Game, Set and Match in Sweden


As regular visitors will know, I love my Swedish football and thought I would briefly summarise the dramatic last day of the season in the Allsvenskan today.

Going into the last game, both Kalmar FF and IF Elfsborg could win the league.  The former simply needed a draw, assuming that Elfsborg won at Gelfe, whilst Malmo were playing their last game at their historic stadium before moving across the car park to the new stadium in March 2009.  Their visitors GIF Sundsvall knew that only a win would keep them up, otherwise they would be joining Ljunskile in the second division.

In the penultimate set of games the goals had been flowing as Kalmar’s striker David Elm helped himself to five in their 6-0 win versus Norrkoping, and Malmo stunned Hammarby by winning 6-3 in the Soderstadion in Stockholm.  This set things up nicely for the final set of games as not only was the Championship to be decided, but also the newly formed Europa Cup spots with both Helsingborgs and Goteborg in the running, and meeting each other in Helsingborgs as if the season needed any more drama.

So with 20 minutes gone in the final round of games, Kalmar were a goal up and looking like they were heading for the title.  The only other real story was that IF Hammarby appeared to have put their poor form behind them and were already 2-0 up away to Norkopping thanks to Charlie Davies’s brace.

At Half Time the scores that mattered were:-

Gefle IF 0 IF Elfsborg 1
Halmstads BK 0 Kalmar FF 1
Helsingborgs IF 1 IFK Goteborg 1
Malmo FF 3 GIF Sundsvall 0
Orebro SK 2 Ljungskile 0

Which basically meant that Kalmar were going to be champions, and Sundsvall would be joining Ljunskile in the second division.

Within twenty minutes it had all changed at the top as Elfsborg had taken a 2-1 lead and Halmstad’s had taken a 2-1 lead at home to Kalmar thus promoting the team from Boras to the top of the league.  Malmo were signing off in style having netted a 5th and Henrik Larsson had scored his last ever goal for Helsingborgs to put them in the lead against Goteborg.

With just three minutes of the season left, Kalmar’s Patrick Ingelsten struck in the game at Halmstad to equalise and thus render Elfsborg’s win meaningless and give them their first ever Swedish National Title.  Two more goals from Malmo meant they signed off in style, scoring six for the second time in a week and thus condeming Sundsvall to the 2nd division.  So that was it for another season.  The Allsvanskan had produced more goals this season than any other one in its history, and one of the closest finishes in memory.  Roll on March 2009.

Final Table
64pts Kalmar FF             2009 Champions League Qualifier
63ptsIF Elfsborg            2009 Champions League 1st Round
54pts IFK Gothenburg    Europa Cup Qualifier 2009
54pts Helsingborgs IF    Europa Cup Qualifier 2009
45pts AIK                        
44pts Malmo FF             
42pts Orebro SK             
41pts Halmstads BK        
41pts Hammarby            
40pts Trelleborgs FF    
38pts GAIS                    
36pts Djurgardens       
28pts Gefle                   
24pts Ljungskile           Relegation play off with IF Brommapokkarna
22pts GIF Sundsvall      Relegated – to be replaced by Orgrytes
20pts IFK Norrkoping   Relegated – to be replaced by BK Hacken

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.

Cool with the little Fullers


 Swedish Football seen through the eyes of a 5 and an 8 year old.

Every year in the Fuller household we have a tradition.  During the school summer holidays I will take both little Fuller’s away for a night somewhere in Europe, taking in a bit of culture, a game of football and a theme park or funfair.  They look forward to these little mini-breaks as if they were huge expensive holidays, packing and re-packing their cases weeks in advance, and looking up their destinations on the internet, impressing their friends.  Past destinations have been Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.  This year we had picked Sweden as our country of choice with littlest Fuller and I heading to Goteborg, and a few days later heading to Stockholm with Lolly.

So trip one saw us landing in the middle of the countryside around Gothenburg on a scorching hot day on Wednesday afternoon.  Having taken this very journey last year with Lolly, I knew what to expect on arrival in the city centre.  Our plan was to walk down to the hotel, drop our bags, head off to the theme park before taking in a Swedish Superettan (2nd Division) game at the Valhalla Stadium – home to Gothenburg’s 3rd team – Orgryte.  We walked down passed the building site of the Gamla Stan – the new stadium that will be home to IFK Goteborg and GAIS when it is complete in December 2009.  The Ullevi stadium, still the biggest ground in the country and the preferred home of the national team is across the road from the new stadium and plans are still being drawn up for the future of the ground.  At the moment with two clubs sharing the ground it is used on a regular basis, although crowds are far from impressive.  The new stadium, with a capacity of just under 20,000 will be a much more intimate venue for football in the city, although it is undecided whether Orgryte will also move in.

