For the love of Skåne

“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.

Birgit Holmquist - thanks to

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? Continue reading

We’re gonna party like it’s 1989

Right straight to the point.  We love Malmö FF.  We love their new stadium (we actually loved their iconic old stadium which still sits next door to the new Swedbank Stadion), we love the pale blue shirts, we love their passionate fans and we love their press office who on asking for accreditation this week told us that:-

“Of course…We appreciate all of the interest around the club at the moment, but when it comes from the home of football it warms the heart a little extra.”

They had me on “of course”.  But this season has been special for Di blåe.  With just four games to go they went into round 27 with a 3 point lead over local rivals (and also a top club by the way) Helsingborgs IF thanks to the passionate win last month.  With both teams kicking off at 7pm on Monday night, the right result could almost put the Allsvenskan on a bus down to Malmö from Stockholm where AIK had been hiding it in a cupboard.  Helsingborgs were away to recent champions IF Elfsborg whilst Malmö were hosting Kalmar FF, themselves Allsvenskan Champions in 2008. Continue reading

The quickest penalty of all time?

The 18 May 1946 is not a day that many will remember as being well known for anything.  If you are old enough to remember, then President Truman gave a televised speech announcing the end of the railroad strike in America and that is probably it, unless you were a resident in the small town of Ängelholm in south west Sweden.

On that night, in a small forest on the outskirts of the town a UFO landed.  The Swedes aren’t known for their strange beliefs such as other nations (Trolls for instance in other more northerly areas) so it was hard to put this down to a flight of fancy, especially as it was seen by a chap called Gösta Carlsson, a famous Swedish ice hockey player at the time.  Gösta claimed that the aliens landed and then passed him some secrets that enabled him to set up a successful natural therapy company.  A bit like an extra-terrestrial Herbalife then.  There is a monument in the forest clearing where the incident was alleged to have taken place which makes it the one of the biggest tourist draws in the area.

The town itself is better known for us younger people as one of the best surfing beaches in the Nordics.  People come from hundreds of miles away to enjoy the wide sandy beach and the strong currents.  It is certainly a nice looking place – free from litter and well kept lawns, and lots of very bronzed Swedes cycling around.

But I was not here for the UFO watching or the wind surfing.  Of course I was here for football.  Ängelholms FF are your typical provincial Swedish football team.  Happy to sit in the mid-table of the second division, occasionally upsetting one of the big boys in a cup and even rarer pushing for a promotion spot.  They have ambition though, and the club have stated that 2011 is their target date to reach the Allsvenskan for the first time.  This season has started well for them.  A 3-2 win on the opening day against favourites Hammarby in front of over 3,000 set them up well, but since then it has been a disappointing series of draws mixed in the occasional defeats.  In their last home game the crowd dropped down to just over 300 which must be a real concern for the club. Continue reading

A right royal affair

Almost three years into my love affair with all things Scandinavian I am still yet to chose my favourite teams in each country.  In Denmark I think I am a Brondby fan, although the hospitality of certain FCK fans is swaying me (take a bow Ivar!).  Norway is a bit more cut and dry as I am firmly a Stabæk fan after being treated as one of their own last season.  But Sweden is a whole different kettle of fish.  I have tried Helsingborgs, AIK, Halmstads, IFK and IF Bromma.  But the one I come back to time and time again is Malmö FF.

Now back on the market

There are a number of reasons why we should be good bed partners.  Close to Copenhagen, yet in a different country (tick), nice pale blue Puma kit (tick), decent vocal crowds (tick) and a ground where the application for a media pass is welcomed, and not treated with disdain (by the way, did you know to apply for a media pass at Wembley, you have to FAX the FA.  Who uses fax anymore?).  However, all was not too rosy in Sweden.  At the weekend THE wedding of the year was called off.  No, not plastic tits and no brains but brawn if you believe the News of the World but that of Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergstrom after it was revealed he had a one night stand with a student from Bournemouth.  Yep – good old Jonas spunked away his future quite literally on a lazy good for nothing Pot Noodle eater.  Granted she was Norwegian, and was previously a professional handball player but must still be stupid for selling her story to a Sunday paper for just £1,300! These Norwegian’s are crazy. Continue reading

