Football and Danish National Pride: A Convert’s Perspective

Danish Football Fans, EURO2012, Lviv, Ukraine

Danish Football Fans, EURO2012
photo by Kathrin Pelgröm

Painting the flag on the faces of football fans on the way to the game against Portugal made me nervous.  Was I getting the proportions right?  After all, I am American.  Luckily, I was sitting on a train with over 400 Danes covered in a celebration of red and white, including flags. By the end of the tour in Lviv, Ukraine, I could draw this cherished symbol and had become a convert of Danish national pride.

Call it arrogance, but Americans are used to relaxing and waiting for success.  Of course this perception is unrealistic.  The U.S. never made it past stage two of the 2010 World Cup, losing 1-2 to Ghana.  Still, the feeling of being unbeatable persists because we say that football doesn’t really count.

In contrast, I found cheering for Denmark stressful, yet rewarding.  The train nearly danced on the rails on the way to the Fan Zone and the game against Portugal. Having already won the Netherlands 1-0, we were euphorically jumping up and down, continuing at the stadium: “Dem som ikke hopper, de elsker Portugal,” (Those who aren’t jumping, they love Portugal).

Our high spirits burst like a punctured balloon when the Portuguese scored in the 24th and 36th minutes. We were flying again before the first half ended, when Michael Krohn-Dehli headed the ball in for a goal. “Ole, vi er Danskerne, vi er Danskerne!”  (Ole’, we are the Danes, we are the Danes!). Hope peaked to new levels when Nicklas Bendtner headed the ball in to make it 2-2. With only 10 minutes left of the game, we waited out the tense atmosphere, but were again disappointed when the Portuguese scored with 3 minutes to go.

There was no party that night. Yet hope sprung eternal because Denmark won the European Championships in 1992.  Marching into the Fan Zone before the game against Germany, there was a feeling that it could happen again. “Deutschland, Deutschland alles ist vorbei!” (It’s all over Germany!).

When our red and white force of over 400 was met by Ukrainians smiling from the sidewalks and waving from the balconies, I was surprised to find that I felt like crying.  Although we lost the game to Germany 1-2, I had become a convert to Danish national pride.  Here success doesn’t come by default and we run into walls most of the time.  Instead, success requires an unwavering collective belief and a stubborn tenacity to hold on for the ride.  Because we know, one day, it will be like 1992 again.


Artists’ Corner: Sound Out Jazz Saxophonist Francesco Bigoni

Jazz Saxophonist Francesco Bigoni

Francesco Bigoni
Jazz Saxophonist

Called “one of the best saxophone players of the latest generation,” by the Italian press, jazz saxophonist Francesco Bigoni could have been stymied by moving to Copenhagen three years ago. But such a personable and creative advant garde musician could only move one way: forward.

A largely self-taught improvisationist and composer, Francesco recently completed a 2-year advanced diploma in music performance at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory. He also fused two bands to form an Italian/Danish quintet, temporarily called Hopscotch Meets Crisco 3. And he released an album with the new trio Hopscotch on ILK records. This is the twenty-fifth album Francesco has played in, including The Cosmic Band’s Coming Tomorrow – Part One, which resulted in a vote of “band of the year” by the Italian critic’s poll.

Francesco’s life in Denmark started after a holiday road trip with some friends to west Jutland and Copenhagen in August 2008. He met his future wife at a bar in Frederiksberg. “It was a fortuitous and romantic meeting in a pub, nothing to do with music,” muses Francesco. Less than a year later, he had moved permanently to Denmark.

There are many things that captivate his imagination here: taking small trips outside of Copenhagen, the unwritten law of understatement and the bicycle culture. “After growing up in the Italian car culture, I am still amazed by being able to bike to rehearsal spaces,” the Ferrara native says.

Too busy traveling and playing music, he skipped the free Danish lessons offered by the government and taught himself. He spoke to his wife, watched TV, read children’s books and did crossword puzzles. “The hardest part about learning Danish is getting the sound of it, which is crucial since Danish is pretty much sound-based,” states Francesco.

Yet sometimes, Copenhagen feels too sleepy. “From my perspective, the city gets incredibly lively twice a year, during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in the summer, and to a lesser extent, in the winter.” On the other hand, the quietness is a major benefit to Francesco’s new, more structured lifestyle: “After three years I’m married, I’ve completed a degree at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory and am writing a lot of music for my own trio and quintet.”

As to whether living in Copenhagen has influenced Francesco’s music, you have to judge for yourself.  Just hear him play at this month’s jazz festival or sound out his website.

Learn More About Francesco Bigoni

Click on this website to learn more about Francesco Bigoni, to hear his music, or to find out his tour schedule at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.


Official Link to Copenhagen Jazz Festival, 6-15 July 2012

Click for more information about the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.