Lolly Leaf leads the singing

Every year we have a tradition in the Fuller family. During the summer holidays I pack the bags of the little Fullers and take them away to some far flung place for a couple of days. The criteria is simple – 1) We have to go on an airplane, and 2) There has to be a funfair or a theme park close by. In the past we have taken in Parc Asterix in Paris, Cited’Arts in Valencia, Tivoli in Copenhagen and Tibidabo in Barcelona. So this year we decided to take advantage of the summer football season and head for Gothenburg, a city long overlooked by myself, but now back in my thoughts thanks to my recent trips to Malmo and Helsingborgs.

It met the criteria – Ryanair flying cheaply to Gothenburg City (unusual as it is actually nearer to the city than the main airport), and it had a theme park (the largest in Sweden – Liseberg. And more importantly with 3 clubs playing in the top flight of Swedish football, the chance of a game was almost 100%.

The plan was simple – two days, one night, one game – and as it turned out it was to be IFK versus Orebro SK being played at the Nya Ullevi Stadion – the biggest stadium in Sweden. It seems that whenever I visit Sweden the weather is beautiful – Summer, Spring or Winter. And this was no exception. A beautiful sunny summer’s day greeted us as we landed at the very rural Gothenburg City airport – so rural that on the first approach we had to “go around again” as a cow was laying on the runway. Go arounds are not common – in all my years of flying, and flying on at least 80 occasions a year I can only think of a handful of occasions when we have had to perform such acrobatics, and normally they are due to adverse weather conditions. One of my work colleagues was recently on a flight into Copenhagen with BA on a day when snow was falling heavily. As the plane came into land it quickly pulled up again much to the horror of a number of the “executive passengers”. As cool as anything the Captain came on the tannoy and announced “I would like to say thank you to the authorities at Copenhagen airport who have so diligently cleared the runway of snow, but perhaps next time they would actually remove the tractor from the tarmac before allowing planes to land again.”

Anyway, despite being closer to the city than the other airport, Gothenburg City airport is in the middle of nowhere. It is rural to say the least, and the presence of such amenities of a cashpoint was probably 20 years in the future. However, the local bus company knew of such issues, and as part of the 25 minute journey into the city centre there was a stop at a petrol station to top up on Kronar. We arrived in the city centre, and after a short McD’s stop (oh I forgot to add criteria number 3 for the little Fuller’s – must be a McDonalds near by) we headed off down towards the stadium to pick up our tickets. The centre of Gothenburg is fairly compact, and the Nya Ullevi is no more than a 10 minute walk from the station. The final part of the walk takes you past the building site that was up until recently, and will be again soon, the Gamla Ullevia – although the word Nya translates to New so does this mean that it will become the Nya Gamla? Anyway the old stadium came down in January 2007, and the new 20,000 modern area will be ready in late 2008 although it is not yet clear who exactly will be playing there. The Swedish women’s team, one of the best in the world have already bagged the rights to all of their games there, but with few plans to demolish the Nya Ullevi across the road in the near future it is thought that IFK will continue to play there, whilst city rivals (and much smaller teams) GAIS and Örgryte will move to the new stadium.

The stadium was a hive of activity, as despite the IFK game due to take place in around 7 hours, the stadium was due to host the Rolling Stones in less than 3 days and the crew were busy building their stage and dressing rooms. Construction crews run here and there putting up obscene amounts of lights and speakers in preparation for the first sell out the stadium had seen for over two years.

A short tram ride down the road from the stadium is Liseberg – Scandinavia’s biggest, oldest and most loved amusement park. According to Lolly Leaf, this was the main reason why we had come to Gothenburg. Sod the chance to see the football, and the club that put Sven Goran Ericksson on the map, she was here to enjoy the likes of Hojdskracken, Uppskjutet (surely something that would be more at home in Swedish Readers wives) and Ligebergbanan. Sweden is all about family fun, which meant lots of Swedes dressed inappropriately for the unusually hot August day. And with Swedes being some of the most stunning people in the world, some of the sites were worth the entrance fee alone – you can stick Chessington up your rse!

