Does Denmark’s hooligan problem run deeper than the European stage?

By Glen Barclay

Parken Stadium – Home of FC Kobenhavn – Photo by Glen Barclay

Following the violence and destruction brought about after FC Kobenhavn’s Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund an unforgiving light has been shone upon Denmark’s football hooligans and the picture is not positive.

So long synonymous with gestures of goodwill and positive wishes the events in Dortmund will leave the Danish game tarnished for years to come.

The behavior displayed by a small group of Brondby fans has left a bitter taste in not just the mouths of the FCK fans but from supporters all around Europe.

Scenes not dissimilar to those of 1980’s London illustrated Brondby fans assaulting fellow football supporters, vandalising local property and lighting pyrotechnics as their arch rivals prepared to debut in this seasons Premier European competition.

According to German police reports the longstanding friendship between Kobenhavn’s arch rivals and opponents on the night allowed a group of “well-known football hooligans from Denmark” to congregate in the streets surrounding the stadium and plan their attacks.

Lifelong Brondby supporter and Official Fan Club member Maria Thorlak lambasted the groups behavior stating, “these actions create a terrible reputation for our club, I am proud to be a Brondby supporter but feel shame now when people ask who I root for.” She called for a more measured approach to their rivalry with FCK, finishing by saying, “these people aren’t proper Brondby fans and should find another team to support.”

The pre-match hustle and bustle of fan culture – Photo by Glen Barclay

This issue could be specifically laid at the door of Brondby fans, with similar scenes occurring in Glasgow just a year ago when they themselves travelled to Scotland to face Rangers FC; with violence and vandalism at the forefront of some fans minds several arrests were made and forced reparations enforced.

“A group of them came bounding down the street acting like they owned the place, tipping over bins and tables down Sauchie [Sauchiehall Street, the largest street in Glasgow],” said Cameron Naismith, a Rangers fan present at the match.

 “Some of them looked like they were up for a fight and when they barged past a group of Gers fans it was only going to end that way, it wasn’t something we were expecting from a Danish team,” he went on to say. “An Italian one yes, Turkish or Russian too but you assume Scandinavians are a bit more proper.”

However other Danish sides are not completely innocent when looking at the hooligan problem with several of Denmark’s most successful sides boasting instances of anarchy.

“I think it’s a major problem in a few clubs, it is everywhere but in particular Kobenhavn and Brondby. It’s [violence] around the ground, its inside the stadium, I don’t see it in the streets but I don’t go in the marches so maybe it’s there too,” said FCK fan Mathias Kolind before Wednesdays game against Sevilla.

Looking ahead to the reverse fixture against Dortmund he was fearful about a repetition of the violence, “I am worried a lot, for the Brondby fans to join [with Dortmund supporters] and then we have some guys too who want to payback also, it could be very tough.”

In order to subjugate the risk of further incident, grounds such as Kobenhavn’s Parken Stadium have introduced facial recognition technology to pinpoint known trouble makers and introduce sanctions unto them. Working alongside the authorities they now have a greater chance of stomping out hooliganism at the root before it spreads further throughout the game.

But Kolind believes the authorities could do more, “they give you fines and tell you that you can’t use pyrotechnics and they won’t show it on the TV but that does nothing to target the hooliganism. It is something else, a bigger problem, a social problem.”

Fellow supporter, Martin Lorentsen attributes the violence to gang culture seeping into sports, “I’m not sure I would even call them fans they are more extremists thriving in this very masculine environment. It is getting bigger and bigger, now it is a small part but it is growing.”

FC Kobenhavn fan Martin Lorentsen provides insight into Danish hooliganism – Photo by Glen Barclay

“I think it is connected to the gangs and biker groups we have in Denmark. They’re getting more of a hold on the younger fans and maybe they find comfort and safety in those kind of groups.”

Whilst the problem in Denmark appears to solely revolve around the Copenhagen clubs, the real issue remains the behavior displayed when touring the continent to play in Europe. If the actions of the minority continue to occur then serious repercussions will follow and that can only further harm the Super Liga’s chances of development in terms of finance and quality.

This article is written for an audience of sports fans across Europe, delving into the problem of hooliganism within Danish football and could be published on [the premier sports reporting platform].