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AIK rejoice at attendance 'milestone'

Published: Monday 8 April 2013, 12.08CET
Sunday's Allsvenskan fixture between AIK and Syrianska FC, the first competitive club game at the Friends Arena, drew the biggest crowd for a Swedish league match since 1977.
by Sujay Dutt
from Stockholm
AIK rejoice at attendance 'milestone'
Fans came in their thousands to the Friends Arena ©
Published: Monday 8 April 2013, 12.08CET

AIK rejoice at attendance 'milestone'

Sunday's Allsvenskan fixture between AIK and Syrianska FC, the first competitive club game at the Friends Arena, drew the biggest crowd for a Swedish league match since 1977.

A crowd of 43,463 turned up for Sunday's encounter between AIK and Syrianska FC in Solna – the biggest attendance for a Swedish top-flight fixture in nearly 36 years.

A numbers of factors contributed to the highest turnout for an Allsvenskan match since 48,296 watched IFK Göteborg play IF Elfsborg on 2 June 1977.

Take the team with the biggest following in the country, AIK, and add a new stadium, the Friends Arena; throw in a vigorous promotional campaign, particularly on social media, plus a hunger for football following the pre-season break, and the result is a record crowd for the Stockholm outfit.

While the atmosphere was electric, there were unfortunately no goals in the first competitive club game at the venue as AIK followed up their 2-2 opening-day draw at Elfsborg with another stalemate. "It is a milestone in AIK's history," said coach Andreas Alm of the occasion. Syrianska counterpart Özcan Melkemichel added: "To be part of this atmosphere was amazing."

Since their formation 122 years ago, AIK have consistently been among Sweden's best supported teams. In recent years they have taken turns with Malmö FF in boasting the largest average attendance.

Being based in the populous Stockholm area and playing at the Råsunda Stadium – also the previous home of the national side since 1937 – helped AIK attract better crowds than most of their peers. Yet if the Blågult had already played three times at the Friends Arena since November (beginning with an inaugural friendly against England), Sunday was the first for the club in black jerseys.

AIK's predominant colour was also at the centre of a successful media campaign over the winter months – a period otherwise spent in hibernation for Swedish football. With their Paint it Black initiative, AIK kept the buzz going.

Several of the country's biggest artists joined in, recording an AIK-themed version of the Rolling Stones song from which the campaign took its name. Also urging fans to "paint it black" were the players, some of whom are among the most followed Swedish footballers on Twitter.

Leading the way was striker Henok Goitom (35,936 followers), who joined his home-town side last season following spells in Italy and Spain, where his tweets were often mentioned in the media. Now back in Sweden, the 28-year-old – who missed Sunday's match with a thigh injury – had fuelled the interest further by providing a goal and an assist in AIK's draw at champions Elfsborg a week ago.

And with this weekend's opponents Syrianska coming from Sodertalje – an hour away on the same Stockholm commuter line as Solna – there was always going to be a large contingent of visiting supporters to boost the attendance even more. It continues a big first year for the stadium, which stages the UEFA Women's EURO 2013 final on 28 July.

Last updated: 08/04/13 15.42CET

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