Ostersund v Arsenal. Welcome to the most wonderful fairy story in football.

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal will play Ostersund in the next Europa Cup round on February in Sweden and at the Ems on February 22.  It is, I suspect, a dream draw for the club, although let me say at once I don’t have a Swedish correspondent to check this with.   If I have made mistakes in what follows, please do correct it, and accept my apologies.

Ostersunds’ coach is Graham Potter, the former Southampton player, who has, it seems taken the club from the fourth tier of Swedish football, to playing in the Europa.

The club’s full name is Östersunds Fotbollsklubb, known locally as ÖFK, and it plays in the town from which it takes its name.  That town is in Jämtland in the middle of Sweden. It’s total population is 49,806 which is smaller than the capacity of the Emirates Stadium.   Home games are played in the Jämtkraft Arena with a capacity of 8,466.   Which is to say that 17% of the population can get into the stadium at once.

To give a comparison a stadium in London which could accommodate 17% of the city would need to house fractionally under one and a half million people.

The club was created in 1996, that is exactly 100 years after Arsenal, when three local clubs came together with the aim of creating a single club that could play in the top two tiers of Swedish football.  A fourth club joined in a year later.

In 2007 the club started a co-operation with Swansea City who played the opening game in the new stadium and after some initial ups and downs Graham Potter was brought.   He has an Open University degree (good man) in Social Sciences and a MA in Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.   After a modest playing career he became football development manager for the University of Hull and as assistant coach for the England Universities Squad.

In January 2014 the club announced a deal with the government of Libya to develop and educate Libyan football players to train 250 young men from Libya every year, but unfortunately the political situation in Libya stopped the deal happening.

In 2017 the club won its first trophy, the Swedish Cup and so qualified for the Europa League. Östersunds then knocked out Galatasaray in the shock of the cup, and followed this up by knocking out PAOK to get into the Europa group stages – which I suspect was beyond the wildest dreams of the entire club when the competition started.

They lost just one game and came second in the group becoming the first Swedish club ever to progress beyond the Europa League group stage.  This chart shows their growth in recent years…

Season Level Division Section Position Promotions
2004 Tier 3 Division 2 Norrland 4th
2005 Tier 3 Division 2 Norrland 2nd Promoted
2006* Tier 3 Division 1 Norra 11th
2007 Tier 3 Division 1 Norra 11th
2008 Tier 3 Division 1 Norra 10th
2009 Tier 3 Division 1 Norra 11th
2010 Tier 3 Division 1 Norra 13th Relegated
2011 Tier 4 Division 2 Norrland 1st Promoted
2012 Tier 3 Division 1 Norra 1st Promoted
2013 Tier 2 Superettan 10th
2014 Tier 2 Superettan 5th
2015 Tier 2 Superettan 2nd Promoted
2016 Tier 1 Allsvenskan 8th
2017 Tier 1 Allsvenskan 5th

If anyone can help me with the distinction between Norra (North) and Norrland (Northern Sweden) I would be grateful.

Thus they qualified for the Europa starting in the 2nd qualifying round, in which they were given no chance at all.  But this is what happened.

Round Club Home Away Aggregate
2Q  Galatasaray 2–0 1–1 3–1
3Q  Fola Esch 1–0 2–1 3–1
PO  PAOK 2–0 1–3 3–3 (away goals)
Group J  Athletic Bilbao 2–2 0–1 2nd
 Hertha BSC 1–0 1–1
 Zorya Luhansk 2–0 2–0
R32 Arsenal


Here is the final table for Group J

P W D L F A GD Pts
Athletic Club Bilbao
6 3 2 1 8 5 3 11
Östersunds FK
6 3 2 1 8 4 4 11
FC Zorya Luhansk
6 2 0 4 3 9 -6 6
Hertha BSC Berlin
6 1 2 3 6 7 -1 5
 Athletic Bilbao finish top as they came off better in the head to heads between the two clubs.
All that is left is last season’s league table in Sweden.  I’ve found a home/away table to add a little to the information that we have on the club…
2017-2018 Swedish Allsvenskan
Pos Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Malmo 30 10 3 2 39 15 9 4 2 24 12 36 64
2 AIK Solna 30 7 5 3 21 12 9 4 2 26 10 25 57
3 Djurgardens 30 8 4 3 28 14 7 4 4 26 16 24 53
4 Hacken 30 8 3 4 26 15 6 7 2 16 13 14 52
5 Ostersunds FK 30 8 6 1 24 12 5 5 5 24 20 16 50
6 IFK Norrkoping 30 8 2 5 21 15 6 4 5 24 25 5 48
7 Sirius 30 5 3 7 20 27 6 4 5 26 24 -5 40
8 Elfsborg 30 7 4 4 30 21 3 5 7 23 38 -6 39
9 Hammarby IF 30 5 7 3 26 21 4 4 7 16 22 -1 38
10 IFK Goteborg 30 4 8 3 23 18 5 2 8 19 22 2 37
11 Orebro SK 30 7 2 6 22 25 3 4 8 16 29 -16 36
12 Kalmar FF 30 7 2 6 19 17 2 3 10 11 32 -19 32
13 GIF Sundsvall 30 3 5 7 14 27 4 5 6 15 19 -17 31
14 Jonkopings Sodra IF 30 5 5 5 19 18 1 7 7 12 28 -15 30
15 Halmstads 30 3 5 7 16 22 2 4 9 13 23 -16 24
16 AFC United 30 3 5 7 17 23 1 3 11 11 32 -27 20

