Copenhagen, Malmo and the Oresund Bridge
Crossing the entirety the Oresund Bridge, all 7,845 metres, takes you from Denmark’s capital to the third biggest city in Sweden or vice-versa. That excursion won’t take you long, around 20 minutes by either train or car. Each side offers a language which may sound similar, culture to rival any European city and unusual food to devour. Yet, the two football teams don’t share anything but contempt for each other. The Oresund bridge will now be used to funnel to one another through the Europa League group stage meetings.
You don’t need a history textbook to draw the lines here. The geography displayed on google maps should tell you. Those who are fascinated by Scandinavian culture, pay attention: Malmo is in the Skane region in Sweden - which a long time ago belonged to Denmark. Add in several wars between the two Nordic kingdoms, you have a chequered past. The Swedish often tell you they built Denmark’s most popular tourist attraction, the Nyhavern, whereas the Danish point out the Swedes were enslaved to do so
Malmo FF supporters gained notoriety for some incidents where extreme fans made it their duty to ensure the world knows about them. Lighting flares, pitch invasions – all acts bestowed to hooliganism. With a few minutes of research, it’s clear to see a long instances list where Malmo followers have broken rules and scuffled with others.
One such occasion took place in 2005, the last competitive meeting between the sides – in what was known as the Royal League; a miniature continental competition for teams from Denmark, Sweden as well as Norway. The cream rises to the top, so naturally, Copenhagen and Malmo were playing in the latter stages, come one night at Parken, Copenhagen.
The Danish authorities spotted the potential for the Malmo lot to erupt, promptly deciding to fight fire with fire. Copenhagen already knew the threat existed hosting the clash, so enlisted the help not exclusively from the regular police, but riot squads too. Pouncing on the supporters in a way which made the authorities appear awfully heavy-handed. Batons bonded with brute force met the away fans, with malice...
The incident became a Nordic news story, where the FC Copenhagen then-chairman was forced to comment. At the time he said the Malmo FF fans had simply come to start trouble rather than watch the football. FC Copenhagen would make no further statement, including not issuing condolences for what occurred at their home stadium. In turn, this started legal proceedings from Malmo FF fans. In-court the presiding judge did believe the police used unnecessary excessive force, but given the circumstances there weren’t enough grounds to charge them, acquitting the case.
Football fans don’t tend to forget; in 2014 when the club tried to arrange a club-friendly inviting FC Copenhagen to Sweden, the supporter's groups were outraged; citing the term friendly represents their feelings towards the proposed opposition. Who can blame them with the incident, the legal process plus its cost – the Copenhagen imagery won't have been welcome even nine years on. Since the teams played at Parken back in 2016 in a behind closed doors exhibition, spectated by 75 people may make up the club staff given the poor numbers seen in the match’s footage.
Fast forward to 2019, Flemming Ostergaard apologised in the wake of the Europa League tie being decided. Albeit, 14 years after the event. Given the duration as well circumstances, the apology seems to be loaded, bordering phoney. “Oh, you’re relevant to us, sorry, please don’t act up” it fuels to an already exacerbated situation. Single handily making the security’s job much harder on the night.
With the two clubs winning their league titles a collective 15 times since their last professional meeting, it cements the idea that these are the best club teams in the Nordic region. The Danish Superliga using the regular August-May calendar where the Swedish Allsvenskan uses the Spring variation, due to very cold conditions in the north where it’s either unsafe or undesirable to play/watch football. This imbalance in schedules adds to the rarity this fixture beholds.
There is a synergy between the two sides' fortunes, as both ranked second in their respective divisions. Both will eagerly prosper to win their titles, but given they’ve accomplished league dominance before, these rare matches in the Europa League group stage become a tie of their own. A real stern international test for both sides.
Markus Rosenberg played, as well scored, the opener on that night for the Swedes, 14 years ago. He’s at Malmo FF again, aged 37 with 11 goals for this season – another dimension to this enthralling meeting; in what should be considered truly their biggest contest for the year as well the most important crossing for the Oresund Bridge in years. He’s the only player to be involved in the said game so long ago, still playing with either club.
The first match takes place tonight in Denmark, with the return leg in Sweden on the 12th of December.