Brøndby 1 Dinamo Tirane 0 (31/07/02)
On my last night of three in Copenhagen I had the chance to see a Champions League 2nd qualifying round match at Brøndby, on the outskirts of the city.
My short time in Copenhagen hadn’t been an outstanding success. I think I had a very poor tourist map which didn’t so might highlight the sites of the city, as treat finding them as some kind of challenge. As such, I am probably the only tourist who has even been to Copenhagen and not seen the Little Mermaid, as I had no idea where it was.
Another mistake I made, while spending a little time one afternoon seeing some other Copenhagen stadiums, was going into the suburbs to see Lyngby’s stadium. The road to the ground lead to the back of a stand with no way through. Either left of right would take me to an entrance, and naturally I chose the wrong direction, sending me on a huge detour. And when I got there the place was rather underwhelming. It was just a small althletics stadium, not dissimilar to Brighton’s Withdean, and it just made me think of the hour of my life I’d never get back.
At least I knew Brøndby’s stadium was a decent place. They’d been a pretty obscure club in Denmark’s semi-pro era, but once turning pro in the 80s they’d grown to be Denmark’s most successful, as well as one of the best supported clubs. The ground had expanded to match their professional and successful credentials too, and now held 30,000. Only 23000 of those places would be in use on this night though, due to UEFA’s ruling against terraces. Not that the reduced capacity would present too much of a problem. The night’s opposition, Dinamo Tirane of Albania, did not exactly bring thousands of supporters with them, nor were they likely to attract fair-weather fans, regardless of how fair the weather actually was that evening.
The terraces may have been shut, but the terrace fans seemed to have just moved up a tier to occupy the seats behind, singing away and creating a great atmosphere. I could have joined in. The Brøndby programme helpfully had a small songsheet of two songs, but unfortunately I wasn’t quite able to place the tune for “Hvor er min kone” that the melody was highlighted to be. Despite that, I still appreciated the singing and the atmosphere. Less appreciative was a small boy sat behind two very tall blonde Danish guys, who couldn’t see anything as a result. It had the poor mite in tears, which caused the Danish guys to show a full range of sympathy by shrugging their shoulders at each other and carrying on as before.
In contrast the Dinamo Tirane “tifosi” put on a display of their own, which was about as dramatic as one small Albanian flag draped over a solitary crush barrier would ever be.
For the most part, the small boy was the lucky one. This wasn’t a game that the Brøndby fans would be seeking a DVD of. How you’d describe the game, or Dinamo’s tactics to be precise, would really depend on your feelings to the respective teams. To Albanians, I’d imagine, Dinamo were plucky underdogs, battling against the odds, fighting a valiant rearguard action with determination and no little pluck. To anyone else they were negative cynical timewasters, exploiting every trick in the book to prevent any football from happening, to gain a 0-0 draw. Like an Ian Dowie/Pauline Quirke lovechild, it was not a pretty sight.
With the game about to go into injury time, it looked at if the game was drawing out to its inevitiable eventless conclusion. Then, at last, something happened. It just wasn’t on the pitch. Well, not at first anyway.
With Brøndby pounding the near goal with nothing resembling success, eyes suddenly switched to the other end. One of the automatic sprinkers behind the Brøndby keeper’s goal decided it’d had enough, and thought this would be the perfect time to water the pitch. At first the play carried on, with the bemused Brøndby keeper looking on as a 25 yard jet of water arced over his head. It wasn’t until the ball made a rare foray towards this unscheduled aerial irrigation that the ref halted the game.
This was where the fun started. You would imagine these things would be easy to control, but nobody appeared to know how to stop it. Many tried in vain to find some sort of off button. Others tried kicking it. Most just stood around without any idea of what to do. Then, upsteps one steward to take some positive action, and promptly decided that he can stop a high-pressure jet of water by standing on it. I’m not sure quite how fast he regretted the decision, but within a second his water-filled trousers expanded to size that would make clowns jealous. I have a feeling his diary entry for the evening would include a note to remember not to try that again.
Eventually, after about 7 or 8 minutes, the game did restart. Perhaps the water hose was some kind of act of god, a divine intervention, as in the minutes added on for the stoppage, Brøndby managed to score. A goal powered in from close range sealed a thoroughly deserved win for the hosts, and a thoroughly deserved defeat for the visitors. I just hope that little boy was able to see it.