From: Stig Oppedal (hfstud.uio.no) Subject: I Survived The Scandinavian Bronze Age Newsgrups: rec.sport.soccer, soc.culture.nordic Date: November 15, 1994 Sweden is the country I love to hate. Well, not hate, it’s more like a good-natured sibling rivalry, the kind to be found all over the world amongst otherwise friendly nations. However, when it comes to sports, and football in particular, I bow to no one in my loathing of Sweden. The reason for this is that for most Norwegians, Sweden is the country they love to ass-kiss. Sweden’s successful World Cup was a classic example of Norwegians stumbling over each other, trying to get in the best licks. On June 28th, Norway were knocked out of the World Cup, while Sweden advanced to the second round. This resulted in numerous media comments of stunning originality, such as «I suggest that we for once [sic] cheer for Sweden», «Now that Norway is out, we have to put our trust in Sweden», and «Now we can cheer for Sweden!». A psychologist in VG, Norway’s largest tabloid, insisted that the populace shouldn’t be too depressed by Norway’s elimination, suggesting that they instead cheer for Argentina. (I’m only kidding - no prizes for guessing which country he actually suggested.) And when the mass media commanded «Cheer for Sweden!», Norwegians literally asked «How loud?». After Sweden advanced to the semifinals, the national radio station P3 had a phone-in competition where listeners could enthusiastically shout their support for Sweden. How easy it is to brainwash people, once the sweet smell of success is in the air! Worst of all, these bandwagoners view themselves as broadminded people, capable of rising above petty jealousies to appreciate the success of Sweden. Or rather, the success of «Scandinavia», which is how triumphs for Sweden or Denmark are presented when Norway fails to make a mark. [Note: This does not work the other way around. No glory-hunting Swede should think that the Lillehammer Olympics were a triumph for Scandinavia!] By kissing up to their Scandinavian neighbors, these leeches are able to grab their «fair share» of the glory, something they wouldn’t be entitled to if they cheered for Holland, or Argentina, or whoever. But where were these people, and these journalists, when Sweden failed so miserably in Italia ‘90, in Albertville in 1992, in Lillehammer in 1994? Were they so neighborly that they were saddened by Sweden’s fiascoes? No way! They were too busy laughing, with comments like «Olympic medal count: Fiji 0, Sweden 0». But when the good times came back, these fair- weather friends were more than prepared to bask in the glow of Sweden’s success. Like all newly converted zealots, they felt a need to prove their loyalty to the new cause and distance themselves from the old one. «The Norwegian team went to the US as heroes and came back as ordinary vacuum-cleaner salesmen» -P3. NRK-TV seemed more enthusiastic about Sweden’s team than their Swedish counterparts. Not only was Sweden praised beyond recognition in the media, but criticism of the team was banned altogether. As an example, Thomas Brolin’s shameless quarter-final dive, which resulted in Tibor Selymes’s suspension from an eventual semi-final, was completely ignored. RECAP OF SWEDEN’S 1994 CAMPAIGN There’s no question that Sweden played much better than Norway did, but their bronze medals were surely the easiest in World Cup history. Sweden barely scraped a 2-2 draw in their opener against Cameroon, a team in complete chaos due to financial trouble, political meddling, and player unrest. Then followed a 3-1 win over ten-man Russia, a disorganized squad who made the concept «Cameroonian planning» seem like a good idea, what with a boycott by all the star players, internal strife, and alcohol problems. Sweden then managed a 1-1 draw against a disinterested Brazil, prompting Norwegian comments of «Sweden had them on their knees!». As the second-placed team in a weak group, Sweden met in the second round not a strong team like Argentina, nor even an experienced team like Belgium, but the 250-1 World Cup underdogs, Saudi Arabia, who were comfortably dispatched 3-1. The first _real_ opposition came in the quarter-final against the beautiful Romanians, who, in contrast to Sweden, had won a very tough group and been «rewarded» with a game against Argentina. Sweden knocked Romania out on penalty-kicks, which for me was the worst moment of the Finals, especially since I watched the game with three