We knew that travelling to Madrid with the Malmö faithful would be a unique experience.
The Swedish minnows fan base are not only remarkably passionate, but organised enough to schedule a private charter flight for 200 dedicated fans to make the trip over – and back again, in the small hours of the morning after the game. All of this is done completely independently to the club, organised by Showan – the head of the Malmö supporters club, Showan is a charming leader who is well-known by certain fans around Europe. After he was attacked by neo-nazis at an LGBT march, supporters groups from all over the continent displayed tifos to show solidarity with him.
Few of the Malmö fans left Sweden with any hope of a victory. Those we met on the plane and in the city spoke about the community spirit of the club, the importance of fan culture and the impressive legacy of their youth system – which is responsible for Zlatan, after all – but none spoke about the result.
Perhaps after that we should’ve been prepared for what we saw in the Bernabéu, but we weren’t. It affected all of us. 8 goals down and thousands of miles from home the Malmö fans were not silent for one of the 90 minutes. And when the away fans were forced to remain in the stadium after the game, the Malmö fans raised their scarves in unison and sang their hearts out to an empty Bernabéu.
A reminder that for all the money, hype and pomposity that European football carries as baggage, there remains an incredible heart – one that transcends all of that, and shines on the world’s largest stage just as it does on the modest turf of the Swedbank Stadion.