As the season of goodwill ends, a new one begins

Yes sir, December is a pretty decent time of year in Denmark. It is a time to get together with the family, tell the boss he’s a wanker at the Christmas party and generally eat and drink like large swine that haven’t eaten since the previous December. The ten kilos I put on every Christmas holiday can atone to that: I mean I put gravy on my gravy if you catch my drift. Yet, this sadly brings me to the one ingredient that is so forlornly missing from the whole Xmas experience here in Denmark. Football! 

After ravenously devouring a roasted pig, including its baked skin crust covered in thick gravy, it would be nice to burn off a few calories. Good news: the football season is just around the corner. Since all my exercise is football-related, even at home as I walk to the fridge to get a can of beer to watch the footy on TV, I’m naturally geared up to it. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the reasons I play seven-a-side footy and not 11s. Its immense popularity in Copenhagen means that there are hundreds of teams to choose from.

The DAI (Dansk Arbejder Idrætsforbund) manage a seven-a-side league system that includes five tiers and approximately 250 clubs. Even better, if you have some friends or colleagues who fancy a cheeky kick-about, you can just start your own team. It costs peanuts. All you need are about ten to 12 players. Once confirmed, register with the DAI − while the deadline is offcially closed, they’ll still be able to squeeze you in if you apply by the end of February − and pay the subscription fee, which is approximately 6,000 kroner a season. 

At this point you need to choose a name, and sadly Randy Vesterbro has already been taken. And then you should invest in a kit that includes shirts, shorts and socks. While you don’t want to be too extravagant – players with their names emblazoned on their backs are asking for a good kicking – don’t just go for white t-shirts. Besides, they have to have numbers, or the refs won’t let you play.  

Rules-wise, there is no offside, a yellow card warrants a five-minute sin bin and all free-kicks are direct. The goals are slightly bigger than hockey ones, and the pitch the same length, but slightly narrower than half a normal pitch sideline to sideline. The DAI will assign you a home ground, usually at Valby Hallen or Kløvermarken, and organise the pitches, kick-off times and refs. There are around 20 games a season – played on weekday evenings, Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning – and the league tables can be accessed via the DAI website. There is a summer break from late June to mid-August, but this still means that most of the games are played in warm conditions. With this in mind maybe, there are rotating substitutions, although only ten players can be listed for use on the team sheet that is filled out and handed to the ref before the 60-minute game. 

“One of our teams tried another league once,” warns Stephen Ball, the treasurer of Copenhagen Celtic (, a British/Irish club that has been playing in the DAI since the mid 1980s and currently has seven teams, four of which are sevens sides. “But you had to organise your own refs for your home games and this was particularly annoying when the other team cancelled at short notice. At least with the DAI, you know that a late cancellation will forfeit the game.”

Ball, who played 11-a-side from 1986 to 2005, enjoyed six happy seasons playing sevens in one of the DAI veteran leagues until retiring in 2011. “In sevens you’re more involved and it’s easier to get a team to get together,” he enthuses. And it’s worth pointing out that outside the DAI’s 11-a-side top division, they don’t have linesmen, which means lots of dodgy offside decisions. 

Of course, March might be too soon. But if there’s a silver lining, it is that early applicants for the 2014 season can argue a case to start at a higher level than the bottom ‘D’ tier. 

And while the league system mentioned in this article is mainly for players in their 20s and 30s, there are also DAI league systems for players aged over 33, 40 and 45, and 11-a-side football. 

So if you’re looking to have a laugh and lose a few Christmas pounds at the same time, get stuck in and join a team. Or if you’re feeling like the next Bill Shankly, start your own team: folk will be rushing to join you in droves. 

Sevens football
Season lasts from April-October; subscription 5,500kr per team; applications to play need to be received by the organisers DAI by mid-February; Rønnedgade 9,1, 2100 Cph Ø; 3929 5910; fax: 3929 5310, office hours Mon, Tue & Thu 09:00-14:30, Wed 12:30-19:00; Fri 09:00-12:00;