Lars Høgh

Lars Høgh
Essay | Written by: Bo Jessen | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Sunday, November 21, 2021

Lars Høgh is a man without public critics. For most of us, this would indicate that we never really made an impact. But not Lars.

Lars Høgh figures prominently in my – and many others’ – conception of OB and Odense, though he’s never been the loudest on the team, or the one to elbow his way to the front of the crowd.

This is both a personal and affectionate homage to an athlete who is also simply good at being a decent human being. And, for me, perhaps also a portrait of OB and Odense, for better or worse.

Lars Høgh’s talent for embracing life and the people he meets along the way has inspired many, but probably also – once in a while – irritated more than me alone. To try to compare yourself to Lars Høgh is like standing in the shadow of your own reflection. Always prepared and determined. Always friendly. Always taking time for others. Always positive. Never involved in a conflict. Who can live up to that?

If anyone has other tales to tell about Lars, their whispers are drowned out by thousands of positive personal anecdotes, which, cobbled together, make up the myth of Lars Høgh.

Which is probably why I feel like the words I write here will never quite do him justice. But I’ll write them none the less.

Let’s start with the thing that, ironically, most often gets filtered out by the media portraits of the man: The football. The cold, hard facts alone aren’t enough to make the man a legend, or so goes the perfunctory introduction to the journalistic report on Lars Høgh.

Lars Høgh Cup Champion in 1983
Photo: Carsten Andreasen

I guess I’m as contrary as you can get to this point. Because that opinion has – in a single sentence – reduced the game of football to a simple matter of tallying points, titles, high salaries, and the names of big foreign football clubs.

It’s the same as the idea that the structure of the Superliga’s new final round, games all week long, and a never-ending expansion of the sport’s commercial pie are all necessary if little Denmark wants to compete on a European level. It’s a fair perspective, but for me, that’s not what it’s all about.

And Lars Høgh is my proof. When the Berlin wall came down and football rushed towards the end of history, where big TV contracts, betting sponsors, and new European club tournaments were the answer before anyone even took the time to consider the question, Lars Høgh was already there, standing goal for OB.  A debut in 1977 and then 100. 200. 300. 400. 500. 600. 700. 800… 817 matches. From beers in the locker room to Fitbits in bed. Never before. Never again are we going to experience the like.

Lars Høgh wins the Cup Final in 1991 against AaB at Odense Stadium.
Photo SIFA Idrætshistorisk Samling

Lars Høgh has as many or more league games for a single club than Ryan Giggs, Paolo Maldini, and Francesco Totti. Lars Høgh’s 817 matches for OB are a much larger accomplishment in terms of modern football than winning a Champions League trophy or becoming top-scorer in the Premiere League.

And for all of us who are old enough to have experienced some of those matches, his isn’t the story of a goal-keeper who lacked the determination or quality to get his ticket abroad. Quite the opposite. He’s remembered in flashes of football-poetry as a player who moved his surroundings every time he stepped into the goal.

Lars Høgh is embraced by OB’s doctor Christen Villberg after ‘the Miracle in Madrid’

A flash of Michael Laudrup, a December night in Bernabeu, as he runs alone with the ball towards OB’s goal, where “Høghen” (the Hawk) employs a subtle feint of the foot to lure Laudrup into kicking towards the far corner and before the foot hits the ball, knows where the shot will be placed.

A flash of match number 817 at Vejle Stadium, where Lars Høgh at the age of 41 commits a half-clumsy penalty kick, gets permission from Knud Erik Fisker to stay on the pitch, and - as if it were the most natural thing in the world – saves the penalty so OB can win 1-0. In front of 2,627 attendees, of which at least half – myself included – had turned up from Odense to say goodbye to Lars Høgh, while the other half participated in equal measure in the celebration. A remarkable farewell season in which Lars Høgh even received flowers from the opposing fans at stadiums across the country.

One of the most gifted goalkeepers in Danish history, who only got as far as he did through pure will and determination, but yet still stayed at OB his entire career. Why?

