It’s the ultimate underdog story. A semi-professional football team from northern Jutland, Hobro IK, is second in the Superliga after rising two leagues in six years.
A majority of the players are students or have side jobs. 31-year-old central midfielder and captain, Mads Justesen, is a high school teacher and farmer. Now he’s playing against professionals in FC Copenhagen and Brøndby, whose monumental stadiums dwarf Hobro’s, which can only seat 6,000.
Hobro’s promotion to the Superliga was secured after finishing second in the second-best league last season. But their chances of survival were immediately met with skepticism by football pundits who predicted that the upstart team would likely face relegation.
Their predictions were further reinforced when they lost a pre-season match against Vendssyel, who only narrowly avoided relegation from the third-best league this year.
But Hobro defied all expectations in the season opener against OB, from Odense, beating them 2-1. And after losing their second match to Randers, Hobro rose to the occasion and beat Brøndby 2-0 at home.
While the team remain committed to their semi-professional status, they made their first ever purchase following their promotion to the Superliga, 21-year-old striker Emil Berggreen. They then strengthened the team with five new players, including Brøndby striker Quincy Antipas.
The chairman has announced that the team will expand its training facilities and talent development as income from ticket sales and TV royalties tick in.
But in a sport where money rules supreme, the success of a team like Hobro IK is a welcome reminder that spirit and talent cannot always be bought. M