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Born: Monday 19 November 1934, Stockholm, Sweden
One of the finest goalscoring wingers of his generation, Kurt Hamrin was a key member of the team which reached the final of the World Cup when Sweden hosted the tournament in 1958. He went on to spend 15 years of his playing career in Italy, most significantly with Fiorentina. Still among the highest scorers in the history of Serie A, he remains an extremely popular figure both in Italy and in his home country.
Hamrin was born in Stockholm on 19 November 1934, where he grew up playing football, ice hockey and bandy. A fast and agile winger, he played for both Huvudsta IS and Råsunda IS as a teenager before joining the youth set-up of Solna side AIK in 1949. He made his first breakthrough into senior football towards the end of the 1951-52 season, playing just a single league game as AIK stormed to promotion from Division 2.
Although his appearances were limited in his first season of top flight football, Hamrin became a first team regular in the 1953-54 and was soon called up into the Swedish national team. Remarkably, he also became an international at ice hockey while playing top flight football, making two appearances against Canada in 1954. Although he had the ability to be a very good ice hockey player, he was forced to give up the game in 1955 as his football career really began to take off.
Hamrin had finished the 1954-55 season as top scorer in the Allsvenskan, scoring 22 goals in as many games as AIK finished in third place. Although known for his excellent dribbling skills, he also had the ability to finish runs with opportunist strikes on goal, making him much more of a scoring threat than most wingers. He soon began to attract the attention of professional clubs across Europe, providing a strong lure away from the then-amateur Swedish game.
He signed for Juventus in the summer of 1956, but despite having a decent first season saw the team struggle to a mid-table finish. Ahead of the 1957-58 campaign Hamrin went out on loan to Padova, where he scored 20 goals in 30 league games to inspire his team to an excellent third place finish, although with the frustration of seeing his old Juventus team claim the Serie A title. Nevertheless, his performances at Padova set him up to play a crucial role for the Swedish national team in the World Cup.
Sweden did not seem to feel the pressure of hosting the finals, making a magnificent start to the tournament. After beating Mexico 3-0, Hamrin scored two goals to beat Hungary 2-1 in the second group game and seal a quarter-final place with a match to spare. A draw with Wales sealed top spot in the group, setting up a quarter-final against the Soviet Union. Again Hamrin got on the scoresheet, bundling home the opening goal as Sweden went on to win 2-0.
If his goal against the Soviets was scrappy, his strike in the semi-final against West Germany was perhaps the finest of his career and is certainly the goal for which he is most famous in Sweden. With Sweden leading 2-1 late in the game, Hamrin made a trademark run down the right wing, beating several German defenders as he advanced into the penalty area. Reaching the goal-line, he cut inside and flicked home the goal which took his country into their first World Cup final. Although they lost that match 5-2 to Brazil, having led 1-0, Hamrin's four goals made him one of the stars of the finals.
Following his spectacular World Cup, Hamrin signed for Fiorentina in the summer of 1958 and went on to enjoy the best years of his career with the club. He scored 26 in each of his first two seasons, missing out on a first major trophy in 1960 only after a 3-2 defeat to champions Juventus in the Coppa Italia final. Success was not far away however, as having qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup as runners-up, Fiorentina reached the final of both that competition and the Coppa Italia in 1961.
Lazio were beaten 2-0 in the Coppa Italia final, before Hamrin's late goal in the second leg of the Cup Winners' Cup final against Rangers sealed a 4-1 aggregate win. He scored again in the final a year later as Fiorentina came close to retaining the trophy, finding the net in a 1-1 draw with Atlético Madrid before a 3-0 replay defeat. Over the next few years, Fiorentina were a permanent fixture in the top six of Serie A but were not able to add any more silverware, coming closest when they finished third in the league in 1962.
Hamrin's international career came to an end in 1965, with the Swedish team having gone into decline and missed out on the 1962 World Cup in Chile. In 1966 he helped Fiorentina to win the Coppa Italia again, beating Catanzaro after extra-time in the final, as well as the international Mitropa Cup competition. One year later, Hamrin moved on after nine years with Fiorentina. He scored a total of 211 goals in all competitions, a total which remains a club record.
Signing for AC Milan, he finally won the Serie A title for the first time in his debut season at his new club. That season also brought another appearance in the Cup Winners' Cup final, against German side Hamburg. Hamrin scored twice in the first 20 minutes to put Milan in control of the match, a lead which they never relinquished. Milan lost the league title to Hamrin's old side Fiorentina in 1969, but recovered to win the European Cup with a 4-1 win over Ajax. That proved to be the last major trophy of his career, as having reached the age of 35 his first team appearances began to grow less frequent.
Hamrin ended his career in Serie A with a two year spell at Napoli from 1969 to 1971, by which time he had scored 190 goals in 400 matches, a total which places him seventh on the all-time list. After briefly coaching Pro Vercelli, he back to Sweden and played for IFK Stockholm in the 1972 season before retiring at the age of 38. He later moved back to Italy and settled in Florence, coaching youth teams and also working part-time as a scout for AC Milan. His first club AIK have always remained close to his heart, as he has continued to make regular trips back home each summer to watch them.
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- Published on Saturday, 20 October 2012 12:30