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…
|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|
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.
|PO||PAOK||2–0||1–3||3–3 (away goals)|
|Group J||Athletic Bilbao||2–2||0–1||2nd|
Here is the final table for Group J
Athletic Club Bilbao
FC Zorya Luhansk
Hertha BSC Berlin
|14||Jonkopings Sodra IF||30||5||5||5||19||18||1||7||7||12||28||-15||30|
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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