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[FM16] If You're Not First, You're Last - Redemption For The "Nearly Men," A European Journey


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It's the hope that kills you...



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As football fans, we can all relate to that sentiment. The "what could have been" moments. The heartbreak. The days when your over-paid, selfie-obsessed striker couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat.



Messi in the final of the Copa America, 2016. Baggio in the World Cup final, 1994. Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. Bayern Munich in Barcelona, 1999. John Terry in Moscow, 2008.

(Ok, if I'm being honest the last two were pretty frickin' beautiful and count among my favorite footballing memories. But, I digress...)

For many, redemption comes in one form or another, some more glamorous than others. Titles won. Individual glories and accolades. Selfies with supermodels. Social media warrior.

Occasionally, though, the heartbreak is followed by a slow, painful regression to obscurity. The moniker of the "nearly men" is applied, and supporters grow old thinking, "what if...?"

This is the story of those teams.




Since its inception in 1955, 22 different teams have won the Champions League (and its predecessor). 17 teams have reached the Final, only to fall short:

Atlético Madrid (1974, 2014, 2016)

Stade de Reims (1956, 1959)

Valencia (2000, 2001)

Fiorentina (1957)

Eintracht Frankfurt (1960)

Partizan (1966)

Panathinaikos (1971)

Leeds United (1975)

Saint-Étienne (1976)

Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977)

Club Brugge (1978)

Malmö FF (1979)

Roma (1984)

Sampdoria (1992)

Bayer Leverkusen (2002)

Monaco (2004)

Arsenal (2006)

Similarly, 8 different nations have brought home the World Cup. Yet, 4 have reached the Final and returned home with empty hands:

Netherlands (1974, 1978, 2010)

Czechoslovakia (1934, 1962)

Hungary (1938, 1954)

Sweden (1958)






This save will chronicle my journey across Europe, to bring glory to as many of these sides as possible.

There are no hard-and-fast rules beyond the concept of the save. At the club level, the appeal of a pure youth academy only challenge has waned. At each club, I will work within a 4-5 year plan without any transfer restrictions. My personal contract negotiations will keep that in mind. I will leave on high -- thus, once I've won the Champions League, I will move on. Surely I won't be fired...will I? After my first club, I will only accept a position with one of the sides listed above, or a club that manages to join this elite (!?) group of "nearly men." Likewise, if a club manages to win the CL under another manager, they are removed from the challenge.

On the international scene, the same basic rules will apply -- I will only accept an international management position with an eligible nation. if I win the World Cup, I must move on. Nations can be added to and removed from the eligible list, based on results at the World Cup. With respect to Czechoslovakia, I consider both the Czech Republic and Slovakia eligible.

While some of these sides are much "easier" than others, I will begin with one of the "smaller" clubs, and proceed from there, wherever the winds take me. I am also holidaying 2 years into the future, to allow for a unique playing environment where the strength of a side like Atlético will have waxed/waned appropriately. I've loaded the top leagues in Belgium, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Spain and Sweden, with a large database/pool of potential players and numerous other leagues on "view only," with pr0's data update to reflect the 2016 landscape.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a little tip o' the hat to smp20, who proposed a Champions League version of this as a challenge in May 2015. Time for me to run this for real.

Up Next: The journey begins. June 2017. A manager. A club. Foolish dreams of glory, prepared to be smashed to bits by the Football Gods.

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Time continues to skip forward randomly. Details at elev...



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Well, then. The two years of holidaying have not changed the landscape significantly. Let's set the stage properly.

In 2016, both PSG and Manchester City fell in the semifinals, leaving Juventus to vanquish Mourinho's United 3-1 in the final.

In 2017, Manchester City and Atletico fell in the semifinals, with the former falling to a Roberto Martinez-led Arsenal. Martinez thus had a chance to forever erase the tag of "nearly men" from Arsenal in his first year after the departure of Wenger...but more heartbreak was on offer in Cardiff, as Arsenal fell 1-0 to Mourinho's United through a 117th minute minute goal from Anthony Martial. (...50 million down the drain, as Tony Martial scores again!!!)

Elsewhere in the footballing world, Portugal defeated Germany 2-0 at the 2016 Euros.

Into this world steps Aidan Cyr, a former American professional footballer who combines foolish, romantic notions with an unparalleled work ethic.

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His appointment at Malmö FF surprises many, but his plans for the club are encouraging even if some whisper that his lofty ambitions are bound to end in disappointment.

This is the Allsvenskan, after all, they say. In Swedish. Which Cyr doesn't speak a lick of. So, he just smiles and nods encouragingly, leading to great confusion on all parts.



