Their fans cheer, full of beer, champions-elect for another year

The Parken match-day experience is a great introduction to the Superliga – tickets rarely sell out and the stadium’s always warm

FC Copenhagen vs FC Nordsjælland, December 9: the final game before the Superliga’s winter break. On the one hand, it was a great chance for defending champions FCN to shorten the gap to leaders FCK to six points ahead of the resumption of the season on March 1; for the home side, it was a golden opportunity to extend that lead to double figures. Not only that, but the trash talk was rife.

“We gave FCN the championship last year,” FCK midfielder Thomas Delaney told The Copenhagen Post. “That hurt a lot of people, and now it’s our job to put that right.”

It may have been a big game, but the attendance didn’t really suggest that it was. FCK’s games usually average 20,000 spectators at the 38,000-capacity Parken stadium, but on this match day, only 15,039 decided to show up.

That might have had something to do with the cold winter weather. But with the stadium’s retractable roof and indoor heating facilities, the absentees didn’t have much of an excuse given that the game was played at a comfortable temperature of 12 degrees.

However, the game’s atmosphere belied the low attendance, as once seated, the stadium felt full. Fans tend to sit in large groups, each holding onto a cardboard, five-pint rack, spilling beer all over the seats in front of them.

Not that it mattered. Everyone was standing and singing in full voice, with their free hand punching the air. One such fan was 26-year-old FCK supporter Erik Richarme.

“I love match-days,” Richarme almost yelled. “It’s like going to a bar with your friends except you’ve got a live game right in front of you! Beer and football: what more could you want?”

Other than the beer, football and cheap tickets on offer, one of the main reasons Richarme loves coming to see his home team play is the fantastic atmosphere created within the stadium. A fact that Delaney is well aware of.

“It may be called Parken,” Delaney explained. “But we prefer to call it ‘The Lion’s Cave’. We feel strong here, and I think people are intimidated when they come here.” 

That brave talk might come from Delaney’s youthful confidence, but truth be told, Parken generated an explosion of sound right from the kick-off to the final whistle – like it had suddenly woken up from a slumber. The drums were beating rhythmically, like a heart, punctuated by the instantaneous roars of ‘SKYDE’ (SHOOT) that erupted in unison, followed by a united ‘OL’ if the shot missed the goal.

Everyone knew the songs and chants, although that wasn’t too surprising when you consider that most of the lyrics consist of the letters ‘FCK’. The simple lyrics made it difficult not to join in with the crowd, whose endless jumping created ripple-like waves throughout the stadium.

To be fair, that was only when FCK had possession. Whenever the opposition got the ball, the noise would cease. Then, slowly, a chorus of off-key whistling would start, low and bothersome at first, but the longer FCN held onto the ball, the louder the whistles got, spurring FCK into action to get the ball back, which would then be followed by a loud cheer from the stands.

Finally the goal arrived. A corner kick caused a scramble in FCN’s box and the ball fell to none other than Delaney, whose shot ricocheted off a defender’s leg into the roof of the net. Parken exploded in celebration. Toilet rolls flew through the air and hundreds of flags appeared out of nowhere, as the stadium’s speakers blasted the chorus of ‘woohoo’ from Blur’s rock anthem ‘Song 2’ at the jubilant crowd. 

The voice of a wildly happy match-day announcer then delivered a jubilant volley that would have put a Latin American commentator to shame. He only announced Delaney’s first name, leaving the 15,000-strong support to scream out his second.

The half-time whistle blew with the score at 2-0 to the home side. Brazilian César Santín had added the second in the 38th minute, which had only increased the fan’s celebrations. And while most staggered off to the stadium’s bar counters to get another five pints of juleøland and fransk hotdogs, some were clearly keen to watch the club’s ‘White Cat’ cheerleaders to perform their latest choreography.

The interval was a show all on its own. While the White Cats may have been modestly dressed, their provocative moves were enough to stun the crowd to silence as they danced to techno remixes of Christmas songs. All but one that is: a 31-year-old neutral spectator from Germany called Tilman Koblitz.

“It’s a bit of a cringeworthy attempt to copy American culture,” Koblitz observed before taking a sip of the pint in his hand. “But that’s probably what makes it so enjoyable to watch.”

A rather reserved opinion perhaps, but as everyone else was recovering from the steamy cheerleaders, FCK’s lion mascot, complete in Santa Claus attire, turned up with Danish ‘90s hip-hop artist MC Einar. Together they then performed the most bizarre rap to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ tune from the Christmas classic ‘Sleigh Ride’. Not that many were aware of it as fans stumbled over each to get the next round of five-pint beer racks.

Heading into the second half, the game continued as ferociously as it had started. FCK scored two more, and the visitors grabbed a consolation goal, resulting in a final score of 4-1.

“FCN have had their cake and eaten it,” Delaney defiantly said after the game. “And with that score-line, you know that FCN won’t be able to forget this game anytime soon.”

Unfortunately for FCN, Delaney was probably right. And what also must have rubbed salt into the wound was hearing the whole stadium chant: ‘Det ligner Champions League!’ (‘It looks like Champions League!’) as FCN trudged off the field. A clear reference to FCN’s 6-1 defeat to Chelsea in late November.

“This victory shows that we are the best in Denmark,” Delaney said. “And while we know the job’s only half done, having a 12-point lead over FCN is a great way to go into the second half of the season.”

The Superliga season resumes on March 1 with FC Copenhagen currently leading the table by 12 points after losing just one of their first 20 games. Propping up the table are their main rivals, Brøndby, who are two points adrift of safety despite losing fewer than half their games.