So we spent the day on rides, eating junk food and basically acting irresponsibly. CMF would not have approved of some of the rides, or some of the games we played such as “If you had a second mummy, what would she look like?”. We had a brief pit stop back at the hotel and an hour after the park closed we were walking along Skanegartan towards the stadium. Just south of the Nya Ullevi amongst the trees is the small Valhalla stadium which is now home to Örgryte, who play in the Superettan (2nd division) in front of crowds of a couple of thousand fans each week. We had cut it a bit fine and by the time we got into the stadium the teams were coming out in the late summer sunshine. However, it would have been rude not to have a beer so we headed to the bar and immediately Lolly was taken under the wing of some fearsome Swedes who could not believe that I was so mad to bring such a young child to the “Bear Pit”. The what??? Oh yes, it appeared that in a stadium of 40,000 odd seats I had managed to acquire tickets amongst the hardcore fans – and IFK are no shrinking violets. We tried to find a seat in the small section we had a ticket for, but unsurprisingly we were surrounded by passionate blue and white clad fans filling every nook and cranny. The easiest option was to move to the front of the stadium and watch the game from there.

The Nya Ullevi is the real national stadium, and consequently hosts Athletics – which means that the running track, coupled with the 3/4th built Rolling Stones stage the view was crap. And I cannot ever remember a decent game played on a pitch surrounded by a running track – I do not know what it is but the fact that the ball spends so much time heading in the direction away from the pitch detracts from whatever skill is on show on the grass. This game was no exception. IFK came into the game in 2nd place behind Champions Elfsborg, but they were made to work hard in the first half by a resolute Gelfe team. Lolly seemed in her element. She has grown up with football all around, and her dream is to be a footballer when she grows up. But she has absolutely no clue on the rules or how to play, but she was in her element joining in with all of the singing at the front of the stand, singing Yellow Submarine at the top of her voice, and even picking up words such as Moderat and Pattar which sound so nice in English (click here to get the true meaning).

Five minutes after half time IFK broke the deadlock as the Gelfe goalkeeper decided to dribble the ball outside his penalty area a la Renee Higeta (The Columbian madman) and was robbed of the ball close to the halfway line by the IFK forward who took one look up and lofted the ball into the empty net from 50 yards. Of course the goalkeeper could have held his head in shame, but no. He decided to blame his forwards, who it appeared were “too far forward” and thus he had to dribble so far up the pitch. In the ensuing chaos the goalkeeper got the arse, threw his gloves on the floor and walked off the pitch and down the tunnel.

The strop took everyone by surprise, especially the Gelfe bench who did not know whether to chase after him or to put a sub goalkeeper on. The referee, kindly, decided to hold up the game whilst the goalkeeper was coaxed out of the dressing rooms, and with the promise that no one would laugh at him anymore, he took his place between the sticks again. Lolly, trying to understand what was going on, simply joined in the singing as they moved onto a fine rendition of “Your Shit and you know you are”…”Daddy – I know a few Swedish words – such as Shit” – oh great…CMF was going to be really happy with me now.

With time ebbing away IFK scored a second from a well worked move, and the 2-0 win took them back to the top of the table and on the way to a Championship at the end of the season. Lolly, filled with passion and songs that would have to be erased from her memory over the next 24 hours decided that she didn’t want to be a goalkeeper anymore – especially since he was a Moderat! Oh dear – some explaining to do again!

About The Nya Ullevi Stadion
The “new” Ullevi stadium is currently the biggest stadium in Sweden. It was originally opened in time for the 1958 World Cup Finals, and has since hosted a number of high profile matches, detailed below. The stadium is similar in design to newer stadiums built in Mälmo and San Sebastian with two sweeping side stands, flowing down to two smaller end stands.

