A one horse town in Sweden

I cannot think of one town or city in Europe that does not have a railway station. I remember a few years ago when Mansfield became the last town that also had a football team to get a station, and that wild night of celebration is still talked about today. Sure, there are some islands around Europe that still haven’t moved into the 19th century and got a railway line, but most places that people want to visit for more than sitting on a beach have got one. That was until I started planning a final trip to Sweden for the season to watch a game. I have now been to all grounds in the top flight on the west coast of Sweden, but in the south west corner of the country lies the port town of Trelleborgs. The small team there, who average less than 3,500 for their top flight matches had been defiantly holding onto their top level status against the odds for many a season.

The town is no more than 20 miles from Malmo, and thus defacto less than 30 from Copenhagen, meaning a post work visit for a midweek game was easily do able. So when I found a suitable date when they were playing Sundsvall I started planning the logistics. The bible for anyone who needs to use trains in Europe is Bahn.de, a site that I have yet to fool into thinking the remote destination I am entering is actually ficticious. Throw a backwater unmanned halt into its system such as Stone Crossing and it will find it and show you routes that you never knew existed. Wanted to know that there was a train every day, albeit at 5.34am from Gatwick Airport to Devizes then this site will find it for you in seconds.

So I couldn’t understand what the issue was when I entered into the destination of Trelleborgs from Copenhagen. Stupid me, the spelling must be different in Germany (just in case you hadn’t realised, Bahn is owned and developed by the Germans) so I entered variations such as Trellesborg, Trellesburg and Trellebog. Alas nothing came back. A glance on the normally impressive Google Maps showed me a railway line, but any attempt to zoom in was met with a blank page. I eventually found a town website and sure enough under transport links it clearly says the town has no railway station. Bugger! What makes this fact even more remarkable is that:-

The city is the biggest in South West Sweden
The city is the second biggest port in Sweden thus meaning lots of cargo is loaded and unloaded through its docks
The city is one of the major ferry ports in Sweden, and the main line to German cities such as Rostock and Lubeck
The city is well known for its heavy industry including the manufacture of components for…..railways and rolling stock around the world!
The city is a mecca for people to come and see the nude women statue that overlooks the harbour. The model for this statue was none other than Nena vn Schlebrugge, Grandmother to Uma Thurman! (I am not sure if people really do flock here to see it but the fact it was Uma’s Grandmother is true!)

All was not lost though as there was a regular bus service from Malmo station, taking 50 minutes to complete the 20 kilometres. So I headed over the bridge after work and found the stop and took my seat on the bus full of joy and boheme, of people returning from civilisation in Denmark. The journey took me through some of the most uninspiring countryside in Europe and gives a very false impression of rural Sweden.

The bus deposited me in the centre of Trelleborg, a collection of nondescript buildings with a church in the middle (you can see I am a fan already) and I walked the fifteen minutes or so up to the ground, known as the Vangavallen, which is set in some nice parkland to the north of the centre. The rain had set in by the time I reached the stadium, creating a dull picture for me to view proceedings from the press area at the top of the tall main stand. The rest of the stadium is a mish-mash of styles. One open terrace area where the hardore fans would normally gather, but with the rain falling heavily most had opted to either stay at home or move to the main stand, which sat 6 foot above the pitch, meaning even the 1st row offered a good view. Opposite the main stand was a smaller single tier covered stand with eight rows of seats and proudly flying the flags of all the sponsors (and there are a lot – no such thing as real estate here on the kit!). The final stand is a temporary terrace that was closed off and only apparently used for the big games versus Malmo and Helsingborgs.

I was met with a cheery welcome and a handshake from a steward at the gate who said they had been awaiting my arrival with interest. I can only assume that they had Google’d me and thought I was the same Stuart Fuller who is now one of the US’s most prominent pornographic film directors.