Sweden «fans». Sweden then lost 1-0 against Brazil in the semi-finals, of which the Los Angeles Times wrote: «At any given time a Cessna plane could have landed on the Brazilian half....Sweden started with a 10-0-0 formation, then switched to 9-0-0 when Thern was expelled, before Rehn came on for Dahlin in order to strengthen the defense.» In the bronze final they won 4-0 over a jet-lagged and bored Bulgaria, in a game where the only player doing his best for a Bulgarian victory was Thomas Ravelli. Sweden were given an opportunity, and they took it. The brief recap, however, should set the over-the-top Norwegian praise in perspective. HOW THE NORWEGIAN MEDIA SAW IT In Aftenposten’s ranking of the teams’s achievements in the quarter-finals, Sweden were, unbelievably, in second place. A 2-2 draw against Romania was apparently better than Brazil’s 3-2 win over Holland and Italy’s 2-1 win over Spain. Aftenposten practically apologized for «being forced to» rank Bulgaria first after their sensational 2-1 victory over Germany. Even more bizarre, the ranking after the second round put Sweden on top! Aftenposten felt that a 3-1 win against the over-achieving Saudi Arabians was more impressive than results such as Romania - Argentina 3-2 (the match of the tournament), Spain - Switzerland 3- 0, Holland - Ireland 2-0, or Germany - Belgium 3-2. It couldn’t be because it was _Sweden_ who beat Saudi Arabia, could it? NRK’s panel of experts was unanimous in it’s verdict - the Brazil vs. Sweden semi-final would be a hard fought battle that could go either way. Sweden were one of the world’s best teams, with several world class players [unlike Norway, as was repeatedly pointed out], and would pose the greatest challenge so far for the World Cup favorites Brazil. The praise for Sweden knew no bounds. Strangely enough, these comments were made the day before the _Sweden vs. Romania quarter-final_. A certain Danish paper had their own version of this phenomenon. In a pathetic attempt to beat the deadline, they had pre-fabricated a match report detailing Sweden’s semi-final victory over Brazil. A worn-out thesaurus had churned out endless variations of the adjective «fabulous» to describe Sweden’s play. Imagine the embarrassment when, due to a computer error, the paper printed the «Swedish victory» report! VG paid homage to the Norwegian myth of the Swedish ubermensch: «I can’t think of anything more typical Swedish than Thomas Ravelli. Scorned and mocked before the World Cup, he refused to give up...and even Hollywood couldn’t have created a sweeter revenge.» An admirable comeback, I’m sure, though I personally thought he one of the worst World Cup keepers, and definitely the worst Swedish player. But why is it so typical _Swedish_ to fight back, to go from rags to riches? VG’s columnist Truls Dæhli, giddy from the success of Scandinavian football, took a condescending attitude towards the Balkans after Sweden knocked out Romania: «Dark clouds threatened the remainder of the World Cup until Sweden won. Before that a World Cup Final between Romania and Bulgaria was still possible, and only Brazil could have saved this tournament from such a development.» Would a World Cup final between Scandinavia and Bulgaria been so much more attractive in the eyes of the world? I think not. You know you’re in for some major b.s. when a column, by that man Dæhli again, is titled «We are all Scandinavians». After opening with the usual self-congratulatory remarks on being able to enjoy the success of others, Dæhli turns bandwagoneering into a virtue and generously invites us to take part in Sweden’s success: «But if you suffer from an inferiority complex: be broadminded, call yourself a Scandinavian this summer [i.e. until Sweden get knocked out] and shelve your Norwegian feelings for a while. Sweden may make it to the Finals tonight, and there’s only one solution to that party - you have to join in. This party is open for all Scandinavians». Why, thank you! When Sweden _beat_ Romania, VG opened their report with the ultra-slimy «Scandinavia is now ready for the semi-final!». Sweden was first mentioned a few paragraphs down. When Sweden _lost_ the semi-final, the Scandinavians had pretty much taken a hike: «EXTRA! Sweden crushed last night», «Romario sank Sweden», etc. The word «Scandinavia» wasn’t used once, not even by Truls Dæhli, whose column might just as well have been titled «We are all Brazilians»: «Sweden were outclassed and demolished