This is bound to end in tears, one way or another.

Up Next: The first steps in Sweden, during the eternal summer of 2017.

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Thanks, guys. After much time spent hunting down/scouting potential prospects, we're finally into July and hitting our first matches. Some minor updates will follow this evening, with an end of season review over the weekend.

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Malmö FF Press Secretary Placed On Leave; Cyr’s Eccentricities Lead To Early Success, But At What Cost?

By Angar Gunnarsson, on assignment, with Brita Nilsdotter from Stockholm.

Monday, July 31, 2017.

Malmö, Sweden – A surreal scene unfolded this morning deep within the bowels of the Swedbank Stadion, when the Malmö FF press secretary abruptly went on medical leave after suffering what club staff are colloquially referring to as a “wee mental breakdown.”

Club officials refused all requests for comment on the record, given the sensitive nature of the incident. Speaking on condition of anonymity, however, several senior officials confirmed that long-serving club Press Secretary Ingemar Ingemarsson has been struggling to cope with the eccentricities of American manager Aidan Cyr, since Cyr’s appointment in early June.

“Frankly,” one official noted, “we were all a bit concerned when Mr. Cyr decided to ‘learn Swedish’ by reviewing a stack of IKEA catalogues. For Ingemar, that seems to have been...eh, the straw that broke the camel’s backside, so to speak.”

Regardless of the merits of his methodology, a senior member of the coaching staff has applauded Cyr’s quick grasp of the Swedish language. “Mr. Cyr has learned so much in such a short period of time. In particular, he has mastered the terms ‘mer,’ ‘öl,’ ‘vin’ and … well, I’m sure there are others, too. He’s wicked smart.”

Female staff confirmed that Mr. Cyr is already speaking in fragmented sentences, often inquiring with a rakish grin as to whether their “carpet and drapes were purchased from the same section of IKEA.” “We are not entirely sure what he means,” said one fresh-faced intern with a tolerant smile. “It's just so sweet of him to taken an interest. He hasn’t even been to my apartment!”

On the pitch, others have noted that Mr. Cyr’s demand for perfection knows no bounds. His attention to detail is already becoming legend. Officials confirmed that Mr. Cyr has strengthened the club's scouting network, and personally devotes countless hours each day to scouting and assessing potential signings. Officials also refused to directly address rumors on Twitter that security had caught Mr. Cyr before his home debut against Mjällby cutting the grass with fingernail clippers at 2:00 a.m., muttering incoherently about "coefficients of friction." When confronted with a video appearing to depict this exact scene, club officials pointed out that Malmö had raced out to a 4-goal halftime lead the next day and that nothing in the rules dictate the means by which pitches shall be groomed, deferring all further comment to Mr. Cyr himself. Yet, no comment was given when a clearly-exhausted Mr. Cyr fell asleep 23 seconds into the post-match press conference with a wry grin across his face, without having answered a single question.

Whatever his eccentricities, there can be no doubt that the initial results on the pitch have been promising – four wins and a draw from five matches, with di blåe rising to the top of the Allsvenskan in short order. This is a welcome sight for supporters, who suffered as their heroes stumbled to a 12th place finish in 2015.

“At the end of the day, it’s the results that matter,” noted Håkan Telleus, head of a nascent ABBA-inspired Malmö Ultras group, who claim membership in the “low- to mid-teens.” “We just want what every football fan wants – to be entertained, to enjoy the highs and lows of a season, and to have a bevvy every now and again with the lads. I'm not one for personal hygiene, but if Cyr needs it my boys and I will bring our clippers to the ground to chip in. Viktor has a Flowbee that we could borrow. Whatever it takes. You’ll have to excuse me now, the missus sent me to IKEA to pick up a new Askholmen table for the kitchen. UP DI BLÅE!

A version of this article appears on page B1 of the July 31, 2017, print version of the Sydvenska Dagbladet.

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Thanks, iacovone. Again -- credit for the idea traces back to smp20. I'm loving the save thus far, and the new laptop is mint. Fast, with a 4k display that makes matches look gorgeous.

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Malmö FF

August 2017 Mini-Update




After a month to settle, July 2017 began with Malmö a few points adrift of the top, behind Elfsborg. With 18 matches left and Elfsborg facing massive fixture congestion in Europe, I had reason to be optimistic.

Then again, this is the Malmö side who finished 12th in 2016...and it was mid-season, with “new” tactics, a few players agitating to leave, some backroom drama and a board who expect to win the league.

Well...ok, then.

