History of IFK Göteborg

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This article is about the history of the football section of IFK Göteborg. For the history of other sections, see IFK Göteborg (disambiguation) and their respective pages.


IFK Göteborg's first kit, which was used in 1904 and 1905. White shorts were also sometimes used, and there was no standard sock colour.

The first IFK association in Gothenburg was founded in 1895, with Oscar Lagerstedt as chairman. It was short-lived, although it has been confirmed that it founded a small-bore rifle shooting challenge prize in the winter of 1896. The next attempt to found an IFK club in Gothenburg was made on 5 September 1897, when two brothers named Friman,[1] Eric Clase and Anton Johansson[2] reconstructed the club. The club was active until at least 1899, but after that no information can be found that confirms the club still existed. During those years, the main activity was athletics, and for a short time in 1899, four-time Olympic gold medalist Eric Flemming was active in the club.

There was no further activity of any IFK association in Gothenburg between 1900 and 1904. The present-day IFK Göteborg was founded when Arthur "Lång-Arthur" Andersson, John Säwström, and two students at Chalmers University of Technology, Arthur Wingren and Sven Ljunggren, wanted to start an IFK club in Gothenburg. The idea came to their minds after reading a news-item which expressed confusion as to why the second largest city in Sweden still did not have an IFK association. Late in the evening of 2 October 1904, it was decided to start the club, and two days later on 4 October, IFK Göteborg became the 39th IFK association. Committees for football, hockey and parties were also founded at the meeting. One of the important initial questions raised was uniform colour. As with almost all IFK clubs, the colors decided on were blue and white. It was also decided that the uniform should consist of blue and white vertically striped jerseys, with blue shorts. The ownership group however lacked the financial resources to buy that kind of striped jersey, so blue ones with a single horizontal white stripe were used instead.


The first match ever played ended in a 4–1 victory against IK Viking, a club from the local area. The foundation of IFK Göteborg was important for the development of football in the city, as until that point, Örgryte IS (ÖIS), the largest of the area clubs, had dominated the scene. IFK Göteborg represented some needed competition,[according to whom?] although ÖIS initially maintained its traditional dominance (up until 1907, IFK managed to only draw once and were outscored by 79–12). IFK also competed in the IFK association competition, but lost to IFK Stockholm in the finals.

IFK Göteborg anno 1905.

ÖIS, a dominant and impressive team in Swedish football, outclassed IFK in almost all their meetings the first years. On 13 October 1907, IFK Göteborg however became the first Swedish team in a four years long spell to stop their win streak. IFK Göteborg also won the local league in Gothenburg. It is conjectured that this probably lead to the decision by the district board[3] to disqualify IFK Göteborg. However, the Swedish Football Association disagreed with the decision and subsequently revoked it. IFK won the Swedish Championships for the first time in 1908 by winning the cup tournament Svenska Mästerskapet, and three players from the club were selected to play for Sweden in the first game played by the Swedish national team.[4] IFK player Erik Börjesson scored the historic first goal. IFK finished the season by playing against international teams for their first time, the Danish clubs Østerbro BK and Boldklubben af 1893.

In 1910, the club finished third in the first season of Svenska Serien ever played, although the club was declared Swedish Champions as they won Svenska Mästerskapet.[5] The team played its first game ever using their blue and white striped jerseys. The team played 1-1 in a game in 1912 against what became the Swedish Olympic team, and the newspapers in Stockholm nominated IFK Göteborg as "the best Swedish football club ever". The club acted as the national team the next year, where they played Norway to a 1-1 score. This marked both the first and last time that the Swedish national team was represented by only one club.

The first big scandal in Swedish football occurred in 1914 when several players, leaders, and supporters from IFK and ÖIS started a fight in the 1/8-final of Svenska Mästerskapet. Two years later, in 1916, IFK moved to its new home stadium Gamla Ullevi. Due to the long-standing conflict between the clubs from Gothenburg, Stockholm and the SvFF, the national team between 1913 and 1916 was composed of players from both Stockholm and Gothenburg, but never at the same time. IFK Göteborg won Svenska Serien for the fifth time in a row 1917, but the ongoing war and the Spanish flu led to the dissolution of the competition. As a replacement, a private competition called Fyrkantserien was started in 1918, and IFK also won that competition, which was dissolved the next year.