As Lars himself said in 1993 after a national team selection: “I want to win, and I have ambitions – even as a 20-year-old. But I don’t have national team ambitions, or big dreams about a future career out there in the world of football.” Lars Høgh always been ambitious about making every single training and every single day as good as possible, but he didn’t have mechanical aspirations about career planning his football or his life. Lars Høgh has always done his best, but it’s been sincere dedication in a human form.

Lars Høgh thanks OB’s fans in his testimonial after the end of his football career.

Which naturally leads to the myth about the man, Lars Høgh, who always met ball-boys, football fans, clubhouse fanatics, and the stars of the sporting world in exactly the same way; with curiosity, without prejudice, and as equals.

How many of you have a childhood memory of a blonde-maned man resting after a match or a training session, chomping gum while enquiring politely about you and your friends’ lives? And who picks up the threads of the same conversation the week after, even though you’re perfect strangers?

How many of you have stood some godforsaken place on Funen, getting served an autograph with a big L and a big H, ages after all the other players have trudged into the locker room?

How many of you have experienced Lars’ simple charm – a down-home, salt-of-the-earth kind of charisma all his own?

A whole lot of you have, apparently, since the same stories seem to keep popping up again and again, no matter who you talk to, or read quotes from. All the way from people with a tangential interest in football, to the current coach of the national team, Kasper Hjulmand.

My meetings with Lars Høgh limit themselves to moments like these and to the many OB matches I’ve watched where he guarded the goal. I don’t have access to the deep stories about the weighty conversations and complex relationships he may have with some people in the football universe. Or the loving, yet strained relationship a star naturally would have with a club which basically hasn’t won anything of note before or after he played for it.

Everyone has their own story and together they form a myth. A myth that, for me, can be used to answer otherwise unanswerable questions like “What is OB?” “What is Odense?”. Honest, generous, hard work, rather than pretentious self-promotion. Friendliness and decency and perhaps a bit of a naïve perspective on the outside world. Informality and a total absence of snobbery.

I went to school with a guy who believed that the meaning of life was to mean something to other people. If that’s true, then the point of football must be to mean something for all the people watching. Seen through that perspective, you can’t find a much greater football legend than Lars Høgh.

I bet he deserves an Albani beer, as the Danish broadcaster says in this presentation of Lars Høgh's saves from the match against Real Madrid at Bernabeu:

Lars Høgh back at Odense Stadium for the unveiling of the wall behind the Richard Møller Nielsen stand


Industrial architecture: 21 examples of adaptive reuse

Industrial architecture: 21 examples of adaptive reuse
List | Written by: Pil Lindgreen | Friday, October 30, 2020

A declaration of love to 100 meters of city street

A declaration of love to 100 meters of city street
Essay | Written by: Bo Jessen | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I’ve stood there so many times on my way home. A place that had been a foreign, maybe even hostile land throughout my youth at the other end of Odense. A place that was outside the sphere of my understanding – a gateway to a whole other world inhabited by doctors, local football legends and other fabulous creatures whose existence I could barely imagine.

On the corner of Hunderupvej and Læssøegade, under the enormous oak that – I always note – quite meticulously twists and turns each of the yellow tiles placed over its giant roots. A sort of slow wrestling match between civilization and nature, where nature decides to move another brick every time the mason turns his back, just to see if he’ll keep coming back to sprinkle the sand again. Sprinkling sand and righting the lines.

I’ve stood there again and again – waiting for green at the crosswalk. The time is never so long that my thoughts untether from my senses, but just enough that impressions become something other than clear-cut observations. A grounded dream world.

I look up along Hunderupvej. It’s a damn good space. I think that every time. A space for people.

If it is a warm evening – regardless of the day of the week – the windows at Carlsens are slightly ajar. Often helped along by a shoe or a shirt instead of the traditional clasp. As if to somehow skirt the fact that the closest neighbors can hear everything that gets said, shouted or laughed inside. The windows are dappled with pearls of steam and a soft light shapes the sidewalk and the hundreds of bicycles that have brought night-roused beer enthusiasts to the pub. On the stoop that faces the city there are often a couple of men smoking, or friends, waiting for other cyclists to arrive from one of the other corners of the world. Arms are thrown aloft, hugs clog the sidewalk, smiles are shared.