I need not have worried. This is Sweden, and Malmö is (or at least should be) the dominant force domestically. Our squad is strong, but not built to match my long-term ambitions. Reinforcements were in order. A full-blown squad report will follow at the end of the season – for now, you can see the moves through August 1st here, with a few future moves also already in the hopper. Unfortunately, some of the players I was chasing were picked up by much larger sides, but those are the breaks.

Back to the on-field action...we romped through July, the only blip coming in a 1-1 draw away to Falkenbergs (we dominated the match but couldn’t finish).

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Elfsborg, on the other hand, struggled with the demands of Europe and has already started to fall off the pace (albeit with games in hand). So, this is how the table looks as we head into the home stretch.

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In other news, the Allsvenskan jumped up the European rankings, resulting in an additional Champions League place going forward. Hopefully, the other sides will continue to show well so that our league reputation continues to increase...so I can keep my charges from fleeing to warmer climes…

My Swedish is improving slowly...it would probably help if I bothered learning phrases that would prove useful away from the beer gardens. Maybe that intern can help...




Up Next: The Long Night Sets In – 2017 End of Season Review.

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Thank you, gentlemen -- the saves I enjoy the most are the ones where the "story" is a strong element in my head.

The beauty of Malmo, goktugerce, is that domestic dominance is a reasonable expectation (provided you have the depth to compete on two fronts), and the finances are in solid shape:

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As you can see a mini-run in the Europa League brought some funds into the coffers (though some of this money was tracked as 2017 income, due to the calendar year split in Sweden). The $120k/month debt payments are nothing, especially with Europe on the horizon.

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Malmö FF

2017 Youth Intake




Even though this is not a youth academy challenge, I love developing young players and this was quite the intake:

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Given my existing players, I'm likely to retrain Lindahl as an advanced playmaker, coming out of central midfield. The stats speak for themselves, though.

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All I Want For Christmas Is A Malmö FF Away Kit



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Malmö FF

2017 Review

Things went exactly as expected. Coming into the side in June, when they were sitting 2nd after 12 matches and only a handful of points behind Elfsborg, anything less than winning the title would have been unacceptable.

I genuinely believe that we’re good enough to reach the CL group stages next year, provided that I can keep a few key starters (Rakip and Pohjanpalo, in particular). I turned down $7.5M for Hasan Kaya from Dortmund at the transfer deadline in August, and Liverpool has also come knocking. As a youth product of the club, I hope that he will be loyal as he is clearly talented enough to take us far. Thus far, my key players haven’t had their heads turned.

I’ve been integrating my summer signings into the squad, and even gave my 4 outstanding youth academy graduates a run-out in the final match of the season...which turned into a massive fustercluck, but we held on for the 5-4 win. A sign of things to come? Or, was this simply a case of blooding too many youngsters at once? Time will tell.

My 1st XI is set for next year, with only one change from this season’s senior side – Ádám Papp, whom I signed for $2M from Ferencváros has lived up to his transfer fee. I needed him to take over for 32 year-old Behrang Safari, and he’s more than capable of doing so. Papp already has 4 caps under his belt and was an absolute steal, to say the least. The big question may be how long I can keep him.



As the long winter sets in, I sit with a glass of red wine before the fire for several minutes watching the flames dance...now the real work begins...with a sigh, I book a flight to Croatia so that I can see a talented young defender play in person, knowing that I’ll soon be meeting a select few members of the … err ... backroom staff … for a little rest, relaxation and celebration in Mallorca. There will be more to report on, next year.

Goals for 2018: Reach the Champions League Group Stages. Maintain domestic dominance. Continue to develop youngsters/depth.

Squad | League Overview | Allsvenskan Fixtures | Svenska Cupen Fixtures | Finances

Challenge Overview:

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FADE IN:

EXT. SWEDBANK STADION – DAY

A brisk, clear January day. The sun sits low on the horizon. Ambient sounds of a bustling city gently fill the air.

INT. SWEDBANK STADION – PRESS ROOM

The Malmö FF crest adorns a podium at the front of the room. The latest Junip album plays quietly in the background.

Several reporters snack on the meager lunch put out for them, quietly wondering why a press conference has been called. ANGAR GUNNARSSON sits calmly in the front row, nursing a large cup of coffee. It is his 3rd cup of the day. He carries himself with distinction, his mere presence commanding respect and deference. He has a world-weary crinkle about his eyes – the ghosts of sights that cannot be unseen.