right from the start, and it was only a question of time before Brazil would end Sweden’s misery. For football’s sake, it is a good thing that such a technically brilliant team made it to the Final.» So much for Scandinavia’s team of technically gifted, world-class players. So that’s why my mild dislike of Sweden turns to utter loathing of Swedish football. Norwegian failure and Swedish success turns a lot of people in this country into brainwashed, hypocritical leeches, claiming moral superiority while injecting the addictive drug of triumph into their veins. Success junkies of the world unite! ---Stig PS On July 2nd, I was at Arlanda airport in Stockholm, when it was announced that the flight to Oslo was delayed. This meant that - sob! - I would miss part of Romania vs. Argentina, and that - gulp! - I would be watching Sweden vs. Saudi Arabia in a Swedish airport bar. The lounge was crowded, and spirits were high as Sweden went up to 1-0, and then 2-0. My hopes of a miraculous Arabian comeback dwindled ever more, when out of nowhere Al- Ghesheyan, with five minutes left, deftly pulled one back for the Saudis. I leapt up from my chair, clapping and shouting encouragement, before suddenly realizing where I was. The bar had gone strangely quiet, and with a sheepish grin I sat down, while people stared at me incredulously. When Sweden went 3-1 up shortly afterwards, I quietly left the bar... From: Stig Oppedal (hfstud.uio.no) Date: November 17, 1994 Johan Boye writes: >I can understand your distress, but from your story I cannot really figure out why you dislike >Swedish football!? A more natural conclusion would be to dislike Norwegian sport >journalists... «I’m glad you asked that question, etc.», because this is my main point, which the Swedes are spectacularly failing to grasp. God knows Kurt Swanson is going to miss it once again. I don’t dislike Swedish football in itself. The only Swedish players I actively dislike are Thomas Brolin (completely overrated except in the crucial skills of diving and arguing with the referee) and Thomas Ravelli (the World Cup’s second best keeper - I should think not!). I have nothing against Norwegians who cheer for Sweden for _Sweden’s_ sake, and who also feel sympathy for Sweden when they fail. But when Sweden succeeds and Norway fails, many people act as though they are longtime supporters, and the media are absolutely grotesque in their uncritical praise. In Old Norse times, it was considered an insult if a skald (court poet) grossly exaggerated the accomplishments of his liege lord, because everyone in the lord’s hall would know it was untrue. Nowadays, the maxim «the bigger the lie, the easier to believe» seems to be the philosophy in the press. [As an aside, I’m reminded of a sketch on the satire program «Egentlig» that parodied the vulgarities of modern journalism. A deadly virus infected anyone who started working at Akersgaten (Norway’s Fleet Street), and «victims» developed a strange speech pattern: «We need the vagina multi-orgasm figures of the oral sex Bosnian Serb casualties. And also the anus orgy figures for the Muslims». «You’ll gang rape get them.»] There’s nothing the Swedish football team can do about it, but Swedish football success = Norwegian bandwagoneering. I therefore hope that Sweden dismally fail so I’m spared the hypocrisy. >If it can be of any consolation, Swedish sport journalists are of the same breed. I remember the >World Cup’86, when Sweden failed to qualify. When hearing the Swedish commentary to the >Danish first three (very successful) games, one got the impression that it was really Swedish >players out there on the field Hey, butt out, you leeches! Those guys were Norwegians, not Swedes! The Danish (and Norwegian) (and Swedish) Dynamite of ‘86 was actually my first introduction to the duplicity of «Scandinavian football». I had no strong feelings either way for the Danish team, until Preben Elkjær «admitted» in VG that the Danes were also playing for Norway, that they thought of Norway before the matches started, etc. The Norwegian media, of course, went the whole hog with the «Scandinavia rules» routine. >But when Denmark got bashed 1-5 by Spain in the quarter-final, the sudden Swedish affection >for Denmark soon cooled off... Sounds familiar. And when Denmark won the European Championship :-), it was unashamedly heralded as «a great day for Nordic football». Every other country referred to it as «a great day for Danish football».