When John ‘Faxe’ Jensen thumped home a shot from the edge of the German penalty area in the 1992 European Championship final, he looked like a prolific midfielder goalscorer. So much so that Arsenal went out and signed him up. In fairness, he was a prolific scorer, but only in European Championship finals (played one, scored one, won one – a 100% record). A career-defining moment was also an outlier. Arsenal fans quickly cottoned on, gleefully yelling “Shoot!” whenever he got the ball. In his 98th Gunners appearance, he got his only goal for the club, although it’s fair to say his strengths lay elsewhere as a ball-winning presence.
Today, Jensen is manager at Fremad Amager in Denmark’s second tier. A team in the boss’s image, their scoring record in the 2017-18 season is not good: 27 in 31 games ahead of the visit of Thisted, 27 in 32 following a dreary goalless draw. Fremad means forward, but the tactics seem to be slightly different.
Even so, Jensen, in charge since 2014, remains popular. He got the team promoted to the second tier and is a genuine Danish football legend. In a world where teams seem determined to replace coaches every season, it’s refreshing to see moderate expectations and a team given time to grow.
On the bright side, the Sundby Idraetspark is one of the more charmingly low-key places to watch game. It’s hard not to love a fanbase that dubs its ‘curva’ the Sunny Side and on a mild May evening it fully lived up to its name. Whether basking in the sunset there, or lying on the grass bank behind one of the goals, it was a blissful setting. When the Baltic winter bites, and Denmark’s traditional rainstorms whistle in, the covered stand might get more use, but today it was all about a chilled Carlsberg, an ‘underdog’ hotdog and, as the club motto suggests, no bullshit. In many ways, it’s Denmark in a microcosm: small-scale, understated but long on charm.
With a working-class background, and prominent anti-racism signs on the Sunny Side, it’s also a team that has welcomed players from migrant communities. This season marks the end of Danish-Moroccan midfielder Mohammed Abdalas’ playing career after 268 appearances for the club. Jabar Sharza, last season’s top scorer, is an Afghan international, although he didn’t feature in this game.
Sadly, few people did really feature in a tedious 0-0 draw. It was typical end of season fare, two sides with nothing to play for struggling with the warm conditions. The best chance of the first half went to Thisted’s Sonny Jakobsen, who fired straight at Nicklas Dannevang after a mix up in the defence. Fremad’s hopes were raised late in the second when visiting goalie Kevin Mendoza got his second yellow card. Even against 10 men, though, chances were at a premium. There’s one game left, away to Roskilde; next season, perhaps, things will be livelier.
Sundby Idraetspark, Amager, Copenhagen, Denmark.
May 16, 2018. Danish League Division 1.
Fremad Amager 0 Thisted 0