Rasmus Christophersen remembers. He was just 7 years old, but the details have secured a permanent spot in his mind.
As the Danes played in their first World Cup in 1986, Christophersen watched with his dad. He remembers the 6-1 final score of a group-stage victory over Uruguay. He remembers the funny-looking hats with hands on top that could be pulled together with string to make a clapping motion. And he remembers the Roligans.
That was the nickname given to the Danish fans, who were viewed as the opposite of hooligans. The Danish word “rolig” means calm, and Christophersen, who’s the head of press, culture and public diplomacy at the Danish Embassy, said fans of his national team still fit that mold.
“Everybody’s just happy,” Christophersen said. “For us watching soccer is having a party. … We are here just to have fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
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On Saturday, the party took place in the Dupont Circle area of Washington. Donned in red and white, Danes living in the D.C. area piled into Lucky Bar, drank Carlsberg beer and sang along to the national anthem.
“It felt like being home for a second,” said Louise Hansen, a commercial adviser at the Danish Embassy who moved to the United States earlier this year.
Yes, the fans wanted their national team to win. At the bar, the Danes screamed and jumped throughout the game, especially when Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen scored the only goal of the day and when Peru missed a penalty kick. But Jeppe Helsted, another colleague from the embassy, described games as being “very much a social experience.”
The Danish team has had its moments of triumph. In 1992, Denmark improbably won the European Championship, prompting a celebration that Christophersen said resembled the one in Washington earlier this month after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. The Danes’ World Cup highlight came in 1998 when they lost to Brazil, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.
Much of Denmark’s success this year depends on star midfielder Christian Eriksen, and the Danish fans are realistic with their expectations. This year’s squad will face France during the group stage and might run into Argentina in the round of 16. So true to what you might expect to hear from a Roligan, Christophersen’s hopes for this team are modest.
“If we proceed from the group stages,” he said, “I think that’s okay, a job well done.”
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