by Noel Draper
You may have noticed a small and insignificant piece of writing in the Cutter the other day about Sweden’s greatest eleven footballers of all time. You might have also noticed, if you had bothered to read it, that a certain Kurt Hamrin was relegated to the bench and Jonas Thern, a two bit journeyman, was selected in his place. This is obviously a travesty against quite possibly one of the greatest Swedish players ever and a travesty which I shall now attempt to put right.
Kurt Roland Hamrin was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1934. After an uneventful childhood Kurt played for a few youth teams, including Råsunda IS where in the winter he played Bandy ( basically Ice Hockey but eleven a side and played with a small ball) and became well known for his speed and agility. AIK Stockholm took interest in 1949 and he joined their youth set up before making his first team debut a couple of years later at the age of 17. Over the next three years Kurt scored an impressive 54 goals in 62 appearances mainly as a winger. It was while he played for AIK that Kurt earned the first of his 32 caps for his country. These performances obviously brought him to the attention of a few of Europe’s leading clubs but it was Italian giant Juventus that managed to secure his signature in 1956.
Kurt found things hard in his first season away from Sweden but still managed a credible 8 goals from 23 games. Unfortunately Juventus finished in their lowest league position for a few years and Kurt was sold to Padova, being replaced at ‘The Old Lady’ by a certain John Charles. Undeterred by the move, Kurt continued to impress and managed to score 20 goals still playing mainly as a winger. With his help Padova finished in third place in the league which to this day still remains their highest ever league position.
In the summer of 1958 Sweden hosted the World Cup and Hamrin, along with his more famous team mates such as Skoglund and Gren, helped Sweden to the final before being beaten by a Pele inspired Brazil. Kurt managed to finish as Sweden’s top scorer in the tournament with four goals. Not bad for a winger.
Once again, after such an impressive season at Padova and in the World Cup with Sweden, Kurt found himself on the move again, this time to another Italian giant, Fiorentina. He had found his spiritual home. In his first season Kurt managed 26 goals (Charles managed 19 at Juventus) which helped The Violets to second place in Serie A.
Over the next eight years Kurt, who by now had acquired the nickname of ‘Little Bird’ given to him by a journalist, Beppe Pegolotti, who wrote an article stating that Kurt ran ‘like a little bird flying’, continued to shine for Fiorentina and scored a total of 150 goals. During this time they won the first ever Cup Winners Cup beating Rangers in a two legged final and two Coppa Cup finals. It was at Fiorentina that Kurt scored 5 goals in an away match, against Atalanta, which is still a Serie A record to this day.
At the age of 33, Kurt moved to A.C Milan and won his first Italian league title plus another Cup Winner Cup medal and, to top it all off, won the European Cup beating Ajax in the final. In the semi final against Manchester United he scored what he has since said was “the easiest goal I have ever scored”. He could have moved to Milan two years before but Fiorentina were asking for thirty million Lira for the ‘Little Bird’ which at the time was an extraordinary amount of money for a player. From there he moved to Napoli and helped them to a third place in the league. In 1971 Kurt moved back to Sweden and played 10 games for IFK Stockholm scoring 5 goals. At the age of 38.
Kurt Hamrin now lives in his spiritual home of Florence with the occasional trip back to Stockholm to see his beloved AIK play. In total he played 400 games in the Serie A which is a record for a foreign player to this day. His goal tally of 190 still stands at number 7 on the all time goal scorers list. His 150 goals for Fiorentina was only recently passed by the great Batistuta.
So, Kurt Hamrin. A Swedish record breaker. Beat that Jonas Thern. Beat that.