Football in Sweden
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In Sweden, the most popular sport is association football, with over 240,000 licensed players (c. 56,000 women and 184,000 men) plus another 240,000 youth players. There are around 3,200 active clubs fielding over 8,500 teams, which are playing on the 7,900 pitches available in the country. Football was first played in Sweden in the 1870s, the first championship was decided in 1896 and the Swedish Football Association was founded in 1904. Despite being a relatively small country population-wise, both the men's and women's national teams and the club teams have gained rather large success from time to time.
Football, along with other organised sports, came to Sweden in the 1870s and was mainly exercised by gymnastics clubs which exercised most of the sports of the time. England and Scotland were the main sources of inspiration and it is thus not strange that football gained popularity fast, with the first agreement of rules made in 1885 by the clubs active in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Visby. The first international club match was played in 1890 and the first match with modern rules was played two years later in 1892.
The first association to administer a Swedish national football tournament was Svenska Idrottsförbundet, founded 1895 in Gothenburg, the dominating football town in Sweden, at the time. The association arranged Svenska Mästerskapet in 1896 which Örgryte IS won. The tournament was played until 1925 when the first national league, Allsvenskan, was started. In the late 1890s, the IFK associations began playing football, and by 1901, the first Kamratmästerskap (IFK championship) in football was arranged.
Football has grown since and there is currently around 3,300 clubs with 32,700 teams and with one million members, whereof about half a million are active players, altogether.
The current national league system administered by the football association is organised as 1-1-2-6-12, where Allsvenskan is the highest Swedish level and Superettan the second highest, followed by two third level (Division 1), six fourth level (Division 2) and twelve fifth level leagues (Division 3).
The national cup Svenska Cupen is played by all 30 teams from Allsvenskan and Superettan and 68 teams from the lower divisions. Which 68 teams from the lower divisions that get to play is decided by the number of licensed players in the football districts. There is also Supercupen played annually between the winner of Allsvenskan and the winner of Svenska Cupen.
The Sweden national football team played its first international football match in 1908 against Norway. The team has been fairly successful with one 2nd place in the 1958 World Cup, two third places (1950 World Cup and World Cup 1994) and a victory in the 1948 Summer Olympics. The Sweden women's national football team was once leading in the development of women's football and won the unofficial European Championships in 1984, a success the team has not managed to repeat, however, it won a silver in the World Cup 2003.
Swedish football began to have regular seasons from 1924 on, when Allsvenskan started. Before that, tournaments were played irregularly. Svenska Mästerskapet for example, the decider of the Swedish Champions in the early years, was played spring-autumn, while Svenska Serien, the national league, was played autumn-spring. Some years, it was played spring-autumn-spring due to various reasons, and other years it was not played at all due to economical trouble. In 1959, Swedish football changed from autumn-spring to spring-autumn seasons. Allsvenskan has not been suspended any season since its start.
The last five seasons:
The current Swedish Champions title is held by the winners of Allsvenskan. The title has existed since 1896, although no club was given the title between 1926 and 1930. The 105 championships have been won by 18 different football clubs so far, with the top four title holders being IFK Göteborg (18 titles), Malmö FF (17), IFK Norrköping and Örgryte IS (both 12). Clubs from the three largest cities in Sweden, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö have held the title the majority of the seasons, 73 in total, but there is also an example of a very small municipality being able to field a club capable of winning the title, as Åtvidabergs FF from Åtvidaberg held the title twice, in 1972 and 1973.
The last five holders of the title:
The following teams have advanced to elimination rounds in the European Cup.
- Runner-up: Malmö FF (1978-79)
- Semi-finals: IFK Göteborg (1985-86)
- Quarter-finals: Djurgården (1955–56), IFK Malmö (1960-61), Åtvidabergs FF (1974-75), IFK Göteborg (1984-85, 1988-89)
UEFA Champions League
The following teams have advanced to elimination rounds in the UEFA Champions League.
- Quarter-finals: IFK Göteborg (1994-95)
- Group Stage: IFK Göteborg (1992-93, 1996-97, 1997-98)
- First Group Stage: AIK (1999-2000), Helsingborgs IF (2000-01)
The following teams have advanced to elimination rounds in the UEFA Cup.
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