When I’m standing there waiting, there’s just time enough for irritation. About Barfoed’s ugly zinc pennant logos, which – infuriatingly – have appropriated the space and the history swaying over the two distinguished buildings on the corners of Hunderupvej and Læssøegade.

The light turns green and I walk up Hunderupvej. I look up at the roof of the street, where the false acacias - or Robinias, I think they are – tower. These are trees that green late and shed their leaves early, but regardless of the season present a picturesque crown that grants the urban space a roof and an even more human character. When I walk there in the early summer, I am overwhelmed by the sweet and lightly perfumed scent from the trees’ giant clusters of white pea-flower looking blooms. An aroma that is even more present because I know its time is so brief. Then the flowers are carried away by the wind and down onto the street. Here, they comprise a fine white runner, which frames the street’s dance, where the stories of passers-by are briefly woven together. It reminds me of Jane Jacobs’ image of the good city’s streets, where people meet one another in an improvised ballet:

"This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations."

I walk past Carlsens and arrive at the crook of Hunderupvej. On the right, the sidewalk is wide and the buildings shaped by everyday necessities – simple, but relatively nice, with high basement windows, each telling its own story. Most are rental units. On the left side are the majestic, decorated perimeter-block buildings – both sides engaged in a quiet conversation about red bricks. Successful integration without assimilation.

I think about the Hunderupvej of days past. Back when the cable car carried cheerful weekending Odensians up the street to Hunderup Forest. Back when front yards filled most of the now-broad sidewalks.

And it reminds me that the tall cellar windows are on the right side because it was here that the noises and smells of trade abounded, only troubling the commoners upstairs. Like J.P. Jensens Butchery and Meats on Hunderupvej 23, which later housed a camera shop. Or the little greengrocer’s that sold milk for Sanderum Dairy in number 29. Back when day-to-day life was the street and the street lived day-to-day.

The left side of the street was free from this sort of thing, because it was populated by the upper class (it probably still is). The left side of the street, where every single building still manages to strike an almost symphonic harmony between unique, beautiful ornamentation on the individual units and an architectural sense of wholeness throughout the block. Noblesse Oblige. Old money that doesn’t shirk its responsibility to the town that made it. Like Anton Rosen’s protected building from 1902 at Hunderupvej 34, erected in tile, sandstone and cement. Perhaps a bit too decorative, I think. Though still with a copper pennant which reads 1902 instead of Barfoed.

And on the highest balcony, I sometimes see a couple of young men hanging out in their work clothes. Drinking a beer and talking about girls, I imagine. They really don’t belong there on the left side, I’ve often thought, and wonder if they live there, if they know that they are sitting on a balcony that was designed by one of Denmark’s finest architects? And then again - it’s kind of a moving thought, I think.

My gaze drifts back to the right side. Maybe history isn’t so far away, or maybe it moves in circles. In the basement of number 29, some of the inhabitants have opened a little shop where they sell their own art and will sharpen your knives for you on special fine-grained whetstones and leather straps. They also have a little table and a couple of chairs where they sit when the sun approaches noon – where they join the dancing street. They don’t understand why so many people choose to sit in their back yards, they’ve told me – and they’re quite right. Here on the street there’s room to be yourself and become a part of others at the same time.

100 meters of street where people meet. A ballroom with a green roof for pedestrians. A portal between two worlds. 100 meters of street that tell stories about the daily life of past times and perhaps about the future. Maybe this little patch of street is a reminder about possible futures for other streets in Odense, where it will be possible to live, exist, trade, meet and drink a drop of fellowship on a warm summer’s evening. Where high and low can live side-by-side. A street where life is lived in urban spaces, built for people.

This is the endpoint of my journey. This is my home. Even though I still tell people that I live by Carlsens, and not on Hunderupvej.


