Fifa World Cup: Denmark v Peru with the Hong Kong’s Danish fans
Faithful get together in a Hong Kong bar and show true Scandinavian hospitality – and give a lesson in football language
“Butter, bacon, beer.” That is one Danish fan’s recap of a pair of Britons reeling through what Denmark is famed for. It’s said with the patience of someone who has heard it all before. Patience, we will see, is a mark of Denmark’s fans and its football team.
We were here in Spot Bar in Soho to watch Denmark’s opening game of Russia 2018 against Peru as part of our mission to get out and enjoy the World Cup in Hong Kong with the fans.
Sounds simple but asking around, emailing consulates and searching the internet didn’t bring much hope with the exception of Denmark.
The Danes had arranged this meet up, thanks to organiser Thor, for the Peru match, their opening game of Russia 2018.
Better still, he was happy for the South China Morning Post to go along and watch the match with them.
“I’ll be the one in the Eriksen shirt,” is the response.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 21 June 2018
There are just three Denmark shirts being sported in the bar that is not so much packed as pleasant and only one shirt sports the name of Denmark’s outstanding footballer – it is easy to find Thor.
We were welcomed with open arms and aside from the talk of Denmark’s non-footballing exports, the build-up to the game was filled with talk of the Premier League and the nation’s chances at the World Cup.
It’s a healthy crowd of Danes – 15 by Thor’s estimation, more than the five he expected. But the bar is full of friends of Danes – with some friendships so new they are still being made after the final whistle.
As fluent in Premier League lore as they are in English, the Danish fans explained their allegiances.
Liverpool and Manchester United remain the most followed teams in Denmark and that is no exception among the Danes we met here in Hong Kong.
Jan Molby, Daniel Agger, Peter Schmeichel: the list of greats who have played for both sides is the explanation for why they are so well followed, and its cyclical to who has the better Danish player at the time. Older heads nod with memories of John Sivebaek and Jesper Olsen at Old Trafford in the 1980s.
And what of Denmark’s chances. “No expectations,” they say, “although we expect to do OK.” They would do better with Nicklas Bendtner, it’s agreed.
This might seem a joke to anyone who watched the player’s latter days at Arsenal but Bendtner is the closest thing that Denmark has to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic figure. No expectations maybe, but the team has history.
The Danish teams of the past are discussed, the Laudrups and that Hummel kit of the 1986 World Cup – we’ve all been saying Hummel wrong, by the way. The 1992 European Championships, where Denmark only joined last minute because of war in the Balkans and then went and won it. We return to Schmeichel senior and Denmark’s current keeper, his son Kasper of Leicester City.
A couple of Britons toast Kasper Schmeichel in the way that English football fans do, a stark contrast to the concept of Roligans – the Danish anti-ultras concept that comes from a portmanteau oh hooligan and the Danish word for “calm”.
Then it is time for the anthems. Both are respected without incident. It’s all very nice this in comparison to watching other teams.
The match itself, while short on action, was as dramatic as any subtitled Scandinavian detective boxset.
Peru had been much the brighter and on the stroke of half-time the South Americans got a straffespark (penalty) but rather than a chorus of “skandale dommer” (scandal, referee) it was VAR that correctly gave it. The fans were accepting and Peru’s Cueva was not, booting the ball clean over the bar to an eruption of relief that carried through half-time.
No Carlsberg inside but one supporter sups on a can outside before joining the fray for the second half. National allegiance is clearly more important when it comes to catching every drop of the nation’s biggest export than catching every minute of the action. Probably.
Relief turned into joy on the hour mark.
The man who fouled Cueva, Yussuf Poulsen, went on to become Denmark’s hero as he enters the opposition penalty area to calmly slot past the Peruvian keeper.
— Jonathan White (@jmawhite) June 21, 2018
Northern Europeans are not famed for their outpouring of emotion
but these Danish fans – no matter how new to their support they are – absolutely lose it when Poulsen’s shot hits the back of the net. It’s like a student union when the DJ drops “Chelsea Dagger”. The Roligans had lost their calm.
They nearly lose it again when Peru’s Paolo Guerrero hit a back heel just wide with 20 minutes left but Denmark hold on for a win against the odds. And then the party starts. The Danish fans sing when they are winning.
“Not going to be there in two weeks” was the verdict before kick-off but they are not so sure now. After Denmark’s opening win you might have a chance to experience a group of football fans that are as welcoming as all “hygge”.
Denmark play Australia at 8pm tonight (June 21) and France on Tuesday June 26 at 10pm.