Life as the reigning Swedish football champions has been anything but easy for Kalmar FF. Kalmar remained winless in the 2009 Allsvenskan after losing 1-0 to Halmstad in Round 4.
By Chipp Reid
Kalmar won its first-ever Swedish soccer crown in 2008 but since then, the southern Swedish side has watched as its fortunes dipped.
They hit a season low April 19 in Round 4 of the Allsvenskan when Halmstad scored just seven minutes into the game and held on for a 1-0 win at Fredriksskans Stadium in Kalmar. The victory was the first of the year for Halmstad, while Kalmar remained winless on the season at 0-2-2.
“We were plain lousy in the first half,” said Kalmar defender Marcus Lindberg. “All you have to do is watch us play to see what is wrong. We were just lousy.”
Expectations around Kalmar were somewhat low and to start the season as the champions reaped one of the lesser benefits of their 2008 title. Three key players – Patrik Ingelsten, Victor Elm and Cesar Santin – left the team after receiving bigger contracts from overseas clubs. The defections gutted an offense that led the Allsvenskan in scoring last season.
“Yes, that is a big part of it, but not the only reason,” Lindberg said. “Last year we had Patrik and he could score from just about anywhere .Maybe we got too complacent with him around, but we still have players that score. We need to play better and get them in behind the other team’s back line, something we’re not doing right now.”
Halmstad took its lead at the 7-minute mark when Anel Raskaj scored his first Allsvenskan goal off a pass from Anselmo Nascimento. The goal brought down a rain of boos from the 4,434 that braved nasty weather to attend the match.
“We were horrible in the first half and lucky we were only down 1-0,” Lindberg said. “We did better in the second half and showed some flashes, but we still are not playing like we can.”
Lindberg said one of the reasons for Kalmar’s slow start is an influx of new players. The championship side played together for three years. Now, players once more must learn about one another. That takes time, he said.
“Last year we were like an automatic piano. Just plug in the music and we could play,” Lindberg said. “This year is very different. We’re still learning. I think we can only get better from here.”
As though losing to Halmstad wasn’t bad enough, Kalmar received a letter from the Union of European Football Associations on April 19 telling the club it cannot play home games in the Champions League at Fredriksskans.
Kalmar’s home field is the smallest stadium in the Allsvenskan. The European ruling body said the stadium still didn’t meet minimum standards for security and crowd capacity. Club president Johnny Petersson said the decision wasn’t much of a surprise.
“Our stadium isn’t even a football stadium, it’s an athletics arena (track and field),” he said. “We knew we only had a small chance of using our stadium, but it would have been nice.”
UEFA’s biggest complaint, however, was about stadium lighting. The aging stadium lacks proper lights for night games, something that is OK for Allsvenskan matches but not for the Champions League. Kalmar head coach Nanne Bergstrand threatened to quit if the club doesn’t do something about the lights at the stadium, a threat Pettersson took seriously.
“That will be the hardest part of this decision – telling Nanne,” he said. “We would need 8 million kronor ($951,000) to fix the lights in the stadium. It is a cost we don’t want because we are moving to a new stadium in two years.”
Kalmar expects to break ground for a new stadium next year. Until then, Pettersson said the team has options for its home games in the Champions League.
“We can go to Borås Arena, Helsingborg, Nya Ullevi (in Göteborg) or even the new national arena in Stockholm,” he said. “I don’t think we need to worry about where we will play.”
Hammarby 3, Djurgården 1
STOCKHOLM – Hammarby claimed its first win of the season in style, rallying from a goal down to beat Djurgården April 19 in a Stockholm derby. Toni Kuivasto put DIF in front after 12 minutes. Emil Johansson tied the game at the 30-minute mark. The score remained knotted until the 66th minute when U.S. international Charlie Davies struck to put Hammarby in front. Fredrik Söderström added Hammarby’s third goal nine minutes from time.
Örebro 2, Helsingborg 1
ÖREBRO – Helsingborg suffered its first defeat of the season, falling 2-0 at Örebro. Kim Olsen and Emra Tahirovic scored in the second half to lead Örebro to the win.
IFK Göteborg 3, Örgryte 0
GÖTEBORG – Göteborg evened its record at 2-0-2 with a 3-0 thumping of still-winless Örgryte. Tobias Hysen and Stefan Selakovic scored 11 minutes apart in the first half to stake IFK to a 2-0 lead. Robin Söder added the third six minutes into the second half. Örgryte has lost all four of its matches this season.
GAIS 3, Häcken 0
GÖTEBORG – Wanderson do Carmo scored twice to lead GAIS to a 3-0 win over BK Häcken in a Göteborg derby. The Brazilian scored his first at the stroke of half time, then set up Par Ericsson for GAIS’ second goal five minutes into the second half. Carmo scored his second of the match four minutes from time.
Elfsborg 2, Gefle 1
GÄVLE – Hans Berggren scored for the third time in four games, but it wasn’t enough as Elfsborg rallied to claim a 2-1 win April 19 in Gävle. The 36-year-old Berggren put Gefle in front after 20 minutes. Mattias Floren tied it off a corner one minute before the interval. Anders Svensson hit the game winner as time ran out.
AIK 3, Brommapojkarna 2
BROMMA – Uruguyan player Ivan Obolo put on a show as he single-handedly led AIK to a come-from-behind win over Brommapojkarna. Obolo fired AIK into the lead with his first of two goals on the day, tallying at the 2-minute mark. Bromma quickly rallied and took a 2-1 lead on goals from Olaf Guterstam and Imad Chidaheh. Obolo then tied the game with second of the match at the 31-minute mark. He set up Saihu Jagne for the game winner in the final minute of play.
Malmö 1, Trelleborg 1
MALMÖ – Trelleborg finally found a way to stop Malmö’s winning streak, but paid a price in its 1-1 draw with the league leaders. Kristian Haynes put TFF in front after 3 minutes while Daniel Larsson equalized at the stroke of half time. Three Trelleborg players – Mattias Nyland, goalkeeper Victor Norling and Jonas Bjurström all collected knee injuries in the match. Nyland is out for the season after tearing his ACL.
AIK striker Ivan Obolo celebrates after he scored the game-tying goal in AIK's 3-2 win over Gefle April 19 in Gävle. Bildbyrån photo/Bjorn Tilly