At the stroke of 1, a door to the RIGHT of the podium opens and INGEMAR INGEMARSSON, the club Press Secretary slowly walks in, nodding to the various reporters, who stop their conversations abruptly at his unexpected presence. INGEMAR is wearing a bright yellow shirt, with an odd stain on the right front. The music stops.

INGEMAR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming here today.

ANGAR sits quietly, chewing on the nub of his pen, while the rest of the reporters cautiously offer INGEMAR a good afternoon.

INGEMAR: Before we begin, I have a short statement from the club about the reports from Mallorca. This will be the only statement from the club on these matters, pending further internal investigation and review.

The room is deathly silent. Several inexperienced reporters exchange knowing glances, in expectation of a scoop. ANGAR arches an eyebrow, and pointedly puts his pen down as if to signal that nothing INGEMAR says could possibly interest him. INGEMAR watches him, seemingly afraid to make eye contact. INGEMAR begins to sweat.

INGEMAR: Well, then...the...statement. Yes. Chairman Jeppson and the other Directors are reserving judgment on the reports from Mallorca, until such time as the club has conducted further internal investigation and review. That is all. Eh...I will now answer any questions you may have.

A stunned silence comes over the room. The reporters all look to INGEMAR, who has begun to examine his fingernails.

A young YouTube personality, HAMPUS LINDGREN, handsome, with a carefully cultivated hipster beard and man-bun, is the first to speak, full of confidence, scorn and derision.

HAMPUS: Would you care to comment specifically on reports that the manager, Mr. Cyr, was spotted in the company of not one, but three club employees, on the dance floor of the Battered Ram Nightclub in Mallorca?

A tremor becomes noticeable in INGEMARSSON’s left hand.

INGEMAR: I refer to you the club’s statement. This is, as you know, my first day back since the...unpleasantness... I have not been in contact with Mr. Cyr regarding these matters, nor will the club have any further statement or comment at this time.

HAMPUS scowls. ANGAR chuckles softly.

HAMPUS (sarcastically): We all know this is your first day back, Ingemar, but come on. What can you tell us?

INGEMAR (nervously): As I have already said, the club has no comment at this time.

HAMPUS (getting agitated): Are the three young women spotted in the company of Mr. Cyr still employed by the club?

The tremor in INGEMAR’s left hand increases noticeably. A bead of sweat runs down his face.

INGEMAR (nervously): As I have already said…the intern program...the statement...it said things...everything!

HAMPUS interrupts impatiently.

HAMPUS: Yes, yes. The statement. That says nothing. Did I mention that I’m Periscoping this entire thing? Can you explain yourself and Mr. Cyr's actions to the public?

INGEMAR looks confused.

INGEMAR: Perisiscope? What is this?

HAMPUS: It’s quite simple, really, Ingemar, just look riiight at my phone here.

INGEMAR looks at the phone, squinting his eyes distrustfully.

HAMPUS: Yep, that’s it. Right there. Perfect. This press conference is streaming live to the world right now.

INGEMAR begins to stammer and sweat profusely. He shuffles his papers, and looks around as if seeing his surroundings for the first time.

INGEMAR (enthusiastically, with nervous laughter interspersed throughout): Eh...well, then...hello, people of the world! I welcome you to the beautiful city of Malmö, where...uhh...it’s kind of dark this time of year, but these things are, how do you say it...the breaks? This is, my first day back...had I known that I would perisiscoped, I wouldn’t have worn this shirt...usually we do not have cameras...or phones. No, there are phones, but not with...eh... periscopes...You know what I mean. It's like a submarine, eh? Vroom vroom! Ehh...does anyone have any questions about anything other than Mallorca?

HAMPUS (stifling laughter): Vroom, vroom? That's the sound a submarine makes?

The room remains quiet. HAMPUS chuckles, and continues to point his phone at the increasingly-nervous INGEMAR. Several awkward moments pass, before ANGAR coughs and looks up with a glimmer in his eye. INGEMAR makes eye contact with ANGAR, and recoils momentarily in fear before composing himself.

INGEMAR: Yes, Mr. Gunnarson?

ANGAR (scornfully): Enough with the tabloid nonsense. I get enough of that from the Mail.

INGEMAR looks relieved, and sighs audibly. HAMPUS scoffs and mutters something about old men, and technology.

ANGAR: What comment does the club have on the state of the squad, rumored transfers, and the forthcoming European campaign?

INGEMAR relaxes, and the tremor disappears.

INGEMAR (confidently): Mr. Cyr does not intend to bring in significant reinforcements prior to the close of the transfer window. He is confident that this side has the skill and depth to compete on multiple fronts.

