meaning the stadium becomes a real cauldron of noise, passion and colour.
A shame the away turnout was not what we expected, but still the FC Copenhagen make a formidable noise. They had plenty to cheer too – as the game really lived up to the formbook, with Brøndby struggling with FC Copenhagen’s pace, skills and energy right across the park. William Kvist really impressing with his work rate in midfield, but the whole team dominating.
FC Copenhagen took the lead through Nicolai Jorgensen in the 39th minute and doubled their lead in the 73rd minute through the same player. As for the fans, they enjoyed plenty of Carlsberg at half-time (it’s Denmark, what else are you going to drink?) and wolfed down the standard fare of hot-dogs (around £4) and burgers (around £6).
The result left FC Copenhagen close to securing their title, and leaving Brøndby in real danger of relegation. Here is FC Copenhagen’s highlights package:
The game was one-sided, meaning it petered out towards the last twenty minutes, FC Copenhagen coasting to victory and this was reflected in the atmosphere around the ground.
Post-match though, there were jubilant celebrations – fans and players uniting as one in front of the goal. There are more flares, more singing and scenes of joy at another triumph for the Lions. Is always so great to see the real connection between fans and players, something you see at non-league level but sadly doesn’t seem to exist in the English Premier League.
After seeing the celebrations, it was time to leave the Parken. But the fun wasn’t over… After descending the stairs, and stepping back out into the chilly Danish evening winds we saw many fans running out into the park around the ground. The fans let off fireworks in celebration, nothing threatening – just a jubilant celebration as FC Copenhagen march towards their title.
On the walk back into Copenhagen city centre we meet a few more Brits who’d made the journey to the city for the game. As Coventry City fans, they explained they were hugely impressed by the atmosphere, the noise and the connection between the fans and the team.
How do you get there?
A trip to FC Copenhagen is certainly worth a visit. We flew to the city from Gatwick via Norwegian Air, with single tickets starting from around £19. We stayed with a few other football fans in the hip Sleep In Heaven Hostel in Nørrebro, around £20 a night or a dorm or starting at £70 a night for a private room. And tickets to a game are easy to buy via the FC Copenhagen website, and start at around £22.
Copenhagen is a beguiling blend of the bleak and beautiful, trendy and prehistoric and is somewhere I’m already dreaming of visiting again. And after seeing that slick, high-tempo performance, FC Copenhagen have found themselves another fan. Forza FCK!