On a typical Sunday afternoon there are few more pleasant places than the Danish capital city.   Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, sits on the coastal islands of Zealand and Amager.  It’s linked to Malmo in southern Sweden by the seemingly endless Öresund Bridge. The city’s historic center contains Frederiksstaden, an 18th-century rococo district that is home to the royal family’s Amalienborg Palace.   Nearby is Christiansborg Palace and the Renaissance era Rosenborg Castle, surrounded by gardens and home to the crown jewels. 

Deep in the heart of Copenhagen the latest installment in the biggest most embittered football rivalry in Scandinavia is about to take place.  At Telia Parken home of the national team, the crown jewels of Danish football, are meeting – FC København vs Brøndby.

FC København vs Brøndby

Danish Superligaen

Sunday 5th May 2019

Telia Parken, Copenhagen

Following the 2015/16 season, the Danish Super league was expanded to 14 teams making the 2016/17 season the first for the new league structure.  Near the season end the league is then split up into a play off type structure with a variety of mini league formats seeing clubs face off to each other towards deciding final league positions.

In the championship play-off, each team plays the others home and away.   The top team at the end of the play-off system is crowned Superliga champion and enters the UEFA Champions League in the second qualifying round. The second-place team meanwhile enters the UEFA Europa League in the first qualifying round.

This set up itself means that end of season meetings between the two teams can see tensions and rivalry hightened.  Such is the tension between the two it is not what happens on the pitch that is garnering most attention.

Recent seasons in particular have seen wild scenes erupting from the stands.  Despite huge police efforts and appeals for calm riot police have been got involved breaking up trouble whenever the two meet.

However, while clubs and police have not been slow to ban supporters from stadiums on the issue of pyrotechnics fewer countries have such progressive approaches in an effort to make them safer for use inside and outside the stadium.

Several iniatives have been launched and publicised in an effort to introduce ‘safe’ and attractive pyrotechnic devices into the stadium acceptable to authorities and fans.  One pilot project saw a lab trial the creation of flares that produced a massive 1,500°C less in heat than regular “bengalos” used by supporters.   At the same time another trial was run that saw devices which released 90% less smoke than regular ones tested.  This factor was deemed crucial for live TV broadcasts (several Copenhagen derby matches have had kick off delayed due to pyrotechnic displays).

Despite new approaches and considered discussion between all parties, pyrotechnic use inside Danish stadiums is still not fully legal but compromises are clearly tolerated. despite pressure from broadcast partners.  It is not uncommon to see the large scale use of the pyrotechnic materials before and during games.  Many fans do though still fear criminal records and stadium bans from police thanks to retrospective CCTV camera use.  This has resulted in many supporters wearing full head balaclava type masks when using a flare as a means of concealing identity.

Roots of the Modern rivalry

While both Celtic and Glasgow Rangers have a deep rooted football rivalry that goes back to the late 19th century, the old firm rivalry is a deeply complex one that is tied in with the history of Northern Ireland.   The Copenhagen ‘new firm’ rivalry is a more modern hatred that has festered out of embittered arguments as regards club ‘foundations’, traditions with normal cross town rivalry thrown in.

FC Copenhagen are themselves (despite what Brondby fans say) both an old and a new club.   Even though the club was established in 1992, it is a club rooted in more than 100 years of football club tradition since club officially represents two separate clubs: Kjøbenhavns Boldklub founded in 1876 and Boldklubben 1903 founded in 1903.  These two Copenhagen clubs merged their first teams to establish FC Copenhagen on 1 July 1992.

Brøndbyernes Idrætsforening was founded on 3 December 1964 as a merger between two small clubs, Brøndbyvester IF founded in 1909 and Brøndbyøster IF who had roots in the year 1928.

The club was a broad sports association, including branches in football, handball, gymnastics and badminton.  In 1971 the club was split off into clubs for each individual sport and Brondby retained the name of Brøndbyernes Idrætsforening.

Before FCK arrived on the scene Brondby IF were Danish football’s major football side both at home in Denmark and abroad. Throughout the second half of the 1980’s the team from Western Copenhagen dominated the domestic league and did not finish lower than second place until 1992.   The club became used to winning the national domestic title and competed in Europe against the likes of Bayern but then along came FC Copenhagen.

While regular European football was slow to arrive at FCK the club is now a consistent participant in the UEFA Europa League and Champions League competitions.  Brondby meanwhile have not qualified for the Group Stages of any UEFA competition since 2006 when they appeared in the old UEFA Cup Group stages.  Domestically the dominance of FCK has been telling with Brondby not having the right to be called Danish Champions since 2005.

On a slightly cold Danish afternoon 1,800 Brondby fans step off the suburban train line at Svanemollen.  The train station platforms are full of yellow and blue smoke and locals look on as the hostile group arrive to walk towards the Telia Parken.

The waiting police party is extensive meaning that there is absolutely no chance of any visiting fans getting too close to home supporters.  Still 90 minutes to kick off the large group are herded into a fenced off section behind the ground which is partly secluded from full public view thanks to trees from the neighbouring public park.

The Match

The teams were welcomed onto the field by an extraordinary display of flags and pyrotechnics from both sets of fans.  The referee Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen delayed kick-off for about 4 minutes before events got underway in an incredibly fast pace fixture.

In only 6 minutes Brondby took the lead through left sided midfielder Simon Tibbling but FCK were quickly into stride hitting back with two goals the first on 10 minutes from Skov and another from N’Doye not two minutes later.

HT: 2-1

The visual spectacle of the derby was on display again with another set of choreographed displays meeting both teams as they entered the field for the second half.  Not 10 minutes later an O.G. from Vavro brought the teams level again before man of the match winner Rasmus Falk slotted home the title clincher on 63 minutes.

If awards were given for visual appeal, passion and colour this derby is high up the list of Europe’s finest.  Against a backdrop of inner city squabbling, club disagreement and fan bitterness both FCB and Brondby continue to offer fans a wonderfully eye opening football event.

FC Copenhagen: Joronen, Boilesen, Bjellend, Vavro, Ankersen, Skov, Zeca, Rasmus Falk Jensen (Papagiannopolous), Fischer, Older Wind (Thomsen), N’Doye

Brondby IF: Schwabe, Mensah, Arajuuri, Hermannsson, Gammelby (Uhre), Tibbling (Halimi), Radosevic, Kaiser (Erceg), Wilczek, Hany Mukhtar, Hedlund

Att: 33,190