Blue-white stripes have been used on the home kit since 1910 with only very small variations. This variant was common during the 1920s and 1930s.

The club, with its 875 members started the new decennium by beating both local rivals GAIS and ÖIS in Svenska Mästerskapet, but lost in the semi-finals against Djurgårdens IF. The club gained its first official coach in 1921, Alexander Brody from Hungary. Svenska Serien was played again that year, IFK finishing fifth, but the league was dissolved again in 1924. After another conflict with the SvFF, the three clubs composing the Gothenburg-alliance, IFK, ÖIS and GAIS, boycotted the Swedish Championship tournament, Svenska Mästerskapen, in 1923.

The first Swedish official national league, Allsvenskan, was started in the autumn 1924. The same year as the legendary Filip "Svarte-Filip" Johansson made his debut for IFK Göteborg. IFK's debut in Allsvenskan was played against Malmö FF and ended in a 1-1 draw. The club finished second, but "Svare-Filip" scored 39 goals in 22 games and won the top-scoring league. The next five seasons, IFK never finished worse than fourth, but also never managed to win the league. Swedish football was still dominated by the three big clubs from Gothenburg, IFK, ÖIS and GAIS.

The 30s started as the 20s ended, with a lot of second and third places, but no win. The 1932–33 season ended with "Svarte-Filip" retiring, having reached a total of 177 goals in 181 Allsvenskan games, and totalling 329 goals for IFK. IFK finally won its first Allsvenskan title in the spring of 1935 after eight silver and bronze medals since the league start. As the only Swedish football club, IFK and its players boycotted the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, Nazi Germany.[6] Swedish football was no longer dominated by teams from Gothenburg in the later half of the thirties, with both IFK Göteborg and GAIS being relegated in 1937–38, although IFK was promoted back to Allsvenskan the next season. Back in the highest division, IFK finished second as it was decided to finish the league, even after the breakout of World War II.


Mobilization affected the clubs as many players were doing their military service. Gunnar Gren (later A.C. Milan) made his debut in IFK as they won the league in 1941–42. The rest of the 40s were a sad time for the supporters of the club and the decade was ended by IFK being relegated from Allsvenskan for the second time. The only light in the dark was Gunnar Gren, being the top scorer in 1946–47 and was together with Gunnar Nordahl playing in a 'Rest of Europe' team against England at Wembley. He was also awarded Guldbollen as the best player in Sweden, and won an Olympic Games gold medal with the Swedish team in 1948.

IFK was promoted to Allsvenskan after one season in Division 2. They barely avoided relegation in 1954–55. The talented Bertil "Bebben" Johansson played for IFK and scored 27 goals when they won the long season league played autumn 1957 to autumn 1958. This was done as Sweden changed system from autumn/spring to spring/autumn. IFK competed in a European cup (the European Champion Clubs' Cup) for the first time, being eliminated in the second round. The still unbeaten Allsvenskan record attendance of 52,194 was set when IFK played ÖIS on Nya Ullevi in 1959.

IFK Göteborg gained the nickname "Änglarna" (the Angels) when a newspaper seller coined the name after seeing a heavenly freekick being shot by "Bebben". The training ground "Kamratgården" was built and opened in 1961. One of the founders, John Säwström died in 1962. The 60s were not very kind to the club, with IFK finishing in the middle of the league almost every year, even with "Bebben" as coach. The legendar Bengt "Fölet" Berndtsson retired in 1967, after setting the record for most matches played for IFK, 598. The team surprisingly won Allsvenskan in 1969.


The starting eleven used in both of the 1982 UEFA Cup finals against Hamburger SV.[7]

1970 was the darkest year in the history of IFK. After having won the league the year before, the team was relegated after losing the last game in the series against Örebro SK. 4,000 angry IFK supporters stormed the field in the last few minutes of the game and vandalized the field and the goals, trying to get a re-match. After a big fight between the police and the hooligans, it was decided that the end score should stand. IFK was also eliminated in the first round in the European Cup. After three seasons in the second league, IFK had bought 34 players, but still had not managed to win Division 2 and be promoted back to Allsvenskan. In 1975, still playing in the second league, IFK bought Torbjörn Nilsson and Ove Kindvall. Torbjörn Nilsson showed the way and IFK was promoted to Allsvenskan in 1976. A news-paper arranged a poll, showing that 60% of the people in Gothenburg supported IFK, 25% supported Örgryte IS and 15% GAIS.[8] A new record was set for Swedish Division 2 football when 50,690 persons watched IFK-GAIS at Ullevi.