The stadium has an athletics track, and has been used for the 1995 Athletics World Championships, as well as last year’s European Athletics Championships. It is also used for major concerts such as the record-attended Bruce Springsteen concert in June 1985 which nearly caused one of the stands to collapse due to the crowd’s dancing. The stadium played host to a number of games in the 1958 World Cup Finals, including Brazil versus England, and a first round play off between Russia and England which the Soviets won 1-0. It was also the scene of Wales last ever World Cup match when they lost 1-0 in the quarter finals to eventual winners Brazil. However, the record attendance didn’t come during the tournament but a year later when IFK Göteborg hosted city rivals Örgryte in front of over 52,000.

The stadium has hosted the European Cup Winners Cup final in 1983 when Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen beat Real Madrid after extra time in their greatest ever game, and again in 1990 when Sampdoria beat Anderlecht. In 2004 the stadium was used again as a major European final when Valencia beat Marseille in the UEFA Cup final. In 1992 the stadium was chosen not only as one of the four host venues for the European Championships but was selected as the final venue. The whole of Scandinavia preyed for a Sweden versus Denmark final at the Nya Ullevi but it was not to be as Germany beat the home nation 3-2 in the semi-finals, before losing to Denmark 2-0 in front of 37,800 in the final. Today the stadium is being used again on a regular basis as the new stadium is being constructed next door. Spectators enjoy decent views from the side stands, although the summer sun can cause a few issues..

Who plays there?
For many seasons the stadium hardly ever hosted domestic football matches, as the local clubs IFK Göteborg, Örgryte and GAIS preferred to use the more intimate Gamla Ullevi next door. However, as this stadium is currently being reconstructed, both IFK and Örgryte have taken up residence again. The stadium is also used frequently by the National team, the last occasion being against Liechtenstein in September 2006.

IFK are one of the most successful teams in Sweden, and are the only club to have won European honours when they won the UEFA Cup in 1982 and 1987. Despite a successful start to their history in 1908 when they were champions, it wasn’t until young Swedish coach Sven Goran Eriksson took over the team in 1979 that they began to forge a pedigree both at home and abroad. In his first season the club won the Swedish Cup for the first time, beating Atvidabergs FF. Over the next few season the club won two more Swedish Cups as well the League Championship between 1982 and 1984. In that glorious year of 1982 they not only won the domestic double but also the UEFA Cup, beating Sturm Graz, Dinamo Bucharest, Valencia and Kaiserslautern before defeating Hamburg over two legs in the final.

The following season they continued this fine form again with another domestic double. In 1986 the team reached the semi-finals of the European cup, losing on penalties to Barcelona. However the following season they returned to European triumph by beating Dundee United over two legs to win the UEFA Cup again. Whilst the club has since won a few honours, including a run of six titles in seven year between 1989 and 1996, they have failed to win any honours since. Champions League football has arrived a few times during the 1990’s but that is as far as the good times have gone. Last season’s 8th place finish was considered an embarrassment that must not be repeated.

IFK Göteborg’s city rivals are Örgryte IS who are one of the oldest teams in Sweden, tracing their origins back to 1892. Despite their dominance of the game in the early years, they have been without success for a long time. The club went unbeaten for more than four years in the final years of the 19th century, winning ten championships in just thirteen seasons up until 1909. Since then a further championship in 1913 was their last honour until the championship returned in 1985. In 2000 the team beat AIK in the final of the Swedish Cup final with Marcus Allbäck scoring on the way to a 2-1 victory. Today the club languish back in the 2nd division after relegation in 2006 and are playing their matches at the small Valhalla stadium which is located behind the Ullevi.

Finally, GAIS can be found playing at the Ullevi. The initials stand for the Gothenburg Athletics & Sports Association, and the club were one of the founding members of the Allsvenskan – in fact they actually won the first ever championship in 1925. Since their Allsvenskan championship win in 1954 they have not won a single honour, although they did lose in the 1987 Cup Final to Kalmar FF. Last season they narrowly escaped relegation and so this season will be about damage limitation rather than a quest for honours.

