Continuing his series of club profiles, Nic Townsend from Doing Goals offers his take on the blue and white side of Gothenburg.
If you’ve only ever heard of one Swedish club before, it will most likely be IFK Göteborg. They are easily one of the most successful and most popular clubs in Sweden. Along with Malmö FF and AIK they made up the big three of Swedish football.
IFK have a marginally higher profile abroad as they are the last Swedish club to make any meaningful progress in Europe. They won the UEFA Cup in 1982 and again in 1987, making them the only Swedish club to win a European trophy. In 1994 they beat Barcelona and Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals.
Like many big clubs their fan base isn’t confined to their hometown, and they have supporter groups all over the country. They also have the typical big-club capacity to attract glory hunters and fair-weather supporters. One of the things that struck me at my first IFK match was the large number of casual observers as opposed to singing, chanting die-hard football fans. Teenage girls seem to account for an unusually high portion of the crowd, and it is interesting to note that my partner, who has absolutely no interest in football, used to go to IFK games when she was younger. However their support base is broad and varied, and on the other side of the spectrum it includes ensembles like the Wisemen, one of the more sinister groups in Swedish football. Hooligan clashes are common whenever a Stockholm team comes to play.
Based on their broad nation-wide support and long-standing success, I’ve always thought of IFK as the Manchester United of Swedish football.
IFK Göteborg were the first Swedish club I’d ever heard of and one of the few I knew when I moved here, although I cannot recall where I heard about them from. The first few Allsvenskan games I went to where to watch IFK and it is my great shame that as a Gaisare I initially adopted Blåvit as my team, accepting the claim ‘Ett Lag I Göteborg’ (One team in Gothenburg) on face value. The club have also adopted the city’s colours and coat of arms as their own (the only real difference is that the lion is facing the opposite direction) despite the fact that both Gais and Öis are around first. This arrogance, coupled with the fact that at my first Göteborg derby Gais fans seemed to make far more noise than IFK despite being outnumber four to one, lead me to switch allegiances. However the reality is that its often not long into the new season before its clear that neither Gais or Öis will win the title, thus leaving IFK as the city’s best chance of winning the league. For this reason there have been a couple of times (the last matches of both the 2007 and 2009 seasons) where I’ve found myself barracking hard for IFK.
Why might I have heard of them?
Their success in Europe is the most likely reason why anyone outside of Sweden might have heard of IFK Göteborg. Throughout the 1980s and early 90s, IFK were a middleweight power in European club football, not only winning two UEFA Cups, but also European Cup semi finalists in 1986 and quarter finalists on three occasions.
Any players, past or present, I might know?
One of the biggest beneficiaries from IFK’s golden age was their manager, Sven Göran Eriksson. While virtually unknown when appointed in 1979, the 1982 UEFA Cup shot Svennis to fame and it wasn’t long before he was poached by Portuguese giants Benfica. Thus began a successful career managing in Portugal, Italy and England. A number of players from IFK’s UEFA Cup winning sides also went on to greater things, and an unusually high number of them are called Glenn, hence the chant “Alla heter Glenn I Göteborg” (Everyone’s called Glenn in Gothenburg).
Glenn Hysen, the most famous Glenn of all, later played for Fiorentina and Liverpool, and these days he is often seen working as a pundit on TV. Glenn Strömberg also works as a pundit, as well as sell a range of pasta sauces.
Glenn Hysen’s son, Tobias, is currently IFK’s star player and was voted the Allsvenskan’s Player of the Year last season. Followers of English football might remember Tobias from his brief stint at Sunderland.
Colours and kit: Blue and white horizontal stripes, with white shorts.
Nicknames: Blåvit (Blue Whites), Änglarna (The Angles).
Home Ground: Gamla Ullevi