Unless you live in a country of one of Europe’s so-called “big five” leagues (England, Germany, Spain, Italy or France), the chances are that you support both a local team and one or more teams in the countries mentioned above. However, in Sweden, it goes a bit further than that, with many football supporters supporting a British Premier League team first and foremost.
Let’s take a look at some reasons behind Sweden’s unique connection to English football.
Over 50 Years of English Football on Swedish Television
Many Swedish football supporters have such a solid bond with English football clubs because British football has been broadcasted on Swedish television for over 50 years. In 1969 Swedish television began broadcasting British football on Saturdays. Around the same time, a popular betting pool (now known as “Stryktipset”) changed its format and, soon after, started to include British football games.
With a little help from the betting pool, the weekly broadcasts provided the foundation for a Swedish relationship to English football that is prevalent to this day. Today, the Swedish betting market is filled with Premier League odds, and among all the “Fotboll Odds” (as somebody would call odds on football in Sweden), “Stryktipset” is still wildly popular. The famous betting pool still features mainly British football matches, along with the Swedish ones.
Managers and Players Connecting the Two Countries
English football making its way to Swedish television, and the betting market helping to fuel the interest, started the tradition of following British football teams in Sweden. Since then, many prolific players and managers have kept the interest alive and made the bond even more substantial.
During the Premier League era, players such as Fredrik Ljungberg, Sebastian Larsson, Olof Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, and several others have all made their mark in English football.
Then there is the connection through managers, where Sven-Göran Eriksson, who managed the English national team between 2001–2006, is the most famous name. Although Eriksson is the connection most people are aware of, two other managers have made an even more significant impact in maintaining Sweden’s appreciation of English football.
In the 70s and 80s, Roy Hodgson and Bob Houghton both managed in Sweden. During their time as managers in Sweden, they made a name for themselves by revolutionising Swedish football, mainly by introducing zonal marking.
An Abundance of Memorable Games
The reasons mentioned above have turned England into a role model to Sweden when it comes to football, which naturally has sparked an inevitable rivalry between the two.
Throughout the years, we’ve seen some spectacular games between the two nations. From a Swedish point of view, games such as the 1992 EURO victory that saw Sweden advance to the semifinals and the draw in the 2002 World Cup that saw Sweden win the group ahead of England and Argentina are certainly fond memories among many Swedes. The friendship between Sweden and England in 2012, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four incredible goals, including a mind-blowing 30-yard bicycle-kick, is another memorable game between England and Sweden.
If you’ve ever wondered why Swedes seem to be so invested in the Premier League and British football, now you have at least some of the answers.