How to get there
The stadium is located no more than a five minute walk away from the central station and so public transport is really not needed. From the station turn left onto Drottningtorget, then right once you get into the one way system. When this road crosses Ullevigaten turn left and the stadium is 400metres on the right hand side. You will pass the construction site of the new Ullevi stadium on the way.

Getting a ticket
With over 43,000 places available for each game, the chances of a sell out are very rare indeed in Swedish football. Last season IFK averaged just over 10,000 per game, and Örgryte just 5,000. Virtually all games played here (including the national team’s games) are pay on the door. However, you can purchase tickets in advance from Tickets range in price from 90 SKR in the areas behind the goal to 125 SKR in the upper tiers along the side of the pitch.

Getting around
Göteborg has one of Europe’s best tram networks with 13 lines that cover the majority of the city. The main hub is Well Park (Brunnsparken) where trams radiate out to every corner of the city. Buses also run around the city from the Nils Ericsson bus terminal. The Göteborgs Passet covers all public transport and attraction entry for 225 SKR per day. The card is available from ticket machines at major stops and the Tourist Information Office at Kungsportsplatsen 2.

Local Hotels & Bars
Göteborg is a popular destination for Swedes and tourists alike all year round. It is seen as one of the cultural capitals of Europe, although in the summer when the city opens up its beaches and parks it is a haven for the whole city to come outside and play. Hotels can be in short supply in June and July, as well as major trade conference times.

The Tourist information office in Kungsportsplaten 2 (Tel: +46 31 61 2500) can help if you need to find a bed for the night. The following hotels are all central, good value and highly recommended.

Elite Plaza Hotel – Västra Hamngatan 3
Tel: +46 31 720 4000
Hotel Barken Viking – Gullbergskajen
Tel: +46 31 635 800
Hotel Panorama – Eklandagatan 51
Tel: +46 31 767 7000

Göteborg has some extremely ambitious restaurants, and prices can be high. You will find a mix of traditional Swedish cuisine, fused with flavours from around the world (curried reindeer anyone?). The following are recommended for any visitors wanting to get a feel for Swedish cuisine.

Etc – Kungsgatan 12 (Tel: +46 31 13 2595)
Kungstorgskafeet – Kungstorget 11 (Tel: +46 31 12 7043)
Hos Pelle – Djupedalsgatan2 (Tel: +46 31 12 1031)

If you are heading out to find some traditional Swedish nightlife then head for the area around Avenyn, or one of the following bars which serve a selection of Swedish beers and are very popular with the locals.

Ölhallen 7:an – Kungstorget 7
Bitter – Linnégatan 59
Sticky Fingers – Kaserntorget 3

If you need to get a fix of England or take in a match or two from the Premiership then the following three pubs in the city centre can cater for your needs.

The Bishops Arms – Kungsportsavenyn 36
The Rover – Andra Långgatan 12
Kellys – Andra Långgatan 28

Nearest Airport – Göteborg Landvetter (GOT)
Telephone: +46 31 94 1000

The main airport serving Göteborg is located around 20km east of the city in the small town of Landvetter. It served over 5million passengers in 2006 making it Sweden’s second biggest airport. The airport is well served by UK airlines including City Airline from Birmingham and Manchester, SAS from London Heathrow as well as British Airways. To reach the city centre from the airport catch one of the regular Flygbussarna buses that take 30 minutes to reach Göteborg Central Station. A single ticket costs 80 SEK.

Alternative Airport – Göteborg City (GSE)
Telephone: +46 31 92 6060

Göteborg’s second airport is actually more central – located just 14km north west of the city centre. Thanks to the arrival of Ryanair in 2005, passenger numbers rose from 10,000 to over 500,000 in one year. The Irish carrier currently flies here daily from Dublin, London Stansted and Glasgow Prestwick. A bus service meets every inbound flight and takes passengers to the main train station in 20 minutes. Tickets cost 50SEK one way.

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