Champions League debutants in 2014-15, 2014 Swedish champions Malmö FF again qualified for the group stage in 2015-16 – and again beat Red Bull Salzburg in a crucial qualifier to do so.
In both subsequent campaigns, games with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Real and Atlético Madrid at least brought prestige, if not league points.
The only Swedish club to reach a European Cup final, Malmö Fotbollförening had been Sweden’s first representatives in the Champions League for 14 years.
The club where errant teenager Zlatan Ibrahimovic started his career, Malmö’s story really begins in Maidstone. There, in 1971-72, two qualified young coaches, Bobby Houghton and Roy Hodgson, struck up a friendship and tactical understanding while playing in the Southern League. Houghton would later transform Malmö, only for Hodgson to follow his lead and dominate the Swedish league.
Founded in 1910, Malmö were guided for 37 years by Eric ‘Hövdingen’ Persson, chairman from 1937 onwards. Bowing out the year that Houghton arrived, 1974, Persson had nurtured his home-town club, bringing in foreign managers and, eventually, professionalism.
Under former Charlton full-back Bert Turner and ex-Atlético Madrid title-winner Antonio Durán, Malmö piled up post-war titles. Stars such as Ingvar Svahn, Staffan Tapper and particularly Bo ‘Bosse’ Larsson also ensured Sweden made creditable challenges for major finals, making consecutive World Cups in the 1970s.
Malmö, meanwhile, ruled at home. Houghton introduced zonal marking, a rock-solid four-man defence and swift counter attacks. Three titles and three European Cup campaigns were bookended by an unlikely run to the final in 1978-79.
With the three Anderssons – Roy, Roland and Magnus – at the back, Malmö achieved three crucial shut-outs at Monaco, Dynamo Kiev and Austria Vienna. Equally crucially, the influential Bosse Larsson was missing for the final against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. With Tapper also injured – he only managed half-an-hour in Munich – Malmö simply absorbed Forest attacks. Hesitating as another cross came in, goalkeeper Jan Möller allowed Trevor Francis to head the only goal on half-time.
Houghton had taken Malmö as far as he could. Having brought his old mate Hodgson to Sweden, he saw the future England manager transform little Halmstad – and twice win the title.
Once Hodgson moved to Malmö in 1985, they were unstoppable, winning five straight titles. Later Swedish World Cup stars Stefan Schwarz, Jonas Thern and Martin Dahlin complemented the remains of Houghton’s team, with Roy Andersson’s son, Patrik, on the fringe.
In Europe, Hodgon’s Malmö twice drew at Internazionale, the second season beating the Italian champions on aggregate.
A decade of decline was reversed by a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose sale to Ajax helped rebuild the club, new stadium and all.
Goals from Brazilian striker Afonso Alves lifted Malmö to a first title for 15 years in 2004 – though his predecessor, a young Markus Rosenberg, on-loan at Halmstad, scored more. When home boy Rosenborg returned a decade later, Malmö had already won two more titles, in 2010 and 2013.
Though star winger Daniel Larsson had gone, Malmö could still call on Baku-born Jiloan Hamad and striker Magnus Eriksson to win the 2013 title.
With Rosenborg back, young regulars Emil Forsberg and Simon Kroon combined for the landmark 3-0 Champions League win over Salzburg – and a successful domestic campaign in 2014.
For half a century, Malmö won their many titles at the Malmö Stadion, built for the 1958 World Cup. Its poor sightlines, general decay and lack of revenue forced MFF to move out, and the Swedbank Stadion built next door. The old stadium, meanwhile, remains in use.
Fifty years before that, local sports activities, including football, took place at the Sports Ground, Malmö Idrottsplats, IP for short. Still used for pre-season friendlies and women’s football, this quaint old ground on the northern edge of Pildamm Park was the home of both Malmö clubs, FF and IFK, from the early 1900s.
The southern side of the park was where architects Fritz Jaenecke and Sten Samuelsson, also responsible at the time for Gothenburg’s Ullevi, sited the new Malmö Stadion in 1958.
Characterised by its shell-like curves, ‘Stadion’ was where holders West Germany played their early matches. Expanded for Euro 92, and England’s two drab draws with Denmark and France, the ground suffered from Malmö FF’s loss of form and low crowds later in the decade.
Fourth-flight IFK still only attract a couple of hundred for their home matches at the venerable 26,500-capacity ground, used mainly for athletics.
Next door, some €80 million paid for a new ‘Stadion’, sponsored by Swedbank. With a similar capacity, 24,000, reduced to an all-seated 21,000 for European games, the Swedbank Stadion was opened in 2009, just in time for Malmö’s recent revival.
For domestic fixtures, home fans occupy the one-tier terrace at the north end (Norre Blå), away ones given a choice of sitting or standing in the south end. Press and VIPs are housed in the West Stand, where tickets are often available for the visiting neutral. The O’Learys sports bar, the Restaurang 1910, club shop and fans’ area, Ståplatstorget are in the north stand.
The nearest station is Triangeln, the Malmö hub of the City Tunnel link with Copenhagen, Copenhagen airport, and southern Sweden, including Gothenburg. From there, it’s a 20min walk through Pildamm Park – or take bus No.6 to nearby Södertorp. From town, t calls at St Pauli kyrka and Konserthuset before stopping at Triangeln.
Alternatively, bus Nos.2 and 7 from central Gustav Adolfs torg stops at Mobilia, a 10-15min walk from the stadium.
The Stadion stop on the No.3 circle line isn’t quick or convenient from any central hub.
On match days, special buses are usually laid on to and from Central Station.
Tickets are available at the MFF Shopen (Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm, match days) behind the North Stand during the week of the game. The shop and ticket booths around the ground also distribute until two hours before kick-off.
Online, you can buy in advance at ticnet.se, printing the ticket from a PDF.
Matches are divided into three categories, with standing prices 140-215Skr, corner seats 195-310Skr and better seats near the halfway line 310Skr-520Skr.
MFF Shopen (Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm, match days) behind the north end is accessible from the fans’ square outside.
Inside, there all kinds of sky blue merchandise, as well as a huge display of Zlatan’s autobiography.
Pre-match, fans meet at bars on and off Möllevångstorget. The most notable is ÖlKaféet (’Beer Café’) at Södra Skolgatan 43, where one room is decked out in sky-blue shirts and badges. It’s also, by Swedish standards, reasonably affordable. On Möllevångstorget, the more restaurant-like Nyhavn (No.8) is also popular, with a large outdoor terrace equipped with umbrella heaters.
At the Swedbank Stadion, the Malmö FF-themed branch of Swedish sport-pub chain O’Learys is right next to the club shop. The Restaurang 1910 isn’t open to the general public on match days.