My friend Mike (a fellow Chicagoan who moved here two years ago for his girlfriend) and I attended our first Allsvenskan match this evening. Allsvenskan stands at the top of the Swedish football leagues. A British co-worker ranked it above the MLS in general ability but below the major European powerhouse leagues (i.e. Spain, England, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and France). After now having seen a match, I agree. There are some good players here but the overall skill is not there. That's pretty much why all the really good Swedish players mostly head south.
Since arriving here, I realized I would have to pick a team, as there are four teams in the Allsvenskan that are based in and around Stockholm. I thought about it some, read some team history, and settled on Hammarby, the traditionally work class team that locates itself in Södermalm, and since my grandfather Alf Thufvesson comes from Söder, it seemed right. They currently stand at the middle of the table currently, so it wasn't a case of picking the best team.
I figured a good derby (a match between two teams from the same city) would be a good place to start, since it would be heated and therefore extra fun and intense. That's exactly what Mike and I got. The match took place at Rådsunda, the stadium where the national teams play most of their matches, which is also a fifteen minute walk from where currently rent a room. Their opponents: Djurgården. Nevertheless, we decided to take the tunnelbana (Stockholm's "L" train), which turned out to be an event in itself. We got down to the station (it's like three stories down underground) and waited. The stop also serves as a place to change trains, and so, a huge crowd of drunken fans got off after a few minutes and waited to get on the train that leads to Råsunda, followed by a dozen of Stockholm's finest clad in full combat gear. The goons were every-so-swiftly cordoned off to the far end of the platform (click on the photo to get a larger view, where you can see in greater detail):
We soon realized that it would be quicker to hoof it to the stadium rather than wait for a train to pass that actually had room for us. Unfortunately by the time we arrived we were to too late to get up into our nose bleed seats because they lock down sections once the game has gotten started for crowd control purposes. Security reigns omnipresent, even if hooligans get a mircophone to get the crowds chanting (once again, click on the photo for more details):
As a result of our tardiness, we had to find a vacant place to stand, which ended up being immediately behind the goal:
What a view that was!
Unfortunately, when I purchased tickets for the wrong end of the field, where the Djurgården fans relentlessly sang, chanted and shit-talked Hammarby. Behind us stood an amry of blue (Djurgården). I didn't feel comfortable shouting for Hammarby with thousands of drunken fools shouting me down and breathing down my back. There was no getting to the other side to hang with the Hammarby fans, so we had to put up and shut up. Our team lost, despite looking better for most of the match. Next time we'll know! We won't be on the wrong side again.