FC Dana Karelia was founded in 1946 as a peace project between Russia and Finland. The idea was to select an international sport disciplin that did not have strong traditions in either Russia or Finland but could serve as a conduit with other countries both in the East and the West. Denmark came into the union by chance after the Danish football legend, Erik Dyreborg, scored all five goals in a national match against Norway at Ullevaal in 1967. Dyreborg declined an offer from a Russian club and instead traveled to the USA to play for the Boston Beacons. The American league ultimately went bankrupt and in frustration of these events, and after declining an offer from Sweden, Dyreborg took on the job of building a partnership with Danish coaches and players of FC Karelia. Over the next couple of years, it was possible to build a team that could assert themselves at Europe’s elite level, now under the name FC Dana Karelia.
Beat the Greek top team in the finals
In an upset victory, the team managed to beat the Greek club Panathinaikos in the 1971 Champions League final at Wembley Stadium, after the cup favorite AFC Ajax was decimated by the tragic ferry accident in the English Channel the same year. This was the start of a Finnish-Danish-Russian football adventure, today known as Dana Karelia. A unique feature of the club is that it shares its home ground of Krestovsky stadium in St. Petersburg with local club FC Zenit. Originally, the plan was that the club should be settled in Petrozavodsk and Joensuu in Finland but due to the political situation, this became difficult. St. Petersburg has historical ties to both Finland and Denmark, this may have had an impact on the localization of the club.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, several Russian oligarchs invested in the club, thus providing these stakeholders a springboard into European football. For the past 15 years, Norwegian Statoil and Russian Gazprom gained control over the club together with Group 4 Falck, the Danish security services company (which, in addition, had its own department in the GDR). The Danish company also stands behind the Falck Cup, one of the biggest youth football cups in Europe with participating teams from more than 30 countries. With their progress in the European leagues in the late 1990’s FC Dana Karelia gained a cult status in the Nordic region. After the events in Berlin in May 2005, where residents and tourists were attacked by FC Dana Karelia supporters during World War II commemorations, the club was tarnished with a bad reputation. The aftermath of those events saw the board of the supporters’ club dismissed due to political pressure from Russian and Finnish authorities. The club also had to pay a million dollars in compensation to the city of Berlin and yet more to private individuals.