AIKy breaky heart

Sweden's number one

Another day, another country.  Today’s 4am start took me across the Oresund and back to Stockholm, just a week after I was last here.  And as luck would have it AIK Solna, arguably Swedens biggest team were at home. Well they are now…

Swedish football is an enigma to me.  Every year a new team tends to dominate – if you look at the Allsvenskan winners in the past few years you can see a pattern emerge:-

2009 – AIK
2008 – Kalmar
2007 – IFK Göteborg
2006 – Elfsborg
2005 – Djurgården
2004 – IF Malmo

The treble winners in 2009...2010??

Every season the team that seems to do well is the one that has the most home grown players.  With Sweden playing March to October they essentially only have the August transfer window to make their changes, by which time the league is often all but over.  So clubs develop their squads, do well and win the league and then sell off all of their best talent.  Of course for the champions this means that by the time the Champions League campaign starts the following July, all of their decent talent has gone and more often than not their campaign is over quicker than they realise.  And this season was so far no different.  After such a stella campaign last season, AIK came into this game 2nd to bottom with just two points, and one goal from their five games.

2009 – Kalmar – eliminated at 2nd qualifying round
2008 – IFK Göteborg – eliminated at 2nd stage of qualifying
2007 – Elfsborg – eliminated at 3rd stage of qualifying
2006 – Djurgården – eliminated at 2nd stage of qualifying
2005 – IF Malmo – eliminated at 3rd stage of qualifying

So next July when qualifying starts again AIK Solna will hopefully get to the “promised lands” of the Group Stages, something no Swedish team has done since 2000/01 when IF Helsingborgs reached that stage.  In the same period of time, look at Norway with Rosenborg and you can see what a disappointment it has been for the Swedes to fail to see their teams progress.

So back to Stockholm on this sunny Tuesday.  Allmänna Idrottsklubben, or “The General Sports Club” are the biggest club in Sweden.  How can I quantify this?  Well they are the current Allsvenskan Champions, the Swedish Cup winners and Swedish Super Cup holders.  And to make matters better, they beat bitter rivals IFK Göteborg in the final of all three.

The old 2 balls on the field trick

Whilst the league is not a “winner takes all” game but played over seven months, but last season’s Allsvenskan actually came down by random luck to the last game of the season when 2nd placed IFK hosted league leaders AIK.  One point separated the two teams and when IFK took the lead in the first half it seemed the title was going back to Göteborg.  But it was left to AIK’s captain Daniel Tjernstrom to net the winner and bring the trophy home to Solna for the first time in eleven years.

The last few years have been disappointing for AIK. A gap of ten years without a major honour has been hard to bare for the loyal fans.  In that last title winning season they had also made it as far as the Champions League group stages, playing Barcelona, Fiorentina and Arsenal in their season of misery when they played their European games at Wembley.

The club have been the best supported in Sweden for many years, taking advantage in some ways of playing at the Råsunda, the 36,600 capacity national stadium.  Their fans are notorious across the whole of Scandinavia, both in terms of their vorocious support but also in terms of their organised displays at home games.  Groups such as the  AIK Tifo, Black Army, Ultra Nord and Sol Invictus are well known across all Scandinavia and try to promote the club in a positive light.

Unfortunately that has not always been possible, and a chat over lunch with two Swedish football fans filled me in on some of the more recent stories about the antics of fans at the top teams.  I myself saw a strange incident at the Helsingborgs v IFK cup game last season and how the police seemed to set a trap, or “honey pot” as I prefer to use, for the home fans (you can read all about it here).  Most of the issues have occurred in games between the three clubs from the city, which have a diverse range of supporters.  For the visit tonight of Halmstad from the west coast I hadn’t come expecting to see fireworks off the pitch.

Where has everyone gone?

After tearing myself away from the Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea hotel where I was staying it was a short ride on the T-bana to the ground.  I was surprised at how few fans were on the train, especially as it was such a good nice – perhaps the lure of Arsenal v Spurs, or dare I say Lewes v St Albans on TV was more important to them.  The station was built with the stadium in mind (take note Wembley!) and you are signposted clearly to where your entrance is so just a few minutes after alighting the train you are in the stadium.

AIK Solna 0 Halmstads 1 – Rasunda Stadium – Wednesday 14th April

Two home games, 1 point, no goals scored – the unenvious record of AIK coming into this game.  On a lovely spring evening all but the hardcore fans had stayed away for this one and it took a rousing rendition of the clubs anthem to generate any atmosphere in the ground.  It was a pity that the team wasn’t on the field at the time as their offering in the first half was poor to say the least.

They lined up with just one player who had actually found the net this season, and he was a centre back (Walid Atta) and it was the visitors who made the early running, spurred on by their following of 46 (that was how dull it was for a while that I had an opportunity to count them!).  The home fans kept up a continuous display of passion but it simply did not filter through to the players.

The first chance came to the visitors in the 11th minute when the Lewis Hamilton look-a-like (the racing driver, not the Lewes FC full back) was tripped as he accelerated dangerously into the penalty area but the free kick from a perfect position deflected away for a corner.  Ten minutes later Alexander Prent’s shot from the edge of the box was well tipped over by AIK’s keeper Tommy Maanoja.  From the resulting corner Emir Kujovic was presented with a great chance but he hit his shot straight at Maanoja.  Then Kujovic again came close when his shot from distance was fumbled by the Finnish keeper but the ball trickled the right side of the post for AIK.

The dirtiest player in Sweden - FACT

In the 37th minute the home team had a chance at last.  Martin Kayongo-Mutumba (don’t fancy paying for a replica shirt with his name on) found some space on the edge of the box and curled a shot towards the top corner but Johnsson in the Halmstads goal did well to tip it over.  One player that did catch my eye for the home team was Kenny Pavey – hardly a Swedish sounding name, and a quick t’internet check revealed he is a Londoner who started his career at Millwall before a spell at Ryman’s League Sittingbourne.  Last season he was actually voted “Sweden’s Dirtiest Player” by his fellow professionals – the first Englishman ever to win the award!

And it was Pavey who created the first chance of the second half as his run into the box and low cross just eluded the two in rushing AIK forwards. On 64 minutes AIK midfielder Sebastian Eguren found himself in acres of space in the Halmstads area. It was too good to be true surely – and it was with the linesman flagging for offside. Eguren put the ball into the net just to remind the crowd what it was like to score a goal (there is a song in there somewhere) and got a yellow card for his troubles.

AIK threw men forward and in truth should have scored at least one if not more from one of the headers that fell to the forwards.  As the game wore on so did the desperation and with just a few seconds left of normal time Halmstads took the lead with a shot from distance from Jonas Gudni Saevarsson that seemed to take a deflection on its way into the back of the AIK net.  Despite there still being four minutes of injury time to go, AIK knew they were beaten.  Their heads went down and the body language said it all.  This was a team who last season dominated Swedish football – tonight they sat in the relegation zone with just two points and one goal from six games.

Facing the music and dancing

I wandered down to the press conference afterwards to listen to the Halmstads manager, Lasse Jacobsson say he was “over the moon” with the result but despite the team climbing up to sixth but he was still “taking each day as it came”.  Or that is what his body language said he was saying anyway!  AIK’s coach meanwhile could hardly look anyone in the eye and talked about regrouping and moving on, but you could see the fight had been knocked out of him.

So that was that – an overall disappointing experience – I had expected more fans to be behind the team at the stadium.  Those who were there cheered the team passionately but they were restricted to the few thousand Tifosi in the north stand.  I do not think there is any long term danger of relegation for AIK, especially as the season stops for 6 weeks for the World Cup and will give AIK a chance to regroup and re-assess the squad before the August transfer window opens.  Quite why the Swedish league has to shut down is a mystery to me – after all its not as if many players are going out to South Africa is it!

More photos from the game can be seen on our Flikr page here.

About the Rasunda
The Råsunda Stadium is the Swedish national football stadium. It is located in Solna Municipality in Metropolitan Stockholm. It was opened in 1937 and has a capacity of 35,000–36,608 depending on usage. The stadium is the home stadium for AIK, and is used for many derbies between Stockholm clubs. It also hosts the headquarters of the Swedish Football Association, and stages 75% of the home matches of the national football team each year, with most other matches being played at Ullevi in Gothenburg. These two stadiums are UEFA 4-star rated football stadiums.  The record attendance is 52,943 and was set 26 September 1965, when Sweden played West Germany.

Råsunda is one of two stadiums in the world to have hosted the World Cup finals for both men and women. It hosted the men’s final in the 1958 World Cup and the women’s final in the 1995 Women’s World Cup. The other stadium with this honor is the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, USA (men in 1994 World Cup, women in 1999 Women’s World Cup).

The stadium is a mixture of styles with one stand behind the goal dominating proceedings.  Think the old stand at Goodison Park and with three tiers and supports down the middle and put them at each end and you are not far from what the ground looks like.  The hardcore home fans are located at the north end of the stadium.

On April 1 2006 the Swedish Football Association announced a plan to switch to a new stadium to be built in Solna. The new arena will be completed and ready for sporting events at 2011, and by then Råsunda Stadium is to be demolished. The new stadium will have a capacity for 50,000 spectators. The name of the new arena will be Swedbank Arena – Swedbank bought the name for 150 million SEK.[3]

Fabege AB and Peab AB signed an agreement to acquire Råsunda Football Stadium and existing office buildings from the Swedish Football Association on December 11 2009. All activities on the arena will remain until the Swedbank Arena stands finished.

How to get to the Rasunda
A really easy ground to get to if you are coming from the centre of Stockholm.  Simply get on T-bana line 11 in the direction of Akalla for five stops from Central Station.  Follow signs for the relevant stand you are in at the ticket hall and you will pop out right next to the ground – can anything be simpler.

You can also get a suburban train from the central station to Solna station, turn right onto Frösundaladen and follow this until you see the stadium on your right hand side.  Both journeys cost 60SEK return.

How to get a ticket for the Rasunda
AIK Solna get on average 20,000 for home games meaning there are plenty of tickets available for all games, although some matches such as the local derbies against Djurgården and IF Hammarby are often made all ticket affairs and are not for the faint hearted.  Tickets can be purchased online from and range in cost from 130 SEK behind the goal to 275 SEK in the main stand.  Tickets can be printed at home.

The sound of the suburbs

My week of travelling

Five games in seven days.  Apart from a major tournament this is a record at TBIR towers but not one I fancy repeating too often.  After heading to the far west of Scandinavia last week for the joys of Esbjerg and Herning, to the barren north of Ilkeston, the chavtastic Dartford (speaking as someone who grew up just a few miles away before I get abuse) to the east of Sweden and the outskirts of Stockholm for my second Allsvenskan game of the season and the fabulously named IF Brommapokjarna.

As I flew into Stockholm I noticed that the snow and ice that had blighted my life for the first part of 2010 was still in abundance across the Swedish countryside.  In fact many of the lakes were still frozen completely and there was clear tyre marks on many as they had been used for impromptu race tracks.  With temperatures forecast to be hovering just above freezing point it had been a wise move to pack the old hat and gloves to avoid a repeat of the Danish frozen fingers syndrome.

The view of the suburbs

Idrottsföreningen Brommapojkarna were formed back in 1942 and by my reckoning have the longest name in any top league in division, a title that Borussia Monchengladbach had proudly held for so long.  The club are actually one of the biggest in the world as well in terms of organisation.  They can boast over 250 affiliated teams, ranging across juniors, youth, senior and veterans levels for both male and females.  But it has only been in recent years that the senior team has made its mark on Swedish football, rising to the Allsvenskan for the first time in 2007.  After relegation the following season they bounced straight back up and finished 12th last season to give them another term at the highest level.

One player the club did develop was Bojan Djordjic who went on to play a single game for Manchester United, and there was a rumoured link up between the two clubs although the only thing they have shared since is the same black and red colours they play in.

Grimsta IP

So after a busy day in our new Stockholm office I headed off to Bromma which sits almost at the end of the T19 T-Bana line some 30 minutes from central station.  Bromma is considered to be Suburban Stockholm and can count former residents Christer Fuglesang (the first Swede in space) and Per Albin Hansson who was Prime Minister in 1946 when he died on a tram. Today the area is more known as the home of Stockholm’s City airport which is the fourth largest in Sweden and a darn site nearer to the city centre than any of our offerings in London.

IF Brommapojkarna 1 GAIS 0 – Grimsta IP – Tuesday 7th April 2010

Red sky at night, Stockholm's alight

IF Bromma are one of the few teams in the top leagues in Sweden allowed to use an artificial pitch.  They have no such problems as our friends at Durham, and are allowed to play in all competitions.  Judging by the snow around the ground it appears to be a necessity on these cold spring days and would otherwise have lead to numerous postponements.  The Grimsta is a funny old affair.  One old covered stand is augmented by single stands all over the place, some wooden, some metal terracing and some concrete.  Plus there is an uncovered area of seating which in inclement weather would not be too nice.  The typical Swedish grills form the focal point at each corner and from my seat in the main stand I had a view of suburbia, which provided some entertainment in a very sterile first thirty minutes where there was not one single chance on goal.

First goal of the season calls for a big cuddle

The hundred or so travelling fans from Goteborg tried to make a noise, and there was a random drummer banging away for IF Bromma but nobody could take away the tedium of the game.  Had so many games in such a short space of time taken away the magic of the game or was this genuinely that bad?  Coming into this game IF Bromma has drawn two and lost one of their first three games, the game we had been to at Helsingborgs on day one actually. Worryingly the three games had yet to produce a goal for IF Bromma although they had only conceded one.  And with our friend Kristoffer Nordfeldt back in goal after his indiscretion at Helsingborgs they had at least been tight at the back.  Visitors GAIS had faired slightly better winning  one, drawing one and losing one of their three games so far and it was them who came closest to opening the scoring in the 35th minute when full back Romario Pereira Sipiäo ( I don’t think he is Swedish somehow) rasping shot from twenty yards just flashed wide.

Top save

Just three minutes into the second half and we had some genuine excitement as firstly Nordfeldt made a great save from a GAIS free kick and then almost with the next attack Tim Björkström tried his luck with a lob from 25 yards that GAIS keeper Jankulovski could only tip onto the bar and someone the rebound stayed out.  But IF Bromma smelt a goal and two minutes later they opened their account for the season as a quick throw in into the penalty area found Joakim Runnemo and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

IF Bromma then started to play as if they had been leading in every game, passing the ball around.  If truth be told I lost interest on the 80 minute mark.  Denmark finger syndrome started to take hold and the media seats were the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat in – they were positioned so far away from the desk that you had to sit on the edge of the seat, which is fine if the game is an edge of the seat game, but when its not its blooming painful.

So the end of my marathon session of football.  Would I do it again? Not in a hurry that is for sure.  Perhaps it was just that the quality was poor, or was it that after 69 games my season interest was coming to an end.  For IF Bromma it was just the start as a win took them up to the dizzy heights of 8th, although whilst the long winter was ending I could only feel their long summer of pain was just about to start.

More photos from the game can be found by clicking here.

About Grimsta IP
A real mixture of stands and styles at the 60 year old Grimsta.  The main stand is covered with seats put directly onto the terrace and a big walkway separating the front rows from the pitch.  Behind each goal are small wooden terraces although at the south end this only extends part of the way as the club house takes up the rest.  On the far side of the pitch are two stands – one is uncovered seating and the other is a more permanent concrete terrace.  The ground can in theory hold 8,000 although it would be creaking at the seams if it did.  The club played for a while at the Olympic stadium to make the necessary improvements for Allsvenskan football.  Picturesque in the summer months, harsh the rest of the year is a fair assessment!

How to get to Grimsta IP
Hop on the green T-bana line from central Stockholm in the direction of Håsselby Strand on the T-19 line and get off at Johannelund which is two stops from the end of the line.  The station is in zone 3 and a return ticket is 60SEK.  When you exit the station, turn right and then right so that you are walking along the main road.  Cross the slip roads on the roundabout (at the crossings!) and walk straight ahead down the incline.  You will see the stadium straight ahead behind the training pitches.

How to get a ticket for Grimsta IP
Unless the visitors are one of the big four (AIK, IFK, Djurgården or IF Hammarby) then you can buy tickets on the gate.  Ticket prices are 250SEK for a seat in the main stand, 200SEK for an uncovered seat or 120SEK for a spot on any of the numerous terraces.  Concession tickets are 50SEK.  You can also buy tickets online at Ticnet
where instructions are also given in English and you can print your own tickets off.  Last season the club had the lowest average attendance in the Allsvenskan at 2,860.  Only one game, the derby against AIK Solna sold out the 6,800 ground.

Double Danish with a portion of Swede – Part 2

I rarely get hangovers these days but after a night of pub hopping in Copenhagen and more than a few Carlsberg/Tuborg/Jacobsens I woke up on Sunday morning with a banging noise in my head.  Turns out I had gone to sleep with my iPod on and it had looped around to a bit of Metallica.  So I took them out and the noise simply got louder.  A quick shower and a nurofen breakfast later and the EFW/TBIR team were on our way north for the first leg of a classic “two games in two countries in one day”.  Not something new for the team as we had more recently seen games at Essen and Arnhem on the same day to add to an England/Wales, Bratislava/Vienna and a Germany/Austrian one.

Classic floodlights

The train north was eventful for the bizarre hobbits sitting opposite us.  Two women, one of whom had a better beard that any of us who complained about the temperature on the train, kept her ticket on a string around her neck, felt she was being “victimised and persecuted” when asked by the conductor for her ticket and then took her shoes off and put her feet on the seats before tucking into a homemade lentil salad that she ate with her fingers.  Her “mate” who kept her back to us at all times appeared to have a plastic face with a scarf keeping a birds nest on her head in place decided they needed a “treat” after such a hassled start to the day and went and got them an instanst Hot Chocolate to share…and to make things worse – they were both English!  Now who is more anti-social?  The group of English fans having a beer on the train or a woman with body odour rabbiting on about patterns on the window (oh how we laughed when we saw them on the train on the way home too!)

Olympia - home of the gods

Our destination was Helsingør, home of Hamlet but there was no time for a cigar here as we headed onto the Auroa of the Sound, one of the ferries that makes the 20 minute regular crossing between Denmark and Sweden.  For it was opening day in the Swedish Allsvenskan, and we were heading across to see Helsingborgs IF, and life for them after Henrik Larsson.  This was my third visit to the stadium, which is becoming one of my favourite Swedish grounds.  I had last been back in the Autumn for a stormy Swedish Cup game versus IFK (See here).  The stadium can actually be seen from Denmark.  Not that it is big, but because it sits on top of a hill, that looks like a mountain from 2 miles away, let alone when you are on the 15 minute trek up.  Capello – simply bring the England team here for altitude training!

The one away fan...locked in after the game

The club had been in the transfer market, with the biggest new signing being Erik Edman, once of Spurs, Torino and Rennes no less.  The visitors IP Brommapojkarna, had retained their spot in the top league last season, probably due to the awful form of the two clubs from the capital Hammarby (who were relegated) and Djurgården (who were saved via the play offs).  Now there are small clubs, and there are small clubs.  But I have never seen a club only have 1 away fan like we saw here – “Come on a unicycle, did you come on a unicycle!”.

That will be my entrance then....

With our press passes picked up (Thank you Mr Ericsson) we went in search of a beer. No such luck in the ground, although the lovely lady in the press area saw that we were three hungover Englishmen and made us some toasted cheese and ham sandwiches.   The ground is in the middle of sleepy-ville Sweden, and on a Sunday lunchtime there was simply nothing open.  Deaks has to be given oxygen to get through this difficult time until kick off.

Helsingborgs IF 1 IP Bromma 0 – Olympia – Sunday 14th March 2010

Three yellows make a red

So all the hopes and dreams of fans across the nation were still floating in the air as the game kicked off at 2pm.  There is so much magic at this stage of the season and it is often the only point in the season when all teams are equal.  And often the magic is dispelled in one swift move.  Twenty nine  minutes into this game, with the scores all level, IP Bromma’s keeper races out of the area to clear a ball but inexplicably decides to handle the ball.  The linesman spots the infringement and alerts the referee.  Realising he has been busted the keeper kicks the ball out of the ground.  The referee wanders over, looking very old school in all black, very rare these days, and issues a yellow for the handball, a yellow for the kick away, a red for two yellows and then another yellow for dissent as he wanders off.  Well done Kristoffer Nordfeldt – a great start to the season.

Eric Edman, the new signing

As is the case in all of these situations that a player has to be sacrificed to bring on a new goalkeeper, and it took a good few minutes and some heated discussions on the touchline before young Dalil Benyahia was brought off who headed down the tunnel to say thank you to his goalkeeping chum I am sure. Up until this point it had been an open game with just one chance falling to the home team when a shot from Christoffer Andersen was partially saved but the ball instead of bouncing goalward somehow developed back spin and the ball bounced to safety.

Nobody knows where the ball is going to end up

Just a minute after coming on as a sub, Benny Lekström kept out Helsingborgs again with a fine double save from Marcus Nilsson.  It wasn’t all one way traffic though, as Bromma also had a chance of two, the best one falling to Andreas Eriksson who saw his chip being cleared off the line by a retreating Joel Ekstrand who then painfully collided with the post.  Half time and no goals but plenty of action.  We retreated into the press room but not before posing for a couple of snaps with Helsingborgs Man of the Century, Henrik Larsson.

Henrik Larsson meets a legend

Now just in case you had been living in cloud cuckoo land for the last few years you may not realise exactly how famous Mr Larsson is in these parts.  He was voted Helsingborgs man of the century a few years back and has a wood carving of himself sitting in the city museum down the road.  He was watching the game with a chap who we all knew, yet no one could actually say who it was.  Wim Jansen? the Irish dad from Shameless and countless others were rejected by Uncle Google.  So if you were there on Sunday and know who he was, please get in touch.  Henrik posed happily for pictures, and we passed small talk about the weather (as us English do) before he left us in peace and went back to the press room (us not him – its not for ex-players you know just us working journalists!).

The sun was still shining and that may have been the reason for a sudden 400% rise in the away support as our sole traveller had been joined by three more, all equalling spread across the terrace.  Less than 7,000 had taken the trouble to come to the game, and that was disappointing as there seemed to be very little else to do in the sleepy town and less than £15 to watch a game in a town where a beer and a bit of pizza (Did you know 7/11 were doing a promotion on pizza?) would set you back the same.

When the football is boring just turn around and watch another game

Helsingborgs continued to push forward but apart from another one of those spinning backwards balls in the 65th minute, there was little action to be had.  And every so often a bing-bong sound would divert all attention to the big screen that showed goals from elsewhere in the league.  Quite bizarre although based on some of the dire fayre I have seen this season at The Circus (aka Upton Park) I think this may just take off in England.  Good old BK Häcken putting two past Djurgården though.

With just fifteen minutes to go we had to leave.  With time tight to get back into Denmark for the main event we headed off.  Of course we knew we would miss a 90th winner, and that is exactly what happened when Mattias Lindström scored.  By this stage we were back on the ferry, having found beer at last and readying ourself for the fun and antics at Parken.  a lovely way to spend a few hours on a cold yet sunny day.  If you haven’t been to Helsingborgs before, go now – literally now.  But remember your oxygen mask for the steep walk up the hill.

Another view of the day can be found at my compardre Danny Last’s blog here.