For most Danes, football is not just a sport; it is a part of their daily lives and a subject of most discussions. Be it their home, workplace, school, or any other setting; football is an essential conversation element.
Like most European countries, football is the most popular sport in Denmark. Although Denmark emerged in international football in the 1980s, it has managed to make a mark and is regarded as one of the most prominent football-playing nations. Over the years, the national team has qualified for various tournaments and achieved considerable success.
This article takes a look at the evolution of football in Denmark over time and the sport’s current status in the country.
History of football in Denmark
Football was first introduced in Denmark in the 1870s. A team of British engineers played it in the country during their time in Denmark for designing and building a railroad system in the country. From thereon, the locals rapidly caught on, and soon the sport was played commonly in the country.
In April 1896, a football team from Denmark played at a demonstration game in Athens during the Olympic Games. The Danish Football Union was formed in 1889 as the official governing body of the sport and became affiliated with FIFA in 1904.
Denmark was not invited to play at the Olympics again till 1906. The team playing in the event comprised players from the Copenhagen Football Association, who won the event. Till that time, football was not officially a part of the Olympics.
By 1908, football had officially been inducted into the Olympics, and Denmark reached the semis after beating France in the quarterfinals. However, despite these successes, football was not given much importance as an official sport on the home front, and the national team was reduced to playing friendly matches only. The team did not participate in the Olympics until 1952 when it reached the quarterfinals.
The Danish Football Union had barred all professionals from the football team, and the sport maintained an amateur status, due to which many talented players moved abroad. Things began to improve in the next decade when Denmark won a silver medal at the Olympics and finished in fourth place at the European Nations Cup in 1964.
In 1971, the Danish Football Union began an effort to revive football and make it a professional sport. In 1978, the DBU allowed the introduction of professional football in leagues and approved sponsorship for the national team, significantly improving things. Players playing abroad brought their experience to the team and helped the team grow competitively. There was no looking back as the team succeeded in qualifying for various international tournaments in the following years, including the FIFA World Cup in 1986 and the UEFA Euro Cup in 1984.
Denmark National football team
The Denmark men’s national football team is currently ranked 18th in the FIFA rankings. The team won silver medals at the Olympics in 1908, 1912, and 1960. In the FIFA World Cup tournament, the team’s best performance to date was reaching the quarterfinals in 1998. The team won the UEFA European Championship in 1992 and the Confederations Cup three years later.
The women’s national team has been playing internationally since 1984 but did not qualify for the FIFA World Cup until 1991, when it reached the quarterfinals, and again in 1995. The women’s team was also the runners-up at the UEFA Euro Cup 2017.
Football league system in Denmark
The domestic football league system is quite comprehensive in Denmark. For the men, the highest league is the Danish Superliga, which was established in 1991. The league comprises 12 teams, out of which the most successful is F.C. Copenhagen, which recently won its 14th title. It also reached the Europa League in 2019-20.
The Danish Superliga follows a relegation and promotion system with the Danish 1st Division, the second-highest professional football league in the country. The country’s first professional league to be formed was the Denmark series, established in 1965. The league is currently in the fifth tier in the ranking pyramid and comprises 44 teams. It follows a promotion and relegation system with the Danish 3rd Division.
For women, the top football league is the Elitedivisionen. It was founded in 1975 with 20 teams, but currently, it has eight teams. The league follows a promotion and relegation system with the Kvinde 1 Division, the second-highest league in the country.
Football in Denmark
Today, football is the most liked sport in the country. The locals not only like to watch their teams play but also play the sport professionally and for fun. Denmark has more than 300,000 registered football players, while the number of registered clubs is more than 1600. The Danish football team is known the world over, not only for their competitive spirit but also their signature red and white coloured kits.