ANGMAR (assertively): That seems more informed than usual. I thought this was your first day back – have you even spoken with Mr. Cyr?

INGEMAR begins to stammer and sweat profusely. The tremor returns.

INGEMAR: Umm...well, yes. Yes, I have. I expect Mr. Cyr will return later this month...perhaps he can...eh...

ANGMAR (wryly): Can you illuminate us as to what it was, exactly, that Mr. Cyr had to say to you about these matters?

INGEMAR’s shoulders droop. His lip begins to quiver.

INGEMAR (cautiously): As to that…

ANGMAR (confidently): Did you discuss Mallorca? His holidays? His plans for the coming campaign?

INGEMAR (quietly): Not...er...exactly. I refer you back to the statement.

ANGMAR (softly): Well, then, what pray tell did you discuss?

INGEMAR’s head falls to the table. The tremor has reached his right leg. INGEMAR mumbles incoherently, and begins to softly bash his head into the table. ANGMAR waits patiently, with an eyebrow crooked. HAMPUS grins, thinking of the social media binge to come. INGEMAR lowers himself gently to floor, and curls into the fetal position.

Several club officials enter and begin to quietly coax INGEMAR back to his feet. INGEMAR finally stands with the help of 2 others, and looks about the room like a lost child searching for his mother.

INGEMAR (quietly): Thank you for your time this morning. That is all.

INGEMAR slowly walks away from the podium, limping slightly, with the support of the other officials. HAMPUS turns his phone back towards himself and begins to give the huddled masses his analysis of the stunning events of the last few minutes. ANGMAR rises slowly and glances at HAMPUS, chuckling at the absurdity of the situation.

FADE OUT.

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Malmö FF

June 2018 Mini-Update




The Champions League has run it's course, resulting in a newly eligible club -- Manchester City, who reached the final under Antonio Conte but fell to Vincente Del Bosque's Barcelona through a 90th minute goal from Suarez.

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Personally, this is a tragedy. I cannot imagine a save that involves me managing the bitters. However, the reality is that they're likely to win the competition before I'd even have the chance to.

As you will have noted, PSG reached the semi-finals once again -- it seems like a matter of time before they become eligible (or win the CL at the first go). Arsenal also continued to threaten, falling in the semifinals and continuing to wallow in their status as "nearly men," even under new management.




Domestically, Malmö are in tremendous shape. We're flying high in the Allsvenskan, and brought home the Svenska Cupen after some edgy matches in the knockout rounds.

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My squad is in fantastic shape, with the youngsters developing nicely and stepping into the regular squad rotation I will employ to address the fixture congestion that is part and parcel of a European campaign in Sweden. A full-blown squad review will follow at the end of this season. I will likely begin using Instant Result occasionally, to keep things moving along -- the challenge just doesn't exist domestically.




Up Next: World Cup 2018 in Russia. Will another nation become eligible?

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Malmö FF

July 2018 Mini-Update




The World Cup had few surprises after the Group Stages, with Belgium the only potentially-eligible team to make the semifinals, and Italy taking home the title.

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Up Next: Can Malmö hit the ground running in Europe, and retain the Allsvenskan title?

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HAMPUS: Would you care to comment specifically on reports that the manager, Mr. Cyr, was spotted in the company of not one, but three club employees, on the dance floor of the Battered Ram Nightclub in Mallorca?

:D properly laughed at this mate, you've got a great writing style. Hampus is a right cocky b*****d isn't he?

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Hampus is a right cocky b*****d isn't he?

It's the hipster beard.

what was the new laptop you bought?

It's a 15.6 inch Eluktronics, i7 6700HQ processor, 4k screen, 6g NVIDIA graphics card, 16g RAM, with a large SSD. It's beautiful. The screenshots from the Champions League and World Cup are reduced 40%. :D

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FADE IN:

Transcript; FullTimeMalmo YouTube Broadcast; Malmö Stadion, August 1, 2018.

The pulsing rhythm Swedish neo indie-synthpop blares in the background, with scenic aerial shots of Malmö Stadion awash in the midnight sun, floodlights still ablaze in the aftermath of a 3-0 drubbing of Norwegian side Stabæk.

Hampus Lindgren stands on a street corner, surrounded by an ocean of blue-clad Malmo supporters singing, dancing and carrying-on. The instantly-recognizable Håkan Telleus stands next to him, holding a drink in each hand, joyously singing along with the surrounding masses. The Champions League anthem echoes in the distance.

