Allsvenskan 2018- Swedish football springs into action

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Swedish football springs into action

Unlike in most other European countries where the start of the football season signals that the end of summer is approaching, the first round of games in Sweden’s top division, Allsvenskan, is a sure sign that spring is finally here after a long, dark winter.

Kicking off on 1 April, Allsvenskan’s 16 clubs will compete in 11 rounds of games before the season takes a five-week break at the end of May when the Swedish national team will head to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Given that the Swedish league season is set to resume on 8 July – and the World Cup final is not until 15 July – you may assume that the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) does not rate the country’s chances in the tournament too highly. The fact is, however, that few players in Sweden’s World Cup squad will come from Allsvenskan clubs. In fact, not one single player in the starting line-up that lost in last weekend’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Chile currently plays his domestic football in Sweden.

The lack of funds in the domestic game compared with other leagues in Europe, the US and even China means it is inevitable that Sweden’s brightest football stars ply their trade abroad. But it isn’t all doom and gloom.

Take the rise of Östersunds FK as a case in point. The club managed by Englishman Graham Potter debuted in Allsvenskan as recently as in 2016 and won the Swedish Cup for the first time last year. Making their first appearance in European competition this season, Östersund knocked out Turkish giants Galatasaray in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds. They then finished second in a group containing Germany’s Hertha Berlin and Spain’s Athletic Bilbao before going out to Arsenal in the knockout stage.

And then there is a group of former English league players rejected by their previous clubs who now ply their trade at all levels in the Swedish league system.

My own brief career as a registered footballer in regional division six in northern Sweden ended in disaster after a single game more than 20 years ago, during which the opposing winger went past me more times than tourists going through the security check at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport on a busy summer’s day.

But back to the real deal and the question of which club will be crowned Allsvenskan champions on 11 November. Well, it is hard to look beyond defending champions Malmö FF, who have won the Swedish league title four times in the last five seasons. And last week, eight of the 16 Allsvenskan head coaches tipped Malmö to add to their record of 23 championship victories in 2018.

Then there is the challenge from the capital: the Stockholm area accounts for exactly one quarter of the teams in Allsvenskan this season, as regulars AIK, Djurgårdens IF and Hammarby IF are joined by newly promoted IF Brommapojkarna, who return to the top flight after a three-year absence thanks to having won Sweden’s second division, Superettan, in 2017. Brommapojkarna will be hoping to avoid a relegation battle along with the two other promoted sides, Trelleborgs FF and Allsvenskan debutants Dalkurd FF.

As for me, I’ll be hoping that my local team IK Frej Täby avoid another relegation battle in Superettan. And who knows? One day they may reach Allsvenskan too. Just like Östersund have.

Let the battle commence!

Author: Ian Nicholson

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