The first season in Allsvenskan this decade ended with a sixth place, having bought many good players, including Ralf Edström, Glenn Holm and Tommy Holmgren. In 1978, IFK hired the coach Sven-Göran Eriksson, previously only having minor successes in lower leagues, to make IFK Göteborg a top team once again. He introduced the 4-4-2 system with "pressure and support", a system that was going to give IFK great success later on. The 70s ended with a second place in Allsvenskan and the first gold medal in Svenska Cupen.

After reinforcing the team with several good players, amongst them Glenn Hysén, Glenn Strömberg and the goalkeeper Thomas Wernerson, IFK finished second in the league and reached the quarter-finals in the UEFA Cup after beating Haka Valkeakoski, Sturm Graz and Rapid Bucureşti. 1982 became a turbulent season, as the whole board was replaced, and the club almost going bankrupt, having to loan money from the supporter club to be able to go to Valencia and play the quarter-final in the UEFA Cup. After the troublesome start, IFK won everything they could win that year, including Allsvenskan, Svenska Cupen, and the UEFA Cup, after beating Valencia and Kaiserslautern on the way, and defeating Hamburger SV in the finals.

After the European success, many players went abroad trying their luck, which meant that the team was split. IFK still managed to field a strong team and won gold in both the league in 1983 and 1984 and the cup in 1983. IFK also played in the European Cup and reached the quarter-finals two years in a row. In 1986, the team advanced even further, but was eliminated in the semi-finals after 3-0 at home and 0-3 away and then being defeated after penalties against FC Barcelona. A new team of talents made the impossible and won both the UEFA Cup and Allsvenskan once again in 1987, after beating Dundee United in the finals. The later years of the 80s showed an old team that would need a few young, hungry players. After finishing seventh in the league, the new junior coach Roger Gustafsson took over the team.


Gustafsson could not have gotten a worse start than 0-6 against IFK Norrköping in the premiere of Allsvenskan in 1990. He using many youth players, and got heavily criticized by the press. However, in the next game, a 5-0 victory against AIK showed them that Gustafsson was doing the right thing. After a good autumn, IFK once again won Allsvenskan. It was also decided to move back to the old arena Gamla Ullevi, originally built for IFK in 1916. IFK won the league and the cup in 1991, and Gustafsson became a hero. 1992 ended with a fifth place in Allsvenskan, but a good result in the UEFA Champions League, beating PSV Eindhoven twice and FC Porto once, finishing second in their group after A.C. Milan.

IFK Göteborg and fans celebrate a goal against Örebro SK in 2004.

IFK won Allsvenskan in 1993, their 14th title (Swedish record), and once again qualified for international play. IFK advanced to the group stage of the Champions League by beating Sparta Prague. The group consisted of FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Galatasaray. No one really believed that IFK would survive the group and enter the quarter-final stage, but after beating Galatasaray twice, and Manchester United and Barcelona once, plus one loss and one draw, IFK Göteborg won the group and was now playing Bayern Munich.

The 1995 season started with the quarter-finals against Bayern Munich, which ended in two draws, 0-0 in Munich and 2-2 at home, but IFK was eliminated due to fewer away goals. IFK won the league for the third time in a row, but was eliminated in the first round of the Champions League by Legia Warszawa, and the fantastic career of Roger Gustafsson ended. IFK hooligans behaved badly in the qualification to the Champions League, and IFK was punished by having to play next home match at least 250 kilometers from Gothenburg.

Although Gustafsson left, IFK continued to play well with the new coach Mats Jingblad, and won Allsvenskan 1996 for the fourth time in a row, and thus qualified for the Champions League once again. IFK won against A.C. Milan 2-1 at home, but lost all the five other games in the group. The last years before the new millennium was a disaster, with "only" a silver in 1997 and at eighth place in 1998, after buying several expensive players without success. Jingblad was fired during the season and was replaced with Reine Almkvist. Almkvist was not able to make IFK to a winning team and was fired during the 1999 season when the club was situated in the lower part of the table. IFK had changed coach in the middle of a season two years in a row, something that the club never before had done. His replacement Stefan Lundin was more successful and the last year of the decade ended with a sixth place.


