Fans stay silent at start of Stockholm derby

STOCKHOLM - AIK and Djurgarden fans stayed silent for the first 10 minutes of the Stockholm derby on Monday in protest against what they see as heavy-handed tactics by the Swedish FA and sensationalist reporting of crowd trouble.

Such was the hush in the Rasunda Stadium that conversations between the players were clearly audible.

It was almost as if the match was being played behind closed doors, but the ground was far from empty with 24,639 supporters inside.

Set up by 34 supporters' groups representing football and hockey clubs from Sweden, the "Positive Terrace Culture" campaign hopes the silent protest will convince the FA and the media that things are not as bad as they seem.

It will be an uphill struggle given the match became the latest this season to be held up due to fans' misbehaviour.

Matches have also been abandoned with both Djurgarden and AIK among teams affected when supporters threw fireworks onto the field.

The derby between Malmo and Helsingborg was halted after Helsingborg goalkeeper Par Hansson was attacked by a fan while a ballboy, a linesman and a cameraman have all been injured by firecrackers during the campaign.

Many fans though believe the FA has gone too far in banning fireworks from arenas altogether and fining clubs whose supporters sing demeaning songs about referees.

Fan groups have also accused Swedish media of exaggerating the dangers associated with attending football matches, saying that Sweden's football stadiums have never been safer.

AIK defender Nils-Erik Johansson said the silent protest at the Stockholm derby, won 1-0 by Djurgarden, had an effect on the players.

"It wasn't nice," he told Reuters. "We understand that the fans want to make a point and they certainly did that today. It felt like the game only really got going after 10 minutes.

"We are in this situation now where a few people make bad decisions and the bigger group gets punished. It's not how it should be. A whole community should not be punished for what one or two guys are doing."

Whatever effect the silent protest had on the players or the media, it is likely to fall on deaf ears with the FA as once again a game was disrupted due to fans firing off pyrotechnics.

At the start of the second half, both sets of fans ignited Bengal fireworks in a co-ordinated protest, delaying the game for six minutes.

Referee Jonas Eriksson followed the FA's fireworks policy to the letter and removed the players from the pitch as the arena was engulfed in a cloud of smoke.

When the smoke cleared, the teams returned to the field and Djurgarden hung on to win thanks to a goal from Kennedy Igboananike.