Arsenal vs. Östersunds FK: The Fiercest Rivalry You’ve Never Heard Of
In every sport, there are rivalries that transcend all others — Yankees vs. Red Sox, Lakers vs. Celtics, Duke vs. UNC, North Korea vs. South Korea, Alabama vs. everyone outside of Tuscaloosa. For football purists, nothing beats the rivalry between Arsenal and Östersunds FK. Fortunately for soccer fans around the globe, the Europa League will bring us another thrilling chapter in the Arsenal vs. Ostersund rivalry on Thursday.
Some rivalries, like Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, are built through playing each other year after year with a championship on the line. Others, like Liverpool vs. Everton, are built through proximity. The Arsenal vs Östersund rivalry is built through pure, seething hatred of everything the other club stands for.
When the Arsenal vs. Ostersund match was drawn in the Europa League Round of 32 in December, things immediately began to get salty between the two longtime archrivals. Right after the draw, the Östersunds FK Twitter account poked fun at longtime Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, stoking what was already going to be a fiercely hot fire in this immense competition.
— Östersunds FK (@ofk_1996) December 11, 2017
Little did Östersund know that Wenger gave up on zipping his zipper long ago. He has, after all, been in charge of Arsenal for longer than Östersund has been a club.
We can’t be sure, but it seems pretty evident that Östersund has been sending undercover agents to London to sabotage Wenger’s puffy jackets since he arrive at Arsenal.
Östersund also retweeted this video of their coach, Englishman Graham Potter, successfully zipping up his jacket, a not-so-subtle dig at Wenger.
— Svenska Spel (@svenskaspel) February 9, 2018
To make things even more inhospitable for Arsenal, Östersund revamped its entire locker room, turning the entire building into an igloo. Of course the Östersund Twitter handle was there to taunt the Gunners all the while.
— Östersunds FK (@ofk_1996) February 12, 2018
Arsenal’s Twitter account, meanwhile, has been suspiciously quiet this week since the 1-0 loss to lesser rival Tottenham on Saturday. We can only assume Gunnersaurus is gearing up for some sort of vicious sneak attack once he gets to Sweden.
Going against the narrative, there was one nice interchange between the two heated rivals. As Londoners prepare to travel to north Sweden for what will be a bitterly cold Arsenal vs Östersund match on Thursday (temperatures will be below freezing), the Östersund Facebook page posted a friendly guide to dressing appropriately.
While the gesture was nice and certainly to be appreciated by Londoners who like nothing more than to complain about how hard they have it, don’t expect any quarter to be shown when the match finally kicks off on Thursday.
And there will be plenty of Gooners in Sweden this week. Hotels have been booked far in advance in the small town, which has a population of less than 50,000, meaning the entire city could fit in Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
All hotels in Ostersund are fully booked for when Arsenal play ÖFK in February."There are solutions that you may be able to stay in a camping cottage outside the town," says Elisabeth Richardsson, Marketing Manager at Visit Östersund. pic.twitter.com/NAcefguPjq
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) December 22, 2017
Expect Jämtkraft Arena to be packed to the rafters, or whatever sort of edifice the stadium has. The arena only holds 9,165 fans, making it smaller than most Texas high school football stadiums. Arsenal fans will be hoping their Gunners put up a touchdown of goals against the small Swedish club, which only earned promotion to the Allsvenskan for the first time in 2016 and is in its first-ever European competition. Such is the ferocity of the rivalry between these two clubs.
When the Arsenal vs. Ostersund match finally kicks off on Thursday, it will be the consummation of an intense rivalry dating back decades, if not centuries — who can really tell when the hate runs this deep? We just hope the two sets of fans are on their best behavior and the Swedish riot police are ready for anything. It’s going to get nasty.