Back home to Aarhus by the lane of memories
Next week I moved back to the capital of Jutland after 38 years “away from home”. The reason I left Aarhus in the summer of 1981 was that I was “forced to do so” to complete my master’s degree in Political Science and Physical Education. At that time, only P.E. was offered at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. It was not until the late 1990s that P.E. was established at Aarhus University.
My first experiences with sport were in 1963, when I, as a 6-year-old, became a member of the football club “Fuglebakken” – a working-class club in the northwest part of Aarhus. Three years later, we moved to Fredensvang, where AGF’s facilities became my “second home” for a number of years. My first club, however, I had “in the heart” through all of my childhood and adolescence, not least because Fuglebakken in 1970 qualified for the second league, where the following year was very close to qualify for the best league. Fuglebakken, which played in the second league from 1970 to 1978, was a very special team with good abilities to score goals, but also with total lack of defense tactics and discipline. Therefore, results like 8-4, 7-2 and 3-6 were not unusual for the team’s matches. I do not think Fuglebakken left the field one time in the nine seasons in the second league without scoring at both ends of the field. There was always “value for money” when the red-blue striped with the free-kick expert Kristen “Kesse” Nygaard, the fast runner Lars Bastrup or the elegance Kim Sander – one of my good friends who unfortunately died of sclerosis at the age of just 35 – entertained in the relatively few spectators who followed the team at home field. The exception for a few spectators was the local derby’s against AGF in the five seasons, when the “bourgeoisie’s club” met “the working-class club from Høgevej”. The local derby was in 1971, attended by more than 20,000 spectators in Aarhus Idrætspark, and in particular, the Fuglebakken’s victory of 5-1 in 1976 remains clear in my memories. Overall, the city’s football pride – AGF with 4 Danish championships and 5 cup titles in the period 1955-1965 – had a big crisis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the club spent 7 seasons in the second league. The team played very physically and technical players were more than rare to find in the AGF lineup during that period. In 1977 AGF return to the best league and with profiles such as Troels Rasmussen, John Stampe and Lars Lundkvist, the club had a number of good years ahead of the Danish Championship in 1986. Fuglebakken never succeeds to qualify for the best league and after relegation to fourth league in 1980 the “adventure” was ended.
I spent all Sunday afternoons in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s with football in Aarhus Stadium – Fuglebakken or AGF’s home games at 13:30 – followed by two events in handball at 15:30 and 16:50 in Aarhus Arena. Denmark’s World Championship silver medals in 1967 became the starting point for my interest in handball and the KFUM players: Erik Holst, Jørgen Vodsgaard, Iwan Christiansen and Klaus Kaae became my “heroes” and role models. Therefore, Aarhus KFUM also became my favorite team, even though I started playing handball for Viby IF – the club in Aarhus with the strongest youth teams. In the 1960s, Aarhus was called “the world’s best handball city”. In 1963, Aarhus KFUM won the Danish Championship with three other Aarhus clubs: AGF, IK Skovbakken and Viby IF on the subsequent places. Aarhus KFUM regained the Danish Championship in 1965 and with a total of 7 silver medals in the 1960s, Aarhus KFUM was called “the eternal two’s” in Danish handball. “The arch enemy” was HG from Copenhagen, who became Danish Champions five years in a row from 1966 to 1970, with profiles such as Bent Mortensen, Verner Gaard, Carsten Lund, Gert Andersen, Palle “the wildman” Nielsen and not least “the world’s best handball player” Jørgen Petersen. The matches for the Danish Championships between HG and Aarhus KFUM in a crowded Aarhus Arena is still today as some of my best spectator experiences.
Aarhus KFUM played – just like Fuglebakken – as I remember today always entertaining. The team captain, both in defense and attack, was Vodsgaard or “Viktor”, who constantly and loudly commented on the performance of both teammates, opponents and especially the referees. Vodsgaard’s successor as the “M’s” captain became “the magician” Steffen Holst – one of the greatest technical players that Danish handball has developed. Aarhus KFUM won the Danish Championship again in 1974, but the number of medals for Aarhus KFUM through the 1970s was unfortunately very modest. Only in the early 1980s did Aarhus clubs again have a great success with Danish Championships for Aarhus KFUM in 1980 and 1983 and IK Skovbakken in 1982 with my P.E.teacher from Viby School – Hans Chr. Nielsen – as the coach. Subsequently, Aarhus – not even with “Aarhus Handball”, which was founded by AGF, Brabrand IF, VRI and Aarhus KFUM at the turn of the millennium – has just been in the vicinity of the past.
Everything has almost changed since I left Aarhus four decades ago: Fuglebakken and Aarhus KFUM are combined with Hasle Boldklub, whose best football team plays in the seven league and the handball team is a part of Aarhus Handball. Today, AGF is primarily a limited company with new “facilities” that contains separate changing rooms for the teams. The city’s football pride – and not least their fans, who are always extremely optimistic before the start of the season – is neither challenged by Brabrand IF, Aarhus Fremad or VSK (Vejlby IK and IK Skovbakken), who all play in the third league. Aarhus Handball has (yet) failed to challenge the best handball clubs in Denmark: Aalborg Handball, GOG, Skjern Handball and BSV – despite a very large number of national team players residing in Aarhus. Nevertheless, in a few days I will again walk along Stadion Allé to the most beautiful sports facility in Denmark: “Ceres Park & Arena” in the Marselis forest. “The white ones from Fredensvang”, which the people of Aarhus either love or hate, meet one of the most successful teams in Danish football: FCM, which is owned by a rich man from the UK. Before the start of the game I will listen to Thomas Helmig’s “Malaga” and Gnags “Lav sol over Aarhus”, which will give me memories of past achievements and the dreams of the future, both in and outside the world of sport. And I will be spectator for “top handball” when Aarhus Handball plays “local dervy” against BSV or Skanderborg Handball. Fuglebakken and Aarhus KFUM are past: It is time to find new favorite teams for an “old” Aarhus boy who loves “top sports” – especially in Aarhus.