On the right to criticize without an alternative

On the right to criticize without an alternative
Opinions | Written by: Kasper Herschend | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Monday, October 15, 2018

The last few years it has been possible to detect a growing criticism of - and perhaps even outright negativity towards - the transformation our city is undergoing.  Byens Ø, T. B. Thriges gade, etc. The article Bygges Byen Bedre? (Can the City be Built Better?) from earlier this year is just one example of this, while a group like Bevar Siloøen (Preserve the Silo-Island) is an example of a group that might be termed actively critical of transformation itself.

A few months ago, I attended a series of talks about civic activism and urban transformation with a focus on architecture. First of all, I learned a lot by being there. But I also became aware of a dynamic that I hadn’t noticed before: That those who take a critical stance toward modernization and transformation of city spaces are unfairly expected to provide alternative solutions along with their critiques.

The Demand For An Alternative?

By which I mean to say that while a group or individual who opposes a particular political decision may well have a stronger case if they are able to present an alternative, it cannot become a prerequisite that in order to be allowed to criticize a decision, a citizen or citizen’s group must at the same time also be able to formulate a solution which has measurably better outcomes than the original proposal.

Counter Arguments

There are a lot of good arguments to support this stance, but I’m going to present two that I hope can set a proper tone for discussion the next time two conservative city councilors sneak in the back door and hijack an article about urban transformation in order to score a few cheap points on the citizen-engagement-scale.

My ambition with this article is to inspire reflection about political engagement. Regardless of whether the debate concerns our surroundings or the infrastructure and service we get for our tax kroner, we have a right to an opinion about the city in which we make up the population.

The Sudoku Lover

Imagine a random person; or perhaps rather imagine an average person. This average person has an array of skills, among which are an ability to solve Sudokus. It turns out she isn’t entirely average, however, because she loves solving Sudokus and spends 3 hours every weekend solving these Japanese math puzzles. Her constant training has the effect that she is now a mid-level Sudoku-loving Sudoku- solver.

This average Sudoku-lover subscribes to her paper precisely because it has made space in the back pages for no less than 3 Sudokus. She buys the paper Saturday and Sunday and as a result spends a half hour reconfiguring numbers in the squares of each Sudoku over the course of a weekend.

Cross Words

One Saturday morning she discovers to her great disappointment that the three Sudokus have been reduced to one, in favor of an expansion of crossword puzzles over her beloved math puzzles.

She immediately sits down and writes a complaint to the newspaper she had otherwise enjoyed for so long. In this mail she declares that she is prepared to find another paper if they don’t reinstate the three Sudokus and immediately banish the imperialistic word game to the corner which had been good enough for it all these years. On Monday morning, the paper answers that the change is due to a notable drop in the number of Sudoku-solvers among their readership and that crossword-enthusiasts once again outnumber Sudoku-solvers.

Support and Facts

The slightly cheeky customer support employee who is manning the keyboard this particular Monday morning tells the Sudoku-lover that she is very welcome to come up with a better alternative, which he can pass on to the back-page editor. The Sudoku-lover naturally declines, feeling that she has a lost cause on her hands.

But what neither the employee nor the Sudoku-lover know is that recently a number of newpapers and weeklies have been in the process of an aggressive marketing push specifically targeting the Sudoku-solving segment because they actually represent a larger customer base than crossword-enthusiasts.

Thus, the Sudoku-solver had in fact unknowingly presented a better alternative, but since none of the involved parties could evaluate the proposal in light of relevant data, this never became apparent.

Adapted Desires

Another, more academically based line of argument takes its genesis in sociologist and political theoretician, Jon Elster’s concept of Adaptive Preference Formation, which denotes a mechanism in the human cognitive system.

In an oft-paraphrased anthropological study supposedly stemming from the middle of the 19th century, a group of scientists note that slaves in the American south’s cotton fields don’t seem to have a burning desire for freedom. When asked about their wishes, most answer – quite contrary to expectations- things like more food, better sleeping arrangements, etc..

