"If you want to win, all eleven of you must be friends." This age-old German adage is perhaps one of the most important principles of football - the idea that you can only achieve something if you work together, as comrades both on and off the field.
The phrase was engraved on the Victoria Trophy, given to the champions of Germany every year between 1903 and 1944, but it also bears particular significance to one club further north in Europe. IFK Gothenburg (the abbreviation IFK stands for Idrottsforeningen Kamraterna or 'Sports Union of Friends') have been one of Sweden's elite clubs for over a century, also making a name for itself beyond the borders of the Nordic nation with various appearances in Europe's most prestigious club competitions.
Birth of an institution
IFK's success story began on 4 October 1904 in the Olivedal Café in Gothenburg, where 20 founding members sat together and brought the club to life. The famous coffee shop has now become a bar named 'Aberdeen', but it does still exist.
Just a few weeks after its foundation, the club, which also boasts winter sports and bowling sections amongst others, played its first official football match against city rivals IK Viking and went on to claim their first national title only four years later. In 1910 the Blau-Gelben picked up their second crown.
IFK went down in the history books in 1913, when each and every member of the Swedish national team which drew 1-1 with Norway plied their trade with the Gothenburg club.
Making of a legend
In its early days, IFK was considered one of the country's smaller clubs, at least in comparison to Gothenburg's other top-flight outfit Orgryte IS, who dominated the Swedish domestic scene throughout the early years, pushing the likes of Norrkoping, Malmo and AIK into the shadows. Though they celebrated the odd championship, IFK were far from a leading force in Swedish football.
Things hardly looked promising when the club were relegated into the second division in 1970, just one year after claiming their sixth national title. It would be another six years before they returned to the top tier, though with hindsight their experiences at a lower level appeared to have a positive effect.
Their subsequent revival was in no small part down to a certain young coach named Sven-Goran Eriksson, who took charge in 1979 aged just 31 and soon had the club back on its feet. Together with a number of established Swedish internationals, the fledgling tactician led the side to a runners-up finish in the league, as well as cup glory in his first year at the helm.
The most successful year in the club's history was just around the corner. In 1982, IFK not only lifted the UEFA Cup with a sensational two-legged victory over Hamburg, they also collected the domestic league and cup to complete an incredible 'treble'.
Despite their unparalleled success on the domestic scene, IFK remained a small club on the continental stage. One anecdote purports that the club even had to borrow money from a local fan club to pay for a UEFA Cup quarter-final trip to Valencia.
Though Eriksson and many of his star players, including Torbjorn Nilsson, Glenn Hysen and Glenn Stromberg, left the club after that historic season, IFK still went on to claim a hat-trick of titles (1982-84) and reach the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1986, not to mention a second UEFA Cup triumph the following year.
Indeed, the side from southern Sweden continued their steady development as the country's flagship football club, with the likes of Thomas Ravelli, Stefan Rehn and Mikael Nilsson all starring at the 1994 FIFA World Cup™ in the USA, where Sweden finished an impressive third.
Unfortunately, as had been the case earlier in their history, IFK's wave of success was soon followed by a barren spell. After managing six titles in seven years in the early 1990s (1990, 1991, 1993-96) and enjoying regular appearances in the UEFA Champions League, the club's fans grew increasingly frustrated at their lack of success on the continent and even more so as the domestic trophies also began to dry up.
Yet once again the situation improved with the appointment of former Danish national team coach Bo Johansson in 2003, as well as the arrivals of new stars such as George Mourad. "Basically we needed to start again from scratch," explained the former, while club chairman Mats Persson remembered: "The financial situation had stabilised somewhat and we managed to become a small club again."
Another 11 years would pass before Sweden's most successful side finally won their 18th national title in 2007, adding another cup triumph the following season. Current coach Stefan Rehn, who led the team to glory along with Jonas Ohlsson, said: "It's wonderful, fantastic. I'm very proud of our young team."
Judging by the current crop of talented young individuals in their squad, IFK can look forward to a bright future at the top of Swedish football. Whether they can avoid the same inconsistencies of their past remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: based on the colourful history of the club so far, excitement is a guarantee.
IFK Gothenburg have shared the newly-build Gamla Ullevi Stadium with neighbouring GAIS Gothenburg and Orgryte IS since 2009. The arena holds almost 20,000 and cost around 350 million euros to construct.
The club built its first stadium in the same location back in 1916, before a brand new arena was constructed for the 1958 FIFA World Cup just a few hundred metres away. Work on the new stadium began once the original had been knocked down in 2007.