Swedish football family suffering Christmas unrest

December 23, 2011

By Philip O’Connor, Scandinavia sports correspondent

Sweden’s soccer year officially came to an end last week with Wednesday’s traditional press conference and Christmas lunch at the football association’s Rasunda headquarters.

The normally sedate affair was given extra spice by Alexander Gerndt’s conviction the previous day for domestic violence and the FA’s reaction to it.

The Utrecht striker’s hearing in a Helsingborg court appeared to catch the Swedish game’s governing body by surprise.

Chairman Lars-Ake Lagrell, soon to retire after 21 years at the helm, first appeared to suggest that the suspended sentence and fine was punishment enough and that the Gerndt would be given no further sanction.

National team coach Erik Hamren said on Wednesday he had not been aware of any impending verdict in the case.

In a land as conscious of equality and respect as Sweden, that was never going to be enough.

The Swedish Christmas lunch of raw pickled herring, ham and salmon was dispatched quickly as reporters waited for Lagrell to open the press conference.

The intervening 24 hours seemed to have given the FA time to collect itself and the message was strong and clear.

The FA condemned all forms of violence and its seven-person steering committee would meet to decide whether or not Gerndt would be selected for the national side.

Hamren appeared happy to both condemn Gerndt’s actions and accept whatever the committee decided.

The committee meeting of the Swedish FA began at two o’clock and just before six that evening it became clear that the player would not be allowed to represent his country for the foreseeable future.

Anything else would have been very difficult for Swedish football fans – and the game’s sponsors – to swallow.

The question remains how long he will remain persona non grata – for the entire duration of the suspended sentence? Or will his fate be discussed again when the appeals process is exhausted?

One thing now seems certain. Unless his appeal against his conviction is successful, it’s highly unlikely that Gerndt will be joining Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the plane to Kiev for next year’s Euro 2012 finals.

PHOTO: Alexander Gerndt (C) fights for the ball with Bnei Yehuda’s Oz Raly (R) and Itzik Azuz during a Europa League third qualifying round match at Bloomfield stadium in Tel Aviv, July 26, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer.

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