Since learning that AIK was coming to Portland I have had a great interest in what the other side thinks of this preseason tournament. Stockholm was my home for a little over a year from 2002-2004 (I spent time in other far reaching corners of Sweden like Norrbottens Län). And I left with fluency in Swedish, a love of the people of Sweden, and a very tentative association with Hammarby IF because their colors were closest to the Timbers (I can be easily persuaded to follow a new Swedish club). I regret that I never got a chance to see a match. My screen name is even adopted from Swedish; Kejsare (pronounced SHAY-sa-rah) is Swedish for emperor.
I've taken it upon myself to read up on forums, news articles and videos to look at the general response from Swedes and the club we will host here in Portland.
AIK: Its Supporters and Histoy
First, lets cover Gnaget, the name for AIK supporters. (FYI: Gnagare is "Rodent", if I'm right gnaget is "the gnawing")Check out a few videos of their exploits and be amazed. These were posted in a soccercityusa thread by a AIK:are or Gnagare as I've already stated.
Just listen to the call and response of "Kom igen gnaget!" (Let's go Gnaget!) from the entire crowd.
A slightly more aged look at when they played in the Champions League. Something we can only dream of here.
And the fourth, a masterfully orchestrated change from flag to team colors, can be seen here. (It appears I have a limit of three embedded youtube videos per post).
These are great ideas for the Timbers Army going forward. Especially the second one with the fist action.
Here is a short compilation of things the fans and team has done. Vid 1. Vid 2. Both are short and well done. There are more than one supporters' group, namely Black Army, Ultras Nord, and Sol Invictus. But I know so little about them and the culture of fans in Sweden I wont go into detail.
About AIK. The team was founded in 1891 only weeks prior to crosstown rival Djurgården IF (if you want a laugh their name translates literally as "the Animal Park"). Professionally the team began in 1896.
AIK is an abbreviation of Allmänna Idrottsklubben or The General Sports Club which harks back to a time when sporting clubs established teams to play different sports that later became professional organizations. There are also hockey, bandy, handball, innebandy (which I got to play in Sweden), bowling, and badminton teams.
They are a very good club side in the Allsvenskan and have won it five times. In their full history they've won eleven times going back to 1900.
They're moving into a new stadium soon. Which will be right next to the iconic Globen. Here is a photo of a stadium rendering. AIK will begin there in 2013. Woops. They are moving in to a new stadium, but not at that location. Here's the link to the new stadium.
Articles about the Tournament
Two players didn't make the flight because of visa issues. I'm inclined to blame TSA, but this happened before they even got on the plane.
An interview with SvenskaFans.com's MLS editor Johan Dykhoff yields some interesting statements. The league quality is hard to pin down because there are many examples of Europe-to-MLS failures and successes and vice versa. In the end he believes many players in the MLS not well known to Swedes could dominate there. Stadium wise MLS compares with Europe's top class facilities. Says Chivas, San Jose, and Portland are not the best teams in MLS (I should add, "from last year" since the former two have had good postseason successes). But he comes around saying all three could be top-table teams in Sweden. Talks well about the popularity of soccer in Portland and quotes former Timber Johan Claesson when he still played in Portland:
The Americans have even decent idea of what "soccer" is even if it is not comparable to how it is in Europe. In Portland, it is different. Here they really love football, and although the fans might not possess as much knowledge as those back home [in Sweden] they nevertheless have a similar burning for the sport and they fill the stadium no matter how good or bad we play.
AIK is providing videos of the trip. Arrival. Summary of first day of training. Newest Additions. The players had some nice words to say about the stadium in the first video (in English BTW, the rest is Swedish). Second talks with the manager on the trip and he said 17,000 are expected at the matches as well as what to do to prepare against Chivas. The third is talking to the newest roster additions (they like The Nines hotel, I've stayed there once, he's right since it is downright posh).
A blog covered the Timbers Army. It is an interview with Garrett Dittfurth. After the introduction everything is written in English.
Vi kom till hotellet vid 12.30 lokal tid och vilket hotell! Det ligger mitt i stan och har fem sådana där stjärnor så ni förstår nog standarden. Det brukar kunna bli lite segt mellan träningar och matcher på läger i vanliga fall, men här kommer det finnas saker att göra hela tiden om man så vill.
Efter lunch var vi även och besökte arenan där vi både kommer träna och spela. Den ligger ungefär 10 minuter från hotellet och tar runt 20 000 tror jag. Det kan nog bli rätt mycket folk på matcherna för Portland drar alltid fullt hus i MLS tydligen. Härligt!
[English for y'all]
We got to the hotel at 12:30 local time and what a hotel! It is located right in town and has five stars so you will understand the high standards. Often in camps it tends to be a bit slow between practices and games, but there will be many things to do all the time here if you like.
After lunch, we visited the stadium where we will practice and play. It is located about 10 minutes from the hotel and holds around 20,000 I think. It can probably be pretty crowded during games in Portland and apparently they always draws a full house in the MLS. Fantastic!
His second post talks about a teammate Helgi Danielsson who flew to Japan to play there for his native Iceland (match report) and then flew direct to Portland. They've had a few good laughs in seeing the locals and drawing attention to themselves. I bet you they saw Tre Arrow.
Now lets get down and inspect some forums. I went strolling through the threads at http://aik.pi.se/guestbook/ and http://www.aikforum.se/aik/aik-fotboll/. There are optimists and critics mixed in with many who just want to know why two player visas were not accepted and if they can watch a stream of the match. I laughed when one suggested to expel the American ambassador.
There is a general interest in the suggestion that AIK and PTFC may join together in scouting talent (per Merritt's tweet). It also appears Gavin Wilkinson made some friends on his journey to Sierra Leone and the result we have today is the preseason tournament. Several have been very pleased to see how Timbers fans have been so welcoming and even going so far as willing to offer up a place to stay and sleep. A few side comments on how the organized fan culture doesn't exists in other professional sports (although they'd like what happens at the college level). One fan made a stink about the usefulness of the cooperation and isn't enthused about American fan culture and used the NHL as his example, nor the franchise system. We're muppets and plastic fans. (Clearly he hasn't seen what has taken place in MLS in recent years). He seems to think hating other fans is an integral piece of passion. Not all seem to hold to this viewpoint.
But enough of one fan. One commentator finds MLS better in quality than Allsvenskan. Others recognize the huge potential for MLS to break into the top 10 leagues in the world just because we have size and money on our side. It may just be a matter of time. It is also easier to like fans from the US since there is no real chance to meet in a competitive match.
A few other snide comments are here and there. Only one more will I mention, but this is because he is mistaken. He taunts another fan for being impressed by the links some Timbers fans provided him calling them silly and then adds the Timbers were founded in 2009. Oh, well. Pele thinks you're a fool.
There is lastly only a slight bit of interest in the Khari Stephenson, a former AIK player who currently is with San Jose.
I look forward to perhaps meeting a few travelers. Otherwise, I'm going to keep my pulse on the feelings from Tre Kronor.
P.S. Say it with me "AH EE KO." Now you know how to say AIK in Swedish.