The first year of the new millennium started well for IFK. The club bought the players Gustaf Andersson, Tomas Rosenqvist and Mikael Sandklef from local rival Västra Frölunda IF. The player made success and IFK was in the top of Allsvenskan at the summer but when player Stefan Landberg was injured and had to end his career the club lost the contact with the very top and ended at fourth place. After strengthening the team with national team defense player Pontus Kåmark and promising Martin Ericsson the team was one of the favourites for the 2001 season. IFK again started very good but when national team midfielder Håkan Mild was injured the team played lost a couple of important games. Mild did a comeback at the end of the season and IFK approached the top position. But after losing two of the three last games the team once again finished at fourth place and was qualified for the UEFA cup.

The 2002 season was a disaster for IFK. Håkan Mild left the team for Wimbledon FC and IFK did not look like a favourite for the title for the first time of many years. IFK was located in the middle of the table during the summer but then problems appeared. Pontus Kåmark was injured and had to retire. Economical problems made the team sell striker Gustaf Andersson to Helsingborgs IF. The team fell to the bottom of the table and was almost relegated, staying in Allsvenskan only after two nervous play-off games against Västra Frölunda IF (1-1, 2-0). The result in the UEFA Cup was a humiliating defeat against a Moldavian club, Zimbru. Stefan Lundin was fired during the autumn and temporary replaced by Roger Gustafsson. 2003 was slightly better. Håkan Mild was brought back from Wimbledon FC and Bo Johansson became new coach. IFK played very unstable, wins against many of the top teams while a lot of lost and draw games against the other teams. IFK ended on a seventh place.

For the 2004 season IFK looked very strong with the new players Niclas Alexandersson and Peter Ijeh. The team were involved in the gold fight but finished at third place. In the Swedish cup the team made it to the final but lost against Djurgårdens IF with 3-1. With the new striker Stefan Selakovic IFK made it to the final in the first edition of the Scandinavian championship Royal League and the team again looked like a favourite for Allsvenskan 2005 with new coach Arne Erlandsen. But because of avoiding tax for the transfer of players Ijeh and Selakovic, the director Mats Persson was sentenced to jail. The club had a lot of bad attention from the media and striker Ijeh was sold to FC Copenhagen. Despite this, the club made a good season and finished at second place. Håkan Mild quit his career as a football player and became the new director. The team again looked strong for the 2006 but after selling the defense players Karl Svensson to Rangers and Oscar Wendt to FC Copenhagen the team collapsed at the end of the series and finished at 8th place. Erlansen was fired.

Few people believed that IFK could challenge for the title of the 2007 season since the squad mostly consisted of young, unknown players. But the club had a perfect mix of promising players and old experienced players. Defense player Ragnar Sigurdsson and striker Marcus Berg had a breakthrough and the team won the title for the first time in 11 years. The team also made it to the final of the Swedish cup where they lost against Kalmar FF with 3-0. Berg scored 14 goals and was sold to Groningen at the end of the season while midfielder Tobias Hysén was bought from premier league club Sunderland FC.

2008 started well for IFK when the club wan the Swedish supercup after a 3-1 win over Kalmar FF. But in allsvenskan the team had some problems with the offense during the spring and lost contact with the leading team Kalmar FF. But after the club started playing with the young forward Robin Söder the team started playing well. IFK made a good effort in the qualification to Champions League but lost to FC Basel with 1-1 (home) and 2-4 (away). The loss was a big disappointment but the season ended better after winning the Swedish cup against a victory over Kalmar FF after penalties. IFK ended at 3rd place in allsvenskan.

During the 2009 season IFK Göteborg played at the new renovated stadium Gamla Ullevi and in the opening game the club beat Djurgården with 6-0. The club made very strong result during the spring and was at the top of the allsvenskan before the summer break. During the summer the club had a lot of injuries and a lost a lot of points in the league. Internationally the club were defeated by Hapoel Tel Aviv in the qualification for UEFA Europa League. The club bought players Tuomo Turunen, Hannes Stiller and Theodor Elmar Bjarnason and won a lot of games during the autumn. In the last game IFK was only one point behind AIK who was the leader of allsvenkan but after a lost with 1-2 to AIK in the last game the club ended at second position of the league. In the Swedish cup IFK made it to the final but lost once again to AIK.