So there we have just on the best home record in the league but a more modest away record.  But whatever happens to them now, it is just one hell of a lovely tale.  Of course I always want Arsenal to win, but I have the most fulsome respect for what this club has done.

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11 Replies to “Ostersund v Arsenal. Welcome to the most wonderful fairy story in football.”

  1. Östersund is an inland city in Sweden. It is about midway along the length of Sweden, and it is about midway across the width of the Scandinavian peninsula. It is located on the shore of Sweden’s fifth largest lake. The population is about 44,000 (Tony possibly has a newer number). It is a little north of London at about 63 degrees north, still slightly south of the Arctic Circle.

    Some random food and drink type trivia I managed to dig up.

    Östersund and the surrounding region is one of UNESCO’s Cities of Gastronomy.

    Products range from sausages to chocolates and truffles. Destination Vemdalen boasts a large number of master chefs and culinary artisans. Bräcke is home to an award winning brewery, various cheese makers and even a wine producer.

    kolbulle – a thick bacon pancake.

    Ost & Vilt, a delicatessen where bear sausages and reindeer heart nestle side by side in the counters

    it’s useful to know these 4 essential meaty words:
    Gris = pork; Nöt = beef; Lamm = lamb; Kyckling = chicken

    The last few years there have been a noticeable boom of small scale artisan sausage-making. There are a number of sausages with some kind of “spirit” in them, including cognac.

    RateBeer has 11 places listed for beer in the city. EuropeanBeerGuide has fewer.

  2. I too, will want Arsenal to win.
    But not unlike last year’s tale involving (pie-eating ex-)Sutton United (goalkeeper Wayne Shaw)– and the goodwill created between the two clubs.
    I’m appreciative of Arsenal involved with the stories– that go with playing clubs like Östersunds and Sutton.


  3. To prevent any act of giant killing by Ostersund happening to Arsenal, the Arsenal team II Gunners are likely the one that will be given the nod by Le Boss to play this Europa League Cup round of 32 match, but they MUST prepare themselves fully well mentally,technically, tactically, physically and of course morally for this match. So that they’ll overcome Ostersund in the game ad qualify for the round of 16 of the competion.

  4. I would think that if someone wanted an excuse to go to an Arsenal away game, the trip to Östersund would be the one. To go to a place selected as one of UNESCO’s Cities of Gastronomy seems intriguing.

    But, I won’t be going. I have trouble spending a dime, let along thousands for a trip like this would cost. Perhaps someone from Untold will go, and give us a food report?


    OT: Corruption

    Lazio is complaining about PGMO tactics in their league.


  5. Lovely to read this here in Östersund. ÖFK could sell 20.000 tickets to this game, and the 8.000 that will be there will thank their lucky star.
    1st tier of Sweden: Allsvenskan
    2nd: Superettan
    3d: Two leauges; Norra and Södra
    4th: Six leagues; Norrland, Norra Svealand, Södra Svealand, Norra Götaland, Västra Götaland, Östra Götaland. (I think you can translate yourselves)
    Norrland that is 2/3 of the country only have 1/10 of the population. Jämtland, where Östersund is situated, have 130.000 inhabitants and the size of the Netherlands. Arsenal; prepare for -15 and a team that play rally good football on artificial grass 🙂

  6. Tony:
    in Swedish, Norra means north (like the compass direction) and Norrland literally means North Land.

    Norrland is one of the historical four divisions of (Greater Sweden) but nowadays has come to mean something similar to ‘The North’ in English (i.e. a strange a forbidding land populated by folk with odd accents).

  7. Matt, you must have been talking to a southerner. Sweden is officially divided in three parts; Norrland, Svealand and Götaland. We are also divided in over 20 “landskap” (countys, historical borders) and “län” or “regioner” (political voting regions), of whom our Jämtland is one. We have a proud republic, in the kingdom of Sweden, with an own president (very inofficially) and an own flag. In our lowest (8th) tier in football, you still might have more than 450 km to an away game.
    And it is the southerners that speak odd dialects 😉

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