Kalmar FF won the Swedish Cup last year and finished second in the league but are still regarded by many as Swedish football's unfashionable cousins.
When Kalmar, from a city with a population of around 35,000 in southeast Sweden, were relegated from the top division in 1986, most thought that it was the last that would be heard of the solid but unspectacular side. Sure enough, they plummeted down to the third division, and barely avoided another drop to the fourth flight before suddenly getting their act in order.
In 1997, Kalmar won the third division title without losing a game and swiftly earned promotion to the top division, only to be relegated after their first season back in 1999. Another relegation almost followed in 2000, but in 2001 the club once more raised their game, winning promotion again and this time finding the steel to survive in the top division.
Last term, the combination of solid Swedish players and handy Brazilian stars helped the club to Swedish Cup success, while finishing just a point behind champions IFK Göteborg. A net profit of €3m for their efforts has led some to bill Kalmar as title favourites in the coming Allsvenskan season, which kicks off on 30 March – no small billing.
Outs and ins
Coach Nanne Bergstrand remains as calm as ever, though. "We had a very good year last year and of course we hope to build on it," he said. "We managed to cope with the loss of Ari [the Brazilian striker Kalmar sold to AZ Alkmaar] and have now been able to add Abiola Dauda, Marcel Sacramento and Daniel Lopes Silva to the mix so it's looking good.
"But it's going to be a very tough year with a host of clubs in with a chance of winning the title," added the 51-year-old. "The likes of IFK Göteborg, Malmö [FF], Helsingborgs [IF], Djurgårdens [IF] and [IF] Elfsborg are all solid sides, whilst AIK [Solna] and Hammarby can also be a threat. It makes it very difficult but our ambition is to win the title."
Kalmar's title push will be helped by no fewer than three Elm brothers, with siblings Rasmus, Viktor and David all vying for first-team places. "Hopefully we can all get a chance to play regularly and help Kalmar win the title," said Rasmus, the youngest." With the club now setting their sights on a new stadium as well as a Swedish title, the minnows could yet put Sweden's big city sides to shame.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.