The study has since been taken to show how we humans adapt our desires so that they exist within a more realistic framework. And thereby, that our circumstances determine our desires, which combined with the aforementioned study explains why slaves weren’t able to formulate a desire for freedom until their outer circumstances changed enough to allow it to be experienced as an actual possibility.

The veracity of this supposed anthropological study has been called into question many times, but none the less it serves to illustrate the mechanism which Jon Elster brings up, and which he quite convincingly argues exists in us all.

Incomplete Sketches

When you have to make a decision, you do it from an incomplete list of possibilities. If, for example, I have to move because I am being evicted from my current apartment, I make a list of possible solutions in my head and take my immediate choice from it. In spite of the incompleteness that characterizes this list. I hadn’t considered the possibility of living in Odense’s harbor before someone built apartments there and I hadn’t thought of the neighborhood around Skibhusgade before a friend of mine showed me that this was a place you could actually live; Just to name a couple of banal examples.

Unrealistic Alternatives

I haven’t mentioned Elster merely to point out that we make choices from incomplete sketches of our possibilities, but to bring attention to the fact that there are systematic flaws in the sketches themselves. When in a given political discussion we are asked to propose an alternative, we have to be aware that this alternative - according to Elster – is very rarely visionary, because visionary solutions are by nature unrealistic alternatives.

Obviously it can’t be my duty as an ordinary citizen to have to show  the tax ministry how to run its affairs, in order to be justified in criticizing it. And it cannot be my job as an average person to construct a local development plan that ensures reasonable construction in Odense’s harbor, in order to have the right to say that they currently have the wrong priorities. It is without a doubt my right to present objections toward any – from my point of view – unwise proposed solutions.

The Visionary

And that is precisely the point. Because the slaves who weren’t able to conceive of freedom– whether or not they were fictional –  were no less deserving of it. It has to be ok to voice a criticism, without single-handedly being able to propose your own alternative solution.

The hope is that the Visionary one day hears this cry and helps to formulate a viable alternative. But in order for her to hear it, it is important that the critique be allowed to ring out, loud and clear.


Harbour culture festival at sea

Harbour culture festival at sea
Essay | Written by: Rasmus Møller Madsen | Translated by: Laura Malahovska | Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It has become a tradition that my siblings, our common friends and I, sail our ship to Odense during the Harbour Culture Festival (Havnekulturfestival). This year's trip in through the canal was quite a ride through the narrow inlet which ended in 20 minutes of circling in front of Odin's Bridge, while dancing salsa to an awesome MØ remix. We docked at the Byens Ø, sent snaps and group text messages, and the evening tired around quickly. The boat filled up with lots of happy people in no time. With about a ton of guests on board, the sonar was reading 0.4m and the Danish flag was licking the tips of the murky harbour water. But the captain is not worried, nor is the crew. Thousand robbery stories, kisses and hugs later we all fall asleep, arm in arm, wrapped in wooly blankets and kapok pillows.

When we wake up in the morning, the festival has already begun. It smells of barbecue and samosas. A steady stream of paddle-boarders, canoes and yellow water-bikes pass by during our morning status meeting, while we fix a broken guitar string, eat cheese bread and smear factor 30 on each other's backs. The harbour master also drops by for a chat, a cup of coffee and a MobilePay. He is not so busy, because even though there is a harbour festival, the docks are not close to being fully booked. Someone went out and found a festival program and we were surprised at how much there was to experience. And then the days go by. Too fast. Concerts, skateboards, scrapes and bumps guarantees a boat filled with snores every night. It is quite amazing to have a small base in the midst of the harbour, just as permanent residents of the big flat buildings all over the harbour, but something special happens when boarding the boat. All food and drink was shared, new people greeted and stories exchanged of what has been unavoidably missed around the harbour.

We raise our glass to the Harbour Culture Festival. And now back on the rough sea, rocking gently and reading a little more by Troels Kløvedal, this summer's cheesy guilty pleasure.


This Is Odense