How the Danish-Swedish football rivalry arose from WW1

When Denmark travel to Stockholm in Sweden, it is almost exactly 100 years to the date since Denmark travelled to Stockholm for a football match, taking 1.000 travelling supporters with them. Just under five months earlier, Sweden had played in Copenhagen, and the turnout of 2.000 vocal Swedish supporters for that match along with stories of trains for sportsevents in the United States, prompted a new sports magazine to hire a boat to ship supporters over the Sound to Malmoe in Sweden. And there a hired train with 18 coaches took the travelling party to Stockholm.

Denmark and Sweden had met in a similar dobble-header back in 1913, but with Denmark winning 10-0 and 8-0, Denmark didn’t really bother about playing the Swedes. In stead, Denmark wanted to play British teams.

But when war broke out, the possibility of getting British teams to Copenhagen diminished. Even though, ironically, the newly started league in Denmark was suspended, because so many young men had been called up for a 60.000 man strong security force to guard Danish neutrality; whereas the professional English league continued playing, leading to heavy criticism from cricket and rugby. The reason, of course, was that football was professional contrary to the other sports – so stopping the league for a war which everybody expected to be over soon, meant throwing the future income of so many footballers into jeopardy.

Anyway, unable to play British teams, Denmark ageed to a tournament between the three neutral Scandinavian states, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

It wasn’t even a capacity crowd in Copenhagen for the first match against the Swedes – on the 6nd June 1915, the day after the Danish Constitution was revised. But the appearance of a vocal away support – and a much more competitive match ending in a 2-0 win for Denmark, sparked the rivalry. And that was why 1.000 Danes headed to Stockholm on 30th October 1915.

I have written a story about that trip – which I find really fascinating in the Danish paper, Politiken. Unfortunately, it is only in Danish – and if you don’t have a subscription, you need to add a logon. They have only posted a couple of the photos I suggested – but look carefully at the main one from the match in Copenhagen 1918. Quite a few fans found their way to the roof of the stand to see the match.

I expect to have an English version up on this blog before too long. So stay tuned! If you, however, want more information here and now, drop me a line.


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