The summer is fast approaching and in no time at all we’ll be wondering what we can fill the gaping hole that the close season brings. This year there are no international tournaments so how will you get your football fix?
Here I am able to provide you with an answer. Lots of people adopt a non-league team for international weekends. Some people have a favourite European team for European football nights. I’m here to suggest that you adopt a Scandinavian team because their leagues take place from the spring to the autumn.
In particular, I’d like to pitch to you my local team, Helsingborgs Idrottsförening (Helsingborg Athletic Association) from here on in referred to as HIF.
Why I Follow HIF
I moved to Sweden in the early 2000’s and settled in Stockholm but for the last eight years I’ve lived in a city in the south called Helsingborg.
The Swedish league runs from the beginning of April until the end of October. Usually the season is suspended for six weeks from the end of May to cater for the World Cup or European Championships.
Even though I had seen a few games while I lived in Stockholm, I didn’t really feel a pull to any of the big teams in the city and although I moved to Helsingborg eight years ago, I first visited the city twenty years ago.
Back in 1997 while I was here on holiday visiting a friend, I thought it would be fun to see the local team play. At the time, HIF were one of the top teams in the top division and duly spanked relegated Ljungskile SK 7-0. Not a bad first game but the scoreline seemed a little high.
While some of you may scoff at the scoreline and think that type of result wouldn’t occur in the Premier League, I would respectfully remind you that in 2009 Spurs beat Wigan 9-1 and in 1995 Manchester United beat Ipswich 9-0.
Maybe they are freak results? Maybe you’d prefer an example of a more recent match between two equally matched top teams so no chance of a mismatch?
Okay, in 2011 Manchester United beat Arsenal 8-2. An even better example is from 2008 when Middlesbrough beat Manchester City 8-1!
Freak results happen in all leagues and it isn’t an indication as to the strength of a league. However, if I am honest I’d say the standard of the top league in Sweden is on a par with the middle of the Championship. That is far from an insult as the Championship is thought to be an exciting league.
Ten Reasons To Follow HIF
So, without further ado, here are my ten reasons why I recommend you adopt HIF as your favourite foreign team or, at the very least, summer team and why they remind me of the Palace.
- Helsingborg play in the same colours as Crystal Palace. There’s no worry that wearing your favourite scarf will result in some suspicious looks from the local fans.
- The supporters in the South Stand are as vocal, passionate and as enthusiastic as the Holmesdale Fanatics. Terrace culture at HIF is alive and well!
- Swedish football is probably the league that most resembles the English style of football, outside of the UK. Scandinavian football in general is very similar to the English style but in particular in Sweden.
- HIF supporters are very knowledgeable about the English league and are very welcoming and hospitable to fans visiting from England.
- HIF have a bitter rival that, like Brighton, are about 40 miles due south of the city. Like Brighton, they also play in blue and white, though it is sky blue shirts and white shorts. They are Malmö FF.
- Should you want to take your relationship to the next level you will find Helsingborg to be a beautiful city to visit in the summer months. It’s a coastal town, just twenty minutes across the sound from Helsingör where Hamlet, by Shakespeare, is set.
- This season will see their stadium, Olympia, fully open again for the first time in two years after a major rebuild. The club has incorporated safe standing terraces behind both goals and tickets cost just £10! Maybe having two sides of the ground closed last season contributed to the poor home performances? I doubt it helped! Furthermore there is a bar at pitch level behind one goal where you can enjoy a pint and watch the game through the windows that stretch along the whole width.
- Last season, HIF were relegated from the top division and in the process did so in a typical Palace way! In the relegation play-off 2nd leg, HIF were ten minutes from retaining their league status. They drew the first leg away 1-1 so were going to win on away goals when they scored. Great, 2-1 on aggregate. Then with two minutes left, HIF conceded a penalty and a minute later, the 89th minute, they conceded again from long range to relegate them. From safety to relegation in two minutes. How Palace is that?
- For the last two seasons HIF have been managed by a club legend who was born and raised in the city and played for them at the start and end of his career. If truth be told he should have been fired in mid-season but because of his status he was given time to save the club instead of souring his legacy. Sound familiar? Luckily for us we came to our senses, unfortunately HIF didn’t. The manager in question was Henrik Larsson.
- HIF’s season last year mirrored that of our own. We had an abysmal 2016 from start to end, as did HIF. Luckily for us it was spread over two seasons. Unfortunately for HIF it was all in one season which saw them relegated.
Henrik Larsson has a statue down by the beach here in the town and last season it wasn’t vandalised once. Could you imagine if we had a statue of Alan Pardew in Croydon town centre? It wouldn’t have survived.
My aim is to write about HIF’s progress during this summer while they try to get promoted back to the top division. I’d be happy if you joined me and even happier if you adopted HIF as your summer team and shared my support.