Before the 2010 season IFK bought the striker Pär Ericsson from local rivals GAIS. The club was one of the favourites to win the title but the series started with bad results and lots of injuries. IFK did very bad results during the spring when the club only won 3 matches and was just above the relegation places in the league. After the summer break the club played better but ended at 7th place after a very weak ending. During the summer Kim Christensen was sold to FC Copenhagen and Gustav Svensson was sold to Turkish champions Bursaspor. In the qualification for UEFA Europa League the club did two good matches against AZ Alkmaar but was eliminated with 1-2 in total (0-2, 1-0).

Despite the bad results from 2010 the team kept the coach Jonas Olsson for the 2011 season. IFK did not make any big changes in the squad but bought the striker Andreas Drugge from Trelleborgs FF and Hjörtur Logi Valgarðsson from Icelandic club Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar. The season started terrible with 4 losses in the 4 first games. The team started winning in the late spring and summer but after losing tight games against the top teams IF Elfsborg (2-3) and Helsingborgs IF (1-2) it was clear that IFK was not going to end up in the top-4 in allsvenskan. The team finished weak and ended up in 7th place. IFK made it to the semifinal of the Swedish cup but was eliminated by Kalmar FF (3-4). During the summer players Philip Haglund and Emil Salomonsson was transferred to the club while defender Ragnar Sigurdsson was sold to FC Copenhagen and midfielder Sebastian Eriksson was sold to Cagliari Calcio.

After the disappoiting 2011 season coach Jonas Olsson left the club. IFK made a controversial choice for the new coach, Mikael Stahre who coached main rivals AIK during the 2009 season. The club bought several high-profile players, goalkeeper John Alvbåge returned from Örebro SK, Brazilian midfielder Daniel Sobralense was bought from Kalmar FF, Norwegian national team defender Kjetil Waehler was bought from AB Aarhus, midfielder Pontus Farnerud was bought from Stabaek and midfielder Nordin Gerzic was bought from Örebro SK. The club did a good pre-season with victorys over Rosenborg and Lilleström and draw against Russian team FC Spartak Moscow. IFK was favourites to win allsvenskan 2012 and was nicknamed "Real Blåvitt" (Real Bluewhite) by the media. Allsvenskan started disastrous though with losses against Syrianska FC and IFK Norrköping and only draw against Örebro despite dominating the matches. The team seemed to recover and took 3 straight victories but then started to lose points again. The defence did not work well and several potential victories was lost by late equalisers. After the humiliating 0-5 away against Gefle IF the team was just a few points above the relegation limit. Old defender Mattias Bjärsmyr returned to the club and the team started to win again. With only one loss in ten games the club secured a new contract for the 2013 season. IFK ended again up in a 7th place. During the summer midfielder Tobias Sana was sold to AFC Ajax.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The first names of the brothers are not found in any of the sources, and their last name is in some sources written as Friberg instead of Friman.
  2. ^ Johansson later on became a big Gothenburg-hater. He was also one of the first members of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) started in 1904. IFK Göteborg 1904–2004, pp. 9 and 37.
  3. ^ The board was composed of almost exclusively supporters of Örgryte IS. Jönsson, 1906-10.
  4. ^ The game was played on 12 July 1908 ending in an 11–3 win over Norway.
  5. ^ The Swedish Champions were decided by the cup tournament Svenska Mästerskapet from 1896 to 1925.
  6. ^ The three players that were nominated to the national team but declined to take part were Ernst Andersson, Fritz Berg and Gunnar Löfgren. The decision was accepted by the SvFF and the other players, but the press went hard on them. Anton Johansson, mentioned above, uttered the words "Gothenburgers aren't real Swedes". IFK Göteborg 1904-2004, p. 37.
  7. ^ IFK Göteborg 1904-2004, p. 305.
  8. ^ This has naturally changed since, but a new poll held in 2004 had similar figures for IFK, 55%, while ÖIS' and GAIS' numbers had dropped to about 10%.

External links[edit]


  • Göransson, Mattias (2005). Blåvit gryning. Göteborg: Offside Fanatik. ISBN 91-85279-03-X
  • IFK Göteborg 1904-2004: en hundraårig blåvit historia genom elva epoker. (2004). Wettergrens bokhandel (distributor). ISBN 91-631-4659-2