Sweden – Brommapojkarna’s impact

A club from western Stockholm, known for their commitment to youth football more than the quality of the first team, are making an impact in their debut season in the top flight. Marcus Christenson reports

It was never supposed to happen. Most Swedes have always been convinced that the team called Brommapojkarna – the boys from Bromma – would never take part in a top-flight game. After all, they had played football since 1942 and the team known as BP had never managed to take the step up to the Allsvenskan. Continually producing top players such as the former Arsenal and Sweden midfielder Anders Limpar? Yes, definitely. Getting promoted and defeating the 2005 champions, Djurgården, in their first game? No, not really.

But that is exactly what happened at the beginning of April. Djurgården were beaten 1-0 at BP’s temporary home, the Råsunda Stadion, after Joakim Runnemo scored two minutes into the game. They then went to Kalmar FF and drew 2-2 to be joint top of the league after two games.

It was a remarkable achievement by a club whose average attendance last season was 1,144. Promotion had not been anticipated so BP’s stadium, Grimsta IP, does not meet the requirements for top-flight football. Work is under way, however, and should be finished by July 1, although half the season will have gone by then.

The press, meanwhile, tore into Brommapojkarna before the season started, saying that they were certainties to go down, and also poked fun at their meagre fan base, quite an easy task considering the club had sold only 50 season tickets a few weeks before kick-off. “They will do really badly this season,” wrote Mathias Lühr in Expressen in April. “They are sure to score a few goals but they will go down. They will finish last.”

Poor BP. Until this season they have never had a supporters’ club and when the newspaper Aftonbladet surveyed every team about where their fans went for pre-match beer, BP’s sporting director Ola Danhard scratched his head and said: “Hmmm, where do they go? I haven’t got a clue to be honest. We are about to start a supporters’ club so hopefully we will find a place for the supporters to gather before games.”

Having a big fanbase has never mattered before, however, as BP’s claim to fame has always been that they are the biggest club in Europe – if you count the number of teams. Since foundation, the emphasis at Brommapojkarna has always been put on youth. At the moment there are 247 teams in various age groups, involving more than 3,000 players. Around 600 parents and other volunteers help keep all the teams going in a colossal and successful organisation run on a shoestring budget.

The problem facing them this year, as in every other, is trying to keep hold of their best players. Players such as ­Limpar, Nils‑Eric Johansson (Leicester), Bojan ­Djordjic (ex-Manchester United now at Plymouth) and Thomas Gustavsson (who had a spell with Coventry City) all started their professional lives at Brommapojkarna.

They all left relatively early in their careers as they never thought they would play top-flight football for their team. But even now, with BP in the Allsvenskan, the club are struggling to hold on to their talents. Recently a 15-year-old boy, André  Möllestam, became the youngest footballer ever to leave Sweden for a club abroad, as he departed BP for Lecce’s youth team.

There is hope, however, and it currently comes in the shape of a 17-year-old midfielder who is expected to be the best thing to come out of Sweden since Kim Källström (now at Lyon) left Djurgården for Rennes in 2004. Albin Ekdal has impressed everyone with his mature game and the fact that he has already turned down Chelsea, who made an offer last year. ­Arsenal, Inter and PSV Eindhoven have also been to watch him.

Ekdal trained with Chelsea for five days last year and BP gave him permission to speak to the English champions, but when it came down to it the youngster decided that he was not interested. “He felt that it is too early to move abroad,” his father, Lennart, a television star in Sweden, told Aftonbladet. “He was only 16 and this is not a time to rush into anything. I think that it is quite difficult for young Swedish guys to adapt to a life like that. All the focus is on football but socially it doesn’t work that well. Competition at Chelsea is extremely tough and even some of the youth teams have players on full-time contracts. That is not an option for us at the moment.”

Now, however, Ekdal is facing possibly a bigger challenge than securing a place in Chelsea’s youth team: keeping BP up. After their third game in Allsvenskan, a 2-1 home defeat to IFK Göteborg in front of 2,621 fans on a miserable day, a reporter asked Ekdal how he felt: “You know, we have had far worse experiences than this. We’ll be OK.” And hopefully they will be OK. The small club with the huge number of teams deserve at least another season in the limelight.

From WSC 245 July 2007