Jun. 10 - In Danish, en kamp means "a battle" or "a struggle." It's also the word they use for sports matches.
There were two big events in Copenhagen this past Saturday: a Carnaval celebration and an important soccer match—en kamp—between the national teams of Denmark and Norway.
Like everything else in Denmark, these events combined vast amounts of beer with strange viking rituals and left me bewildered, disoriented, and more than a little drunk.
Unlike many things in Demark, however, they also involved the influx of 15,000 Norwegians into the city center.
It wasn't a subtle invasion. Clad in their national colors of blue, red, and white, many of them with painted faces, they stormed central Copenhagen in small detachments, sometimes joining together to become companies, divisions, or entire brigades, and sometimes dissolving from bigger units into smaller ones and melting away into the narrow alleys.
This tactical mobility enabled them to react to breaking developments with swift and sudden prowess, as they did to confront an eruption of the Danish national song at Rådhuspladsen, the town center, or to respond to the changing of the kegs at one of the beer kiosks.
It also gave them the tactical weapon of surprise—a weapon they seemed disinclined to use. Most of the smaller units were engaged in in repetitive movements between the barstools and rest rooms of various bars and bodegas.
The Danish national colors are red and white, in nearly the same arrangement as the Norwegian, so some of the invaders were only recognizable as such by the blue stripes on their sleeves.
You would therefore sometimes see a lonesome Norwegian troop cut off from his unit, chugging a liter of beer as inconspicuously as possible, his arms turned to conceal the tell-tale stripes until reinforcements arrived..
There were little skirmishes and enagements throughout the city all afternoon as the marauding invaders confronted, or were confronted by, the roving units of Danish defense.
The tension was further heightened by civilians thronging the main pedestrian walkway (stroget) to catch a glimpse of the Carnaval parade—crowding it so heavily that the parade itself could barely make forward progress.
And yet it did.
The brightly (and barely) costumed young women and the exotically uniformed musicians made their unrelenting way through the teeming masses while roaring drunk detachments of Norwegian invaders and Danish irregulars pressed forth from the bars into the streets, roaring their slogans and fight songs into the already deafening din of percussion and brass accompanying the parade.
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The DMB and I fled the madness at about four o'clock, when it started raining, and decided to watch the first half of the game at home. If things were going well for the Danes, the DMB wanted to go into Rådhuspladsen or Tivoli to watch on one of the big screens that had been set up for the occassion. The game was being held at Copenhagen's main stadium, Parken—meaning "The Park" and not to be confused with en park, or "a park"—which was unfortunately unable to accommodate everyone who wanted to see the game (i.e., the combined population of Norway and Denmark).
Five minutes into the game, Denmark scored its first goal. They held the 1-0 lead throughout the first half. The DMB decided we should go into town to watch the second half, so we rode through the deathly still streets to Tivoli, where thousands of partisans and civilians alike had gathered before the big screen on the main stage.
It was interesting to watch the exchanges between the Danes and Norwegians. For all the bluster of their confrontations earlier in the day, and for all the tension of the game, still unbearably close at 1-0, they had an unaccountable warmth for one another. As a Red Sox fan who's watched more than his share of baseball in New York bars, I was stunned by their mutual civility. Yes, they taunted and provoked one another, but these exchanges almost always ended in cheers and toasts and hugs and kisses, rather than ambulance rides to trauma centers.
Denmark held on to win the kamp, and thousands of Danes began chanting "Enjoy the Ride Home" to their invading foes—most of whom hurled back pride-saving ephitets before embracing their enemies and kissing their cheeks.
I had heard all the horror stories of Euro Hooligans tearing cities apart after games, and I asked the DMB if we could expect things to get uglier as the night got later and the blood-alcohol levels got denser. No, she explained: Scandinavians don't even call their partisans Hooligans: they call them roligans—which you could probably translate as Mellowgans.
It was sort of anti-climactic for me—so I'll leave it anti-climactic for you.
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Tara Lipinski turns 22 today. She shares her birthday with F. Lee Bailey (1933), Maurice Sendak (1928), Judy Garland (1922), and Saul Bellow (1915).
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac