“Scandinavia. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the good ship TBIR. It’s continuing mission: “To explore strange new football grounds. To seek out unusual floodlights, new songs and to boldly go where no other English football blog has gone before.”
Captain’s log: Star date 26052011. We have been tasked to travel to the furthest southern point of Scania, locate the statue of a nude grandmother of a Hollywood star before heading off to a football match.
Far fetched? Nothing is too much for us, or rather for you dear readers. So this challenge was going to be a breeze. Train over/under the Øresund, a quick change onto a bus and head south. Deep south. Until we come to the little village of Smygehuk, the most southerly point of Sweden, and thus Scania. There, facing out to see is a statue of a nuke young woman arms outstretched looking up to the sky. A perfect 10 you could say. Few who visit this point will realise that the statue is of Birgit Holmquist who posed for the sculpture back in 1930. Birgit was the mother of famous 70’s model Nena von Schlebrügge and grandmother of actress Uma Thurman. Well that was handy then wasn’t it?
There was literally nothing else to see in Smygehuk so Ben and I jumped back on the bus and ten minutes later hopped off in Trelleborg. Now here was a strange place. Sweden’s second largest port and the alighting point for many a German ferry, yet there is no railway line? Sitting so close to Malmø and thus Denmark surely it would make sense to build a railway line. I mean in 1917 when Lenin arrived to lead the revolution after being in exile in Sassnitz, what did he do? Hitchhike?
There was always such a big thing in England made of Mansfield being the only club in the Ninety Two without a train station. But there can be few towns left in “mainland” Europe that do not have a rail connection? It is not even as if Trelleborg is a small place as the population is over 25,000. Perhaps a quiz question for someone, somewhere.
But we had the second part of our mission to complete, and that was getting to a football match. And as luck would have it, Trelleborgs FF were taking on Syrianska, the team of the moment in the Swedish Allsvenskan. Why were they so talked about? Well a couple of reasons. This is the highest level they have ever played at firstly. In fact three seasons ago they were in the 3rd tier of Swedish football. Secondly, the are a team essentially made up of Syrian immigrants and see themselves as a sporting voice of the Syriac people. This doesn’t necessarily sit very well with some of the fans in the division, and after a controversial decision in the recent home game against AIK, all hell broke loose and the game was abandoned, and a 3-0 victory handed to Syrianska (see video here).
Trelleborgs continue to amaze in Swedish football. After their best ever finish in 2009 of ninth, they changed their style of play in 2010 to a more attractive passing game and finished in fifth place. Whilst we had been here before, watching a game versus Sunsdvall on a very cold and wet night, this promised to be a much more entertaining with the sun shining and memories of Uma Thurman’s grandmother still fresh in our minds.
Trelleborgs FF 0 Syrianska 1 – Vångavallen – Thursday 26th May 2011
As usual whenever we come to football in Sweden we are treated like royalty, which without being greedy we wish we would, especially if it was like our old friend Princess Madeleine, who is still heartbroken and pining away the hours (we would like to believe). The press officer Jannie took us down the tunnel (stop sniggering), gave us a quick tour of the facilities just as the teams came out. In fact it appeared that we were delaying the entrance of the teams by standing in the tunnel nodding knowingly as Jannie spoke in Swedish to us. We both have trouble understanding Danish without throwing Swedish into the mix!
The teams came out to polite applause, very much in keeping with the neat appearance of the ground and the surrounding area. You would be hard pushed to have believed a game was about to start. Not because there were few fans around, but because they were going about their business in such hushed tones. Syrianska had almost filled up the away section, although based on the fact it could only hold about 70 it wasn’t hard (For the visits of the big boys such as Malmø they open up the terrace behind the goal).
The game started at a great pace with both teams forcing the goalkeepers into saves under pressure. Twenty minutes flew by before we saw the only goal. A great ball into the Trelleborgs penalty was brilliantly chested down by Dinko Felic and he turned and smashed the ball into the net. For a two metre tall chap(sorry it’s all metric over here) his control was exceptional. At the other end Fredrik Jensen, the loan Trelleborgs striker had a chance to equalise in the thirty fifth minute, sending his header straight at the keeper.
As time ebbed away in the first half Syrianska’s Yussuf Saleh sent a stinging shot just over the bar from thirty yards whilst from an Adelstam corner at the other end the away keeper did well to clear the danger. Half time. Time for a sausage and a beer. Doh, of course, we are in Sweden and such niceties of a half time liquid refreshment are not allowed. I applaud their moral stance on the dangers of alcohol although I do find it very two faced that a church is then open about investing in some dubious content – thanks to Luge for finding this one, although quite why he would be reading Adult Video News during working hours is a mystery that HR will need to investigate.
Ben came back empty handed on the sausage front. Apparently they didn’t take Amex or any of his Danish Kroner. “We build them a bridge, we let them use our mobile phone networks, we even give them some of our wind power. The least they could do is let me buy a sausage with some of our money.” (Ben is actually British but is Danish when he wants to).
The second half passed much like the first. Both teams played on the counter attack. When teams line up with a 4-5-1 we tend to think in conservative terms. But here that formation was so that they could break quickly and get met forward supporting the big man up front. Both teams should have and could have scored a few times. The most animated figure in the half was the Syrianska manager who looked from the back like Jimmy White or Ray Von from Phoenix Nights. Great mullet action.
Full time was greeted as if Syrianska had won the cup final. For a team that played with such attacking flair it was hard to fathom why they were so near the bottom of the league. We wandered down to the dressing room area to chat to a couple of the players but our attention was diverted by the noise coming from the away video, recorded below. Top stuff to see.
Trellesborg FF should be applauded for the work they have done. Whilst crowds are sparse (2,322 tonight – less than average in Football League Division Two), they continue to produce good players, and they play the game that is pleasing to watch. They are not in the Allsvenskan by fluke and whilst tonight was a set back, they will continue to be on the fringes of greatness again this season.
Our journey home took us finally to a bar that was serving beer. Was a £9 pint of Brooklyn worth the wait? Of course it was.
More photos from the game can be found here.