Trelleborgs FF 2 GIF Sundsvall 0 – Vangavallen – Monday 22nd September 2008 – 7pm

Sell outs are quite rare in Trelleborgs
Sell outs are quite rare in Trelleborgs

Trelleborgs are one of those Scandinavian teams that seems to punch above their weight. They regularly avoid relegation by a few points, get knocked out of the cup at an early stage and generally have a significance for being insignificant. Their bestt ever league finish was in 1992 when they finished third, and their biggest ever game was victory over a Jack Walker funded Blackburn Rovers team in the UEFA Cup in 1995. If one was to compare the to an English team it would be Wigan Athletic (without the Whelan wealth) or Bolton Wanderers (without the money of Reebok). With two thirds of the season gone they sat in eleventh place in the league, nine points off the relegation places and ten points off a European spot – so basically insignificant.

Their opponents sat on second to last spot and desperately needed a win to leapfrog Gefle and Ljungskile immediately above them. The rain suited the home team better in a first half where the ball spent most of the time in the air. When the home team did play the ball along the ground they created chances, which was so surprising that time and time again it was launched forward like a missile. The breakthrough came in the thirteenth minute when the speedy little forward Jensen outpaced the Sundsvall defence down the left hand channel and he finished with a quality strike into the bottom corner. Ten minutes later it was nearly two when a well struck free kick from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection that the Sundsvall keeper did well to parry away.

One thing that is weird about Swedish football that I still cannot get my head around is this business of showing goals as they go in from other games around the league. It is even more confusing when the teams on the screen are wearing the same colours as the game you are watching. So I look up and see a team playing in white break with speed, cross and the ball is headed in. Have I missed something here? Was I momentarily asleep or typing? No, of course not. It was a replay of a goal scored some hundreds of miles away at Halmstad. Pointless, utterly pointless.

Trelleborgs continued to cause problems for the visiting defence for the remainder of the first half, forcing a string of seven corners in just over two minutes at one point, although they really need to practice them and add some variation as every single one went to the near post (unless that is the taker could only kick it that far?).

At half time I took a chance to study the crowd, and actually found the away supporters. Now I do not exactly know where Sundsvall is, but I can either assume that it is along way away or their fans had no faith in their team as a Zafira’s worth of them were taking shelter in the stand opposite me in the far corner. From the other side of the pitch it appeared to be a Dad and his five sons plus a bloody big flag. You have to admire their loyalty in getting this far in the rain to support a team that would be hard pushed to beat Newcastle United or Tottenham on current form and that is saying something.

Five minutes into the second half and it was 2-0 as left sided midfielder Sundin was in the right place at the right time to slot home a knock down from Jensen, again thanks to a long ball into the area.  With the weather getting worse by the minute, so did the football.  Sundsvall had no clue how to pass the ball, let alone get the ball into the TFF penalty area, although they did have a goal chalked off for a blatant push.

So that was my trip to the extreme of Sweden over.  Perhaps one day I will return.  The club were warm and welcoming, and I never did get to see what Uma’s Grandmother looked like in stone!

About the Vangavallen – Capacity: 10,100
The Vangavallen has been home to Trelleborgs for over seventy five years although the ground was almost completely rebuilt in the 1990’s. It is now mostly seated although there is terracing at both ends of the ground, one of which is a small five step temporary terrace. The main stand is the oldest structure in the ground and dominates the local area, offering good views of the action. It is similar in design to the main stands at Bristol Rovers Memorial Ground or Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank where it only covers the middle part of the pitch. Opposite is a low covered stand with 8 rows of seats where most of the fans congregate, huddled together to protect themselves from the frequent wind and rain.

How to get to the Vangavallen
The stadium is located in the park area just north of the town centre on Ostervangsvagen. As most visitors will arrive in Trelleborgs via the regular 146 Bus line from Malmo Centrale then the easiest way to reach the stadium is to come out of the bus stand (from the direction you travelled), turn right and carry on walking, crossing a roundabout on your way. It should take no more than 15 minutes.

How to get a ticket for the Vangavallan
Sell outs are almost unheard of in Trelleborgs and you will only see the big crowds come out for the local derby with Malmo once a year. For the remainder of the games tickets are sold at the gates, costing 150SEK for a seat and 100SEK to stand behind the goal. A family ticket for 2 Adults and 2 Children costs 300SEK. TIckets can be booked online at http://www.trelleborgsff.se or by calling 0410 577 80.

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