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This reminisce is taking the genre to its purest form, which is to say licence to write anything with no current relevance. This one came to me quite simply because BillytheBee told me he was going to Stockholm and was linking up some original Hammarby characters after the Sweden v Ireland game, reminding me of my trip to watch Hammarby against Gothenburg in 2004, and my frustrated efforts as a Brentford ambassador. Oh, and it wasn’t snowing…

It started with a present from my mate who had recently been to Stockholm and lavished on me a Hammarby shirt as a curio. The shirt sponsor was “Coop” . As I get called this all the time it seemed an appropriate good spot in the sports shop. A splendid green and white design, number 13, almost perfectly customised (albeit with the name on the front rather than the back) it prompted me to do some research on a club I had barely heard of and knew nothing about.

So I got on the Internet and found an English website on Hammarby. I was thrilled to learn that Hammarby had its origins in a boating club formed in 1889. Brentford, as any supporter worth his pepper should know, was formed in 1889 from Brentford Rowing Club. It’s absolutely fine at this point to make a slightly camp “Ooh isn’t that funny! ” type remark. I certainly did, but this wasn’t just a quirky coincidence. I convinced myself that some greater Providence was at work. Just look at the counterfactual likelihood! What if my friend had gone to the Isle of Wight and not Stockholm for his weekend away? What if Hammarby weren’t sponsored by Coop? What if my friend hadn’t spotted it in that sports shop etc etc. It just seemed that greater forces were at work here to put me on this path to discover the delicious symmetry in the origin stories of Brentford and Hammarby. I was on a mission from the footballing gods…

I emailed the Hammarby club secretary explaining the quirky story and our clubs similar heritage, and suggested some sort of feature could be written for the matchday programme. I sat back and waited for them to respond with the same level of potty enthusiasm, so that I could take the story to Brentford. Nothing.

After a week or so I decided there had surely been some email problem, and wrote again, upping the ante with the news that I was, in fact, planning a trip to watch Hammarby v Gothenburg in a few weeks. I could present myself in person. I did this, I like to think, without it sounding like a Henry Root letter. Still nothing.

August 2004 and I’m in Stockholm for the weekend. The internet’s about, but social networking hasn’t yet arrived. Websites are flags in the ground offering basic information, and the ones in Sweden seem to all be in Swedish. It’s hard to imagine today, but I’m wandering around the stadium the day before the match, looking for some evidence that the game is actually on. A ticket booth, club shop or office maybe? In a continuing theme, there was nothing.

The following day things have started to look up at last. I find a pub and see a few people in green and white Hammarby colours. I get chatting to a couple of fans. My Brentford intersection Hammarby origins story doesn’t seem to resonate. They are more interested in telling me that they hate Jurgårdens who are a rival Stockholm team with upper class lightweight supporters, contrasting the working class roots of Hammarby’s “Bajen” loyals. One of them says to me “When my father left, the only thing he left behind was his Hammarby scarf. That’s why I support Hammarby.”

By the time we arrived at the Soderstadion, I was ambivalent towards 19th century boating and rowing clubs, but there was still one last chance to stick my oar in. In retribution for the the lack of response to my friendly endeavours, I brass-necked my way into the VIP marquee and helped myself to a chocolate mini-roll that I wasn’t entitled to. A small victory but more than Hammarby were to record that evening. In an entertaining match the home side went down 2-1 to Gothenburg. It was a contest they dominated, but the visitors managed to score from their two shots on target while Hammarby couldn’t make their numerous chances count. A cracking atmosphere nonetheless and Swedish football ticked off the list.

Of course social media and news aggregators mean that the world is a much smaller place these days, and it’s quite possible that someone from Hammarby has picked up this story, and right now is saying “Oh isn’t that funny” in a slightly camp way at the 1889 boating club thing. Who knows maybe they still talk about that 2004 club email outage…

The 2013 season in Sweden starts next month with Hammarby in the second tier looking to get promoted after just missing out last season. I’d be very happy if the Bees and the Bajen continued their symmetry with promotion this year.

Andy Cooper