Club history: The merger which created Djurgården/Älvsjö has led to an unprecedented spell of success.
By Jan Juhlin
A merger between two clubs can be a traumatic process as organisations with their own cultures attempt to integrate into a harmonious whole, but the case of Djurgårdens IF and Älvsjö AIK FF is proof that mergers can be hugely successful.
In 2003, the clubs joined forces and immediately set about dethroning Umeå IK as Swedish champions. Their momentum continued as the club retained their league title in 2004 and have now reached the final of the 2004/05 UEFA Women's Cup.
The history of Djurgården/Älvsjö is a story of two clubs with very different backgrounds. Djurgården have a rich history of success, with their men's team having won the Swedish title on ten occasions. The women's outfit was created during the 1970s, and in 1978 the club made their first appearance in the Allsvenskan, initially struggling to make a serious impact.
In contrast, the Älvsjö men's team have no such history of glory, while the women's side rose to fame during the 1990s. After reaching the top flight in 1979 the club claimed their first Swedish title in 1992. Their inaugural success was closely followed by four more league titles, and Älvsjö established themselves as the major force in Swedish women's football. They also added two domestic cups to the five league championships accumulated in a period of phenomenal success.
Accomplishment on the pitch was not accompanied by a solid infrastructure off it, however, and a collaboration with Djurgården began to take shape. In 2000 Umeå won the Swedish title with Älvsjö finishing third and Djurgården fourth. The following year, the Djurgårdens/Älvsjö AB company was formed, although the two teams continued to compete separately in the Allsvenskan during 2001 and 2002.
Two become one
In 2003 the decision was made that saw Djurgården/Älvsjö as the sole team representing both clubs in the top flight, although both sides kept their respective youth sections. The merger proved a match made in heaven and Umeå and Malmö FF, who had dominated Swedish women's football since 2000, were pushed aside by a club who knew what they wanted and how to achieve it.
As a source at the club said at the time: "Stockholm will have a team that will compete for the top spot in Swedish football." Two years later no one can question the idea, nor the result.