HAMPUS (breathless, shouting to be heard over the din): Good evening to you, and a good evening it is! Di Blåe return to Europe in glorious fashion! There will be dancing in the streets tonight! Triumph, thy name is Aidan Cyr! Domestic dominance continues, and now we march on Europe! Here to give his thoughts on the match is none other than Håkan Telleus, head of the Malmo Ultras and Sonic Death Penguin frontman.

HAMPUS (turning to Håkan): Håkan, what do you have to say, brother?

HÅKAN (chanting maniacally): UP DI BLÅE!!! UP DI BLÅE!!!

The crowds joins in enthusiastically as Håkan begins to jump about, continuing to chant at the top of his lungs. Hampus attempts to regain control with little initial success. Finally, the abundance of testosterone and joy is restrained. Momentarily.

HAMPUS: Yes, yes...up the blåe! Håkan...Håkan...HÅKAN!!!

HÅKAN (maniacally): BWAHAHAHAHA! CYR IS THE SPECIAL ONE! It was over when Tinnerholm put home the rebound in the 13th minute! OVER!!!

HAMPUS (enthusiastically): An absolute beauty, no question. What impact, if any, do you think your pre-match playlist had on the side?

HÅKAN (giving Hampus a disdainful look): Even bearded little runts like you know that preparation is everything. Fail to prepare? PREPARE TO FAIL!!! NEVER!!! UP DI BLÅE!!!

Hampus winces as the crowd begins once again to chant. Mercifully, Håkan does not join in but looks back at Hampus, with a glint in his eye.

HAMPUS: Well, that wasn’t quite what I was asking. The inclusion of Sonic Death Penguin’s cover of The Winner Takes It All was an inspired choice – did the club know of your ties to the band when you presented the playlist?

HÅKAN (chuckling): No, no...but I guess the horse is out of the barn now, eh?

HAMPUS: Hah! Well, it isn’t like they weren’t going to figure it out, after #SonicDeathPenguinRocksMalmo began trending on Twitter, is it? Truth be told, I liked your – that is, Sonic Death Penguin’s – earlier work. Far less commercial. What do you say to those who claim you’re trading SDP’s artistic integrity for fame?

HÅKAN (earnestly): Hampus, Hampus, son. It isn’t about the fame or fortune. It’s about the football. AND THE WOMEN!!!

The crowd goes wild as Håkan gyrates seductively to the chants of “Håkan Telleus is on fire!” echoing through the streets. A beautiful woman emerges from the crowd to kiss Håkan passionately, and the crowd erupts in cheers. Blue flares are set off in the background and someone begins to blare ABBA at full volume. Dancing ensues in the land of the midnight sun.

HAMPUS (enthusiastically, giving up all hope of interviewing the exuberant and now-distracted Håkan): Well, you’ve heard it here first, folks. Malmo are back in Europe, with a 3-0 lead after the first leg and ready for anything. That’s it from me. Up the blåe!

HÅKAN (shouting at Hampus in the distance): Come on, son! Turn off the bloody camera, have a drink and EARN that beard! Or will your mommy miss you if you stay out too late?!

The crowd begins to laugh. Hampus winces as if slapped, and looks fornlornly into the distance.

HAMPUS (quietly, to himself, eyes downcast): She will worry.

FADE OUT.

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Through to the Playoffs...180 minutes away from the Group Stages, with a difficult trip across the bridge to Denmark standing in the way.



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Edited: FM froze after a graphics card update, with the 2nd leg and draw unsaved. I IR'd the match and have updated screenshots accordingly. I'd much rather have a trip to Cyrpus...




And, please, if anyone has seen Hampus, touch base with his mother. She's past worried and filed a missing persons report earlier this morning.

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Absolutely gutted. A missed opportunity if there ever was one. Completely dominating the match, away from home with an away goal in hand...and we collapse.



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I knew we were in for a nervy match, but this was a bit much. More domination lacking the final touch/pass, until Plavsic (inserted into the XI for the injured Rakip) buried a loose ball in the 35th minute. We're through on away goals if the result holds...



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And hold it did, through a scoreless/tense 2nd 45 minutes where the slightest mistake would have turned the tie on its head...

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Through to the Group Stage!!! If only Hampus had been here to enjoy it with us.




As an aging (yet still unnaturally shiny) Cristiano Ronaldo pulled the balls from the hopper, I prayed for a spot in Group D or Group G...but was dumped into Group F with defending champions Barcelona (now under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez), Portuguese runners-up Porto and French runners-up, Monaco. I'll gladly take whatever points we can get -- I intend to play on the counter, and have no expectation of getting out of the Group.

