After my roommate and I took our seats on the bus, we were met with a sea of green and white. Swedes of all ages donned scarves, shirts, and hats with the classic colors of Hammarby, a major football club founded in Södermalm. Along with our fellow green-clad bus riders, we made our way to the semifinals of the Svenska Cupen Damer, a preseason tournament. The Hammarby women were set to play BK Häcken, a strong team based in Gothenburg, and I was beyond excited to attend my first Damallsvenskan match after years of following the league.
The women’s team typically plays at Hammarby IP, a small stadium about 20 minutes away from my student housing site. However, the fans managed to make a ton of noise (which they’re known for) despite the smaller venue. They chanted and sang throughout the entire match, cheering on the Hammarby players as they faced an experienced BK Häcken side.
Häcken boasts a handful of skilled players who have international experience, like Norwegian international Andrine Hegerberg (sister of Ada Hegerberg, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018) and Danish international Stine Larsen. Häcken also has well-known Swedish internationals, like Elin Rubensson and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd. On the other hand, Hammarby is a younger team with up-and-coming players like Finnish international Eva Nyström and Norwegian international Vilde Hasund. They also recently signed two young Australian internationals, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin.
Hammarby struck first in the 12th minute with a great goal by 19-year-old Matilda Vinberg. The stadium absolutely erupted, and although it was only our first game supporting the team, my roommate and I were just as ecstatic.
After a long spell of Hammarby dominating possession and chances on goal, Häcken started to gain control of the game. Danish international Stine Larsen scored in the 42nd minute to even the score at 1-1, which only made the Hammarby supporters louder.
During halftime, Siri and I met up with my friend Shiloh, a fellow DIS student blogger and dedicated Hammarby fan who was at the game with their host mom.
We ended up going over to the opposite section to sit with Shiloh and her host mom for the second half — right beside the Hammarby supporters. As time winded down and the score remained even, we joined in on the Swedish chants of encouragement. Nevertheless, regulation ended and extra time began to determine who would advance.
In the 109th minute, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd scored for Häcken, and Hammarby didn’t have a response. But the fans never stopped voicing their support, and the Hammarby players fought until the final whistle.
This experience meant a lot to me for a few reasons. I’ve watched and looked up to these players for years, so seeing them in person felt unreal. I also hadn’t been to a soccer game since the summer of 2019, before COVID-19 hit. I missed seeing professionals play with my own eyes, not through a tiny screen, and feeling the contagious energy of passionate fans. Most importantly, this was the first time that I really felt included in Swedish culture. Despite not speaking the same language, we were united by our shared excitement and love of football.