AIK (pronounced “Orr-Ear-Kor”) are based in Solna, a city around seven miles outside of Stockholm. Their men’s side were formed back in 1891 and play home matches at the National Stadium (firstly the Rasunda, now Friends Arena). The women’s side, AIK Fotboll Dam presently play in the Elitettan, the second tier of the women’s game in Sweden. The top of the division this season has been exceptionally strong with up to six teams chasing promotion to the top tier of the Swedish women’s game, Damallsvenskan.
Ben Gilby spoke to AIK Fotboll Dam’s head coach, Robert Svanström about his club and players, plus the historic and contemporary state of the women’s game in Sweden, one of the world’s strongest nations in the sport.
Svanström firstly outlined the status of the wider club: “AIK is one of the biggest clubs in Sweden if you measure it by supporters and also in success in different sports. The men’s team get regular crowds of almost 20,000, which, in Swedish club football, only two other sides come anywhere close. The club is probably most known for football but has also has success in Ice Hockey, Floorball, Bandy, Wresting and some more sports. That’s not unusual in Sweden that clubs has several sports under the same name. The club was founded in 1891 and has been successful in football over the years winning the Swedish men championship twelve times (first time 1900 and the latest in 2018). The AIK Women team played their first game in 1970 and having fourth position in the top tier Damallsvenskan in 2008 as their best result.”
In terms of their overall relationship with the men’s AIK side, Svanström explained: “We are two teams in the same club and of course we are getting support from the men’s club. It’s important for the club to represent on the women side and we are having enough financial support to play in the division we are right now, but of course we could need more to play in the highest division. In terms of playing matches at the men’s stadium, we had a game at the Friends Arena (54,329 capacity) in May against Uppsala, but that was only possible because the men’s team played the same day. I guess it’s too expensive and there are too many events at the arena to have our games more often then maybe once a year. It was fun to be there for one day but at the same time we don’t have any needs to have it as our home ground. (AIK Dam play at the 4,000 capacity Skytteholms Idrottsplats) The last couple of years has seen AIK having problems to establish in themselves in the Damallsvenskan. We have been relegated three times since 2010. AIK has an identity and history of developing young players and when we are promoted to Damallsvenskan it’s has maybe been a little bit too early for them. The young players have been good enough to promote from Elitettan but maybe not ready for Damallsvenskan. When AIK were relegated in 2012 and 2015, the players moved on to other clubs and AIK needed to start over again with new players.”
The promotion race at the top of the Elitettan has been incredibly tight this season, with Umeå IK, IK Uppsala, IFK Kalmar and AIK’s local rivals Hammarby IF all battling it out with Robert Svanström’s charges for the two places in the Damallsvenskan. Whilst the top sides are doing exceptionally well, Svanström admits there is a divide in the division: “It’s a big difference between the teams at the top and the bottom. Elitettan is a semi pro-league where the players are paid but having other income at the same time. The league is perfect for young ambitious players to prepare them for Damallsvenskan.”