One would struggle to find a tool as influential as Football which has the power to unite people from all origins, races, backgrounds and cultures. In a world still troubled by racial discrimination, ‘The Beautiful Game’ has perhaps done more to promote tolerance, pride and a sense of belonging among the people than any Government in the world ever could.
While the tremendous unifying effects of France’s World Cup triumph in 1998 and Germany’s dream campaign in 2006 has been well-documented, little known Långholmen FC have been making rapid strides of their own in bringing together a community of one of the most racially diverse cities in the world, Stockholm.
Football has its fair share of fairy tales but the meteoric rise Långholmen FC have enjoyed since their formation just over a decade ago, makes their story a very unique one.
Formed about 12 years ago in 2002 by a couple of English-speaking exiles, initially just with an aim of having a kickabout on Saturday afternoons in order to keep fit, the club is now the pride of the immigrant community in the Swedish capital.
Following a couple of months of enjoying light-hearted games on gravel pitches, Långholmen’s rise to prominence all started off after the predominantly English-speaking group of friends, without much expectation, decided to enroll the club in Sweden’s lowest Korpen league which is known as the Division 8.
However, the founding members could have never envisioned at the time how quickly the club would go on to capture the imagination of thousands of people.
The progress of Långholmen over the years has been nothing short of sensational. The club managed to earn promotion to the Division 7 in their first season as a competitive side before consolidating their position in the 8th tier of the Swedish footballing hierarchy.
What followed next was a spectacular rise for Långholmen, where they managed three consecutive promotions and found themselves in the Division 4.
Then, the pinnacle for the club arguably came in 2009 when they stormed the top of the Division 4 Stockholm Mellersta and finished as Champions to earn a place in the Division 3, just four tiers below the Swedish top flight – a truly remarkable achievement for a club so young.
Although the club suffered relegation back to Division 4 the following year, the experience of pitting their wits against a couple of top sides on a regular basis was cherished by both the players and the fans.
Just when it looked like it could not get any better for Långholmen, on their 10th anniversary year – the club were handed a dream tie against Sweden’s most successful club IFK Göteborg in the Swedish Cup.
It was a true David versus Goliath clash which generated a lot of buzz among the local media. The match ended in a 9-0 loss for the minnows but perhaps never in the history of the game had a defeat sparked so much celebration amongst the losing team.
It was evident that the match was never about the final result. It was about making the most of a momentous occasion for Långholmen and everyone present on the day rightfully did not leave any stone unturned in cherishing every moment of the greatest day in the history of this young club.
Långholmen’s extraordinary accomplishment has been admirable but there would not be any romance in a success story if there was no struggle involved as well and the club are perhaps facing their toughest time yet on the pitch after having suffered relegation back to the Division 5 recently.
Despite the setbacks in recent times, the level of optimism within the club is through the roof. Långholmen now boast a lineup of one of the most culturally diverse set of players in Sweden, with players from no less than 54 nationalities having already represented the side and they now also consist of over 120 members, attracting a strong home crowd at the Essinge IP ground during every league match.
Strictly speaking, football clubs are established with the aim of earning success on the pitch but the effect Långholmen FC has had, goes way beyond the football field.
Långholmen FC is the pride of the expatriate community and has unified Stockholm’s racially diverse population. For the people involved with Långholmen, Saturday afternoons are not just another day to watch a football match but an opportunity to create stronger bonds within their ever growing community.
While one may not expect the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic to emerge from the club anytime soon, Långholmen FC are working towards a much bigger cause and the sky seems to be the limit for this truly international club.
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