Monday, January 11, 2010

Sweden usually was regarded as strong national team, but not so at the club level. Hardly a surprise – the country run amateur championship, best players constantly going to play in the European professional leagues. And typically in such situation local clubs were more or less equal – never a strong hierarchy dominated by two or three rich clubs, although clubs from Stockholm and Gothenburg tended to be better than the rest. Better, but if one looks at the cities as a whole, because both had many clubs, none above the others. Rotating champions and unpredictable leaders is what makes football fascinating, yet, Swedish clubs were not strong compared to most European clubs. There was never concentration of talent, good players were scattered among the league instead. Which provided for the brief emergence of a small club from a small town: Atvidabergs FF won the Swedish title in 1972 for the first time in their history. They repeated the success in 1973 and made some good impression in the European Champions Cup tournament. Then… they sunk. And so far did not come back, normally playing in the Second Division, where one can find them currently as well.

The brief glory Atvidabergs FF enjoyed was largely due to the bunch of young exciting attackers Ralf Edstrom, Roland Sandberg, Conny Torstensson, and Benno Magnusson. Eager and talented, they were also players of the new breed – mobile and diverse, never shying away from going back to help the defense, and quick to use their skills in starting a counterattack. In brief, modern players attracted by and suitable for total football. They were invited to the national team, they impressed foreign specialists, and they… moved. Edstrom to Holland, and the rest – to West Germany. Magnusson was the least successful and memorable, but the others became often mentioned names – Sandberg playing left wing in the short revival of 1.FC Kaiserslautern; Torstensson winning European Champions Cup with Bayern; and Edstrom… well, he was leading the attack of strong mid-70s PSV Eindhoven before moving to other European clubs. The biggest international star coming from Atvidaberg.
The success, in a weird, yet, familiar way, was the undoing of Atvidabergs FF: as a small club, they had no mechanism for keeping their stars. As amateur club they got no real transfer fees to use for recruiting new talent. Apart from the four stars, the squad was bland – no other player made professional career abroad. No other player played for the national team. Just two glorious years for the fans to remember.

Atvidabergs FF:
Top, left to right: Edstrom, Torstensson, Sandberg, Franzen, Magnusson, Svensson.
Bottom: Karlsson, Olsson, Blomberg, Gustafsson, Andersson. The team was practically unchanged in 1972 and 1973, but in the late summer of 1973 the stars went abroad. The second title was clinched on the strength of the point collected in the spring half of the season. Next year there was no strength left.