Danish teams visiting USA in the ‘old days’

Being of Swedish origin, I have of course always known about the reputation of the Danes for being the outgoing, gregarious types, especially in comparison with the boring, introvert Swedes. So when national teams visiting the United States create or experience some commotion, perhaps it is not surprising that they are Danes.

The first little story is from the late 70s, when the Danish men’s team, captained by Anders Dahl-Nielsen, visited for four or five matches against the U.S. national team, on the West Coast and in Texas. I was a referee in the two games in Texas. The first game was played in San Antonio, more precisely at Fort Sam Houston, the birthplace of military aviation. And the old, dilapidated ‘gym’ looked more like an abandoned hangar. But it was the setting for a really first-rate game.

Then we moved on to Texas A&M University, a school where engineering is one of the main fields. So the players on the local team spent the day before the game manufacturing the goals, and unfortunately the paint was not quite dry yet in time for the Danish team’s practice session. But more solid goals with more exact measures I have never seen.

But the real story came during the barbeque party that the hosts had organized out on a ranch nearby. We were brought out there on a cattle transport, and it was very nicely arranged with lots of food (and, yes, some beer) plus a lot of activities. The Danish players especially enjoyed the ‘bareback’ riding. But then we could all here some gun fire. The Danes were not so preoccupied at first, but then someone inquired about the reason. The nonchalant but not very reassuring answer was: “don’t worry; it is just our guards at the perimeter, shooting the rattlesnakes that they spot!!!” This brought the riding to an abrupt halt, and the now very pale-faced players suddenly looked much more like Swedes…

The next episode was caused by the Danish women’s team a few years later, and here the commotion was definitely caused by the Danes. They had a free day at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, prior to the start of a 4-country tournament, to rest and come to grips with the jet lag. The Training Center is a fenced-in area without public access, so in the strong sunshine at the high altitude the players thought it would be a great idea to sunbathe in the normal Danish manner, i.e., topless!!!

Well, apparently this abomination, by Colorado Springs standards, could be seen from some distance through the fence by some people passing by. The local police was quickly alerted and came out in full force to deal with this major security problem. Who knows what kind of riots could have resulted if this exposition had been allowed to continue. Naturally, the police came well equipped with video cameras to secure the evidence. Apparently they saw it as a serious matter that could not be left unpunished. Arrests and/or immediate deportation were being discussed. The tournament seemed to be in danger.

A desperate colleague from the USA federation reached me at home, where I was just about to start my travel to Colorado Springs. The plea was: ‘could I, as someone of Scandinavian origin but familiar with proper American behavior in public, speed up my travel to come out quickly to explain things to the Sherriff; especially to testify that the behavior displayed by these Danish people was perfectly normal and acceptable in Scandinavia and that they could not reasonably have suspected that the habits are so different in the ‘land of freedom and liberty’.

Fortunately, it was possible to convince the authorities, and the tournament could take place with the Danish team [u]on[/u] the court instead of [u]in[/u] court. The worst thing that happened to any of them was a 2-minute suspension. But for some time afterwards, there remained some hesitation about inviting those free-spirited Danes again. About the video evidence collected: I guess we were lucky that this was long before the days of YouTube…