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Elsewhere, Norkopping, Elfsborg and AIK all crashed out of the Europa League playoff. I am the last Swedish team alive in Europe.

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Where, oh, where has Hampus gone? Oh, where, oh, where could he be?!



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Malmö FF

2018 Review

It is December 12, 2018, and Malmö’s season has come to an end, nearly 11 months to the day after it began.

At home in Sweden, the oppressive darkness has long since set in. I sit alone in the bowels of the Estádio do Dragão, savoring the moment. The bus is waiting. I don’t care. Let them wait.

There will be no Mallora this year with the interns. No, not this year. This year things must be different. Pre-season begins in 5 weeks. There is work to be done. In Malmö. The interns? They’re unpaid, but perhaps it’s time we bring them on staff.

Plus, there’s Hampus. Still missing. Sight unseen. We’ve worn black armbands in his honor. Even his shut-in mother has taken to attending matches. The Ultras have adopted her as a den mother, of sorts, and rumors abound that she has been marshalling them from behind the scenes. Choreographing their tifo displays. Organizing proper away trips in Europe – ensuring the lads get where they’re going on time, if not in full control of their senses. Watching her bounce when we scored the third at home to Porto was a moment none of us will ever forget. The old bird is tougher than leather, with a tender heart. Strange to think that a woman so hardened by life, so focused on gripping her son tightly lest he slip from her grasp...that her loss and mourning has caused her to embrace that which led her sweet son astray. To Norway. To drink. To that bloody yacht.

Yes, it is time to focus. To ignore the job offers pouring in from across the continent, including from multiple “nearly men” sides from across the Continent. There will be time enough for the likes of Frankfurt, Mönchengladbach, Stade de Reims and Saint-Étienne. I have unfinished business to attend to.

The Allsvenskan is ours, but I know they’ll be plotting in Stockholm. In Göteborg. Everywhere. We’re marked now. We cannot rest. We must steal a march. Champions twice in a row, with the Svenska Cupen to boot, and a glorious run in Europe? They’ll be gunning for us. The hunted? No, let them think that. While we prepare.

The squad rotation policy we employed paid off, but needs minor tweaking. Some new blood from the youth sides is in need of promotion, and we have a body or two to move on. 2 full XIs, rotating throughout the season, to keep the lads fresh. No room for sentiment. This is football, not tiddlywinks. Our youth and training facilities are already under renovation...$15M worth. Virtually every penny we won on this mad journey across the Continent is being poured back into the club - better facilities, more staff, more comprehensive youth recruitment. It is upon this rock that I shall build my temple.

Tactically? Spot on. No need to be shy, especially at home under the bright lights in Europe. A little luck doesn’t hurt either, as Porto showed us, with their idiotic red cards allowing us to push them hard in both matches. Monaco never expected us to play our game, even in Sweden. The audacity was astounding. Once we rushed ahead and took an early 2-goal lead, there was no way back. They fought, but it was too late. Even Barcelona - mighty Barcelona - came to Sweden unprepared for our onslaught...to our great pleasure, we caught them napping and raced out to a 2-0 lead. Sure, their tenacity and skill caught up with us in the end. But, there can be no doubt that fortune favors the bold.

The horn blares. Again. I’m coming lads. You can’t leave without me. Back to Malmö. Home. To focus on the year to come. Without distractions. Maybe a celebratory glass of wine on the plane home...for Hampus. I think he would have wanted it this way. I just wish he’d been here to see it.

Goals for 2019: Reach the Champions League Knockout Rounds. Maintain domestic dominance. Continue to develop our depth.

Squad | League Overview | Finances Overview | Income Detail | Expenditures Detail | Transfers

Allsvenskan Fixtures | Champions League Fixtures / Group Table | Svenska Cupen Fixtures

Challenge Overview:

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Ok, I know I promised a full-blown squad review...but it has been a long day, so you're getting a clipped version of it.

It was a great year, with a tremendous run in Europe that far surpassed my expectations. The truth of the matter is that I walked into a strong side. Some of my signings are looking fantastic, and are forming the backbone of my side. 3 that I'm truly excited about:

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Papp is a superstar...I couldn't believe it when I signed him 2 years ago -- no competition at all. He's got big clubs sniffing all around him, but seems to be at/near his PA ceiling. If I can keep him, he'll be extremely key as my 4-1-2-3 DM Wide relies heavily on attacking wingbacks. He became my first-choice left back at the start of 2018, and will remain in that slot as long as I can keep him.

Pereira broke into the first XI this year, and has been brilliant. Lindahl has not developed as well as I would have liked over the last year, into central midfield. I don't play with an AMC, and I'd really like to deploy him deeper...he's been on the bench of my 2nd XI all year (filling in as a sub with the 1st XI occasionally). Next year, he'll be a starter in the 2nd XI...he's unfortunately behind Pohjanpalo and Kaya for my sole central forward position. Pohjanpalo was an AI signing, and has been brilliant. Kaya has tons of promise, with lots of bigger clubs sniffing around.

Kaya (and a few others) have pitched fits when I reject the bids that come in, but always comes back around -- I sign them up on new contracts if/when possible/necessary, and demand a 2-year extension clauses. Lots of reassurance that no one will go out of contract too soon, or leave cheaply. Players seem to bristle more when bids are rejected this year, but more often than not I find that in the oft-called team meetings to discuss what an SOB I have been to a teammate, everyone ends up agreeing with me that selling PlayerX would be a disaster, and side with me. Thus far, at least...

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Great progress so far. How are you finding the homegrown requirements in Sweden? I'm anticipating more difficulty in Europe with players developed in the country, but it's always at the forefront of my thinking with signings.

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Thanks, man. 9 homegrown players in the matchday squad hasn't been too annoying, or l restricted me thus far. I'm very much focusing my transfers on U18 players so that in another year, that won't be a problem at all -- that's the long and short of how I'm dealing with it! Frankly, it isn't a problem at all for Europe, as that rule will be met if you can meet the Allsvenskan requirements.

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Yep, that's how I got around it in Norway too, but I had the facilities to ensure even the players not involved in the first team were able to develop. It is a bit harder in my current save, as I have had to loan them out to other Swedish sides instead, which means they become homegrown by nation instead of club. A minor issue at the moment, but could be a problem later.

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Ahh. Good point. I generally don't loan out my players (at least, those with any hope of being in the senior squad), and have a top-to-bottom training regime that means everyone develops somewhat. Fingers crossed that it works out for you!

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All work and no play makes Aidan Cyr a dull boy. :p

I've been too busy at work to play, much less update. Hopefully I'll be able to dive into the new season over the weekend...and catch up on what you lunatics are all up to!

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Malmö FF Begin 2019 Campaign; Prominent Supporter Still Missing

By Angar Gunnarsson, on assignment, with Brita Nilsdotter from Stockholm.

Saturday, February 2, 2019.

Malmö, Sweden – A heart-wrenching morning outside the Swedbank Stadion, where senior Malmö FF staff and supporters gathered to mark the beginning of the 2019 campaign, before this evening's friendly match against Viborg FF. A moment of silence was held in honor of Hampus Lindgren, the YouTube personality and supporter last seen on August 8th, charging aboard a luxury yacht only to disappear shortly thereafter into the Nordic night.

The moment of silence was broken by the cries of Mr. Lindgren's dear mother, who was clad in the latest gear from the Malmö club shop, from her sky blue trainers to the stocking cap on her abnormally-large head. The Malmö Ultras (recently re-christened as the "Super Troupers"), Håkan Telleus comforted Ms. Lindgren with a rousing song, promising to build bonfires made of AIK and Göteborg fans, before burning the ******* lot. Ms. Lindgren, tears still rolling down her face, promptly led the assembled masses in a call-and-response of "Oh, Malmö ... is wonderful," before being carried to a platform erected in the plaza, where American manager Aidan Cyr waited.

Together, Mr. Cyr and Ms. Lindgren lit "an eternal flame" in Hampus' honor.

"Today, this 2nd day of February, is the 178th day since our dear friend Hampus was last seen," intoned Mr. Cyr. "We shall not lose hope. We shall not fear for his safe return. Let this flame guide him home to us -- to his dear mother, his beloved Malmö, his cat Angelina, and his prodigious collection of Star Wars figurines. Let Hampus' courage inspire us. Let him lead us to glory, so that when he returns, he shall find us having celebrated life and football in his honor. For Hampus, we shall conquer!!! And, when he has returned, let this flame -- this eternal flame -- lead us to glory across this great city, this glorious nation and the whole of Europe!!!"

At this, the crowd erupted with chants of UP DI BLÅE! and all were swept away in a tide of cheering, singing, blue-clad supporters, into the Swedbank Stadion, where the stylings of Sonic Death Penguin could be heard as the players assembled in the tunnel.

To what end, this quest for glory? We can only hope that Hampus will be here to revel in every glory and drown every heartbreak with his brothers and sisters in arms.

A version of this article appears on page B1 of the February 2, 2019, print version of the Sydvenska Dagbladet.

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