It’s April, and in Sweden that can mean just one thing: Football.
The 2012 Allsvenskan and Damallsvenskan open at the start of April, with the men kicking off March 30 and the women April 9. Both leagues face longer-than-usual summer breaks as the men have the European Championships and the women are in the 2012 London Olympics. Both leagues also have clear, star-laden favorites as IFK Goteborg looks to take home the Lennart Johansson trophy in the Alllsvenskan and free-spending Tyreso guns for its first-ever title in the Damallsvenskan.

Men’s outlook
IFK Göteborg tops a list of seven teams with legitimate shots at the 2012 Allsvenskan championship. Göteborg might have the most talent-laden team in Swedish football since it ruled the Allsvenskan back in the 1990s. IFK made moves for young talent in Logi Valdarsson and Philip Haglund, players in their prime in Daniel Sobralense, John Alvbåge and Nordin Gerzic as well as experienced stars in former Norwegian international Kjetil Waehler and former Swedish national team midfielder Pontus Farnerud. The moves led the Swedish media to dub the 2012 Angels “Real Göteborg,” a comparison to the star-studded teams at Real Madrid in Spain.
“We all laugh about that,” said Alvbåge, who takes over in goal for now departed Markus Sandberg. “I guess it means IFK Göteborg is on a lot of people’s lips. That’s good.”
It also means Göteborg is the team to beat, something the other 15 teams in the league all want to do. At least seven of those teams have title aspirations of their own, with AIK, the 2011 runners-up, Malmö, Elfsborg, 2011 champions Helsingborg and dark horse GAIS owning the best chances.
Helsingborg underwent a major transformation during the second half of last season and this winter, ushering in 17 new players. Despite the apparent tumult, Helsingborg kept its top midfielders—Ardian Gashi, May Mahlangu and Rouchid Buouazan. For HIF, the trio is the foundation on which head coach Conny Karlsson builds. HIF added Thomas Sorum to bolster an attack that already featured Alvaro Santos and Erik Sundin.
AIK retooled its offense as well. The Gnaget bid farewell to Mohammed and Ibrahim Bangura, who accounted for more than half of the team’s 47 goals last season. To replace them, head coach Andreas Alm brought in Costa Rican midfielder Celso Borges, who had 15 goals in 46 games for Fredrikstad, and snapped up Togo striker Atakori Lalawale and Nigerian Alhassan Kamara.
Malmö, meanwhile, continued its trend of working to keep its core team together while adding parts where necessary. The Sky Blues continue to boast one of the youngest teams in the league and feature five Swedish Under-21 internationals. Two starters left Malmö during the offseason, the biggest being midfielder/striker Agon Mehmeti, who joined Palermo in Italy. To replace him, Malmo snapped up Under-21 talent Simon Thern from Helsingborg and Erik Friberg, who spent a year in the U.S. with Seattle.


Women’s outlook
There is one reason why Tyresö, which has never won a championship in anything, is suddenly a powerhouse in Swedish women’s football. The word? Marta.
The Brazilian superstar returned to Sweden after three years in the U.S. playing in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league. Tyresö managed to win the bidding war, luring the six-time FIFA World Player of the Year by also adding Swedish internationals Caroline Seger and Madeleine Edlund to a lineup that already included Swedish national teamers Lisa Dahlkvist, Annica Svensson and Maja Astrom. In addition, Tyresö picked up Marta’s international teammate Elaine when St. Louis in WPS went out of business in 2011.
While Tyresö has made the most headlines with its signings, defending champions Malmö made their own moves to keep the Crown Princess Victoria trophy in Skåne. Malmö picked up rising star Ramonna Bachmann of Switzerland from Umeå, where she spent nearly five years, with a stint in Atlanta tossed in. Malmö also signed two German internationals, Anja Mittag and Katrin Schmidt. Malmö still has the best goalkeeper in the league in Thora Bjorg Helgadottir.
Other Damallsvenskan teams lost no time in swooping for international talent put out of work when WPS ceased operations. Australian internationals Lisa Da Vanna (Linköpings), Lydia Williams (Piteå) and Kirsty Yallop (Vittsjö) moved to Sweden along with Spanish international Veronica Boquette (Tyresö), England international Amanda Asante (Göteborg), Canadian Stephanie Labbe (Örebro) and U.S. international Kacey White (AIK).

by Chipp Reid