We dropped our bags at our hotel before heading into Liseberg – Scandinavia’s biggest theme park.  Littlest Fuller had already decided to be brave and go on every ride she could – so we started with the biggest rollercoaster in the park, which soon changed her view!  The temperature had hit the other side of 30 degrees, and we had to limit our rides with drink breaks before heading back to the hotel for a mid-afternoon snooze.  Unbelievably, the hotel had no air conditioning – scandelous for a four star hotel and we had to rely on a small fan to try and keep us cool, not exactly ideal.  We needed a few provisions so we popped across the road to the supermarket.  I really object to paying silly money for mini bar beer, and as we were in Scandinavia the prices were Timmy Mallet silly – over £6 for a small car of beer, so I reasoned that I could get a couple in the supermarket and keep them cool in the fridge – WRONG! Sweden has the kind of alcohol purchase regulation that you get in countries like Saudi Arabia.  You simply cannot walk into a supermarket, pick up a four pack of Carlsberg and pay for it.  Oh no – you can only purchase beer from a licenced shop, and then it is only 3.5% or less, and even then you can only buy 4 cans per adult.  So I had to bite the bullet and stump up £6 for my luke warm can.  To make it worse I then fell asleep within 10 minutes, leaving the can on the window ledge.  40 minutes later Littlest Fuller woke me up and said my beer was smoking – the sun, magnified by the window had started to heat the beer so much that it had started to evaporate.

The Valhalla was a 5 minute walk from the hotel, and with an average 2nd division game due to start at 6pm we didn’t leave until 5.45pm.  The stadium certainly sounded busy when we walked along the road – very impressive for a club that normally average just over 1,000 fans.  Queues were stretching down the road, and it seemed that we had stumbled on a game that had some meaning – in fact, as my Swedish translation skills kicked in (OK – a bloke in front of me told me in English) that the game was a complete sell out – the first in over a decade at the Valhalla.  The reason was one of those stories that rarely reach the media – similar to Aston Villa’s last game of the season in May 2008 when they visited Upton Park to play West Ham when Oluf Mellburg was playing his last ever game for Villa.  In an amazing gesture he bought every single – yes over 3,500 fans – a replica shirt.  Yes – the shirts were going to be replaced, yes he probably got a discount but even if they cost him a £5 he stumped up over £17,000 out of his own pocket.  How many Premier League footballs would donate a 10th of that?  Anyway, back in Gothenburg and the reason for the huge crowd was that Marcus Allback, ex-Aston Villa and FC Kobenhavn striker had returned to Orgryte’s, his boyhood team to play a final season of his career FREE OF CHARGE.  He had signed a contract to play for the club for a share of the gate money and no salary. So the crowds, young and old, had come out on this sunny day to saw welcome back.  Great gesture, but where did it leave us?  In all of my years of watching football I had NEVER been “sold out” of a game.  Sure, I have had to buy tickets from touts, and on one occasion in Germany 2006 when Portugal played Iran I walked away from a game as opposed to paying the going rate of €250 a ticket.  With kick off approaching I had to make a decision.  There was no way I was going to miss a game where I had travelled so far – sure Littlest Fuller wasn’t too bothered, and we could have just headed up to the Ullevi where IFK were playing FC Basel at 8.15pm in the Champions League 2nd Qualifying Round, but I had come to visit the Valhalla, and that is what we were going to do.

So we moved next to the entrance gate, and I whisphered in Littlest Fuller’s eye – “If you start to cry then I will buy you candy floss when we go back to Liseberg”.  Right on queue she started, sobbing that she wanted to watch the football.  She almost ruined the pitch by saying – “Which teams are playing?” knowing full well I didn’t have a clue.  After 5 minutes I had a tap on my shoulder and a steward handed me a ticket, winked and opened a gate and we were in.  A brief stop for a pint of ice cold beer and a sausage and we took our seat in the main, and thankfully covered stand.  The game was a few minuted old before the home team took the lead, reading the bounce on the artifical pitch when all of the Jönköpings Södra IF  defenders were dithering.  With just 5 minutes on the clock Littlest Fuller was fast asleep.  She still doesn’t really get football and I had packed a bag with books and IPod loaded with a few children’s films for the anticipated boredom requests – however, the sleep meant I could concentrate on the game.  She ended up sleeping right through the game, including the half time break, waking up in injury time and upset that she had missed it all.  I didn’t want to push my luck in suggesting we went up the road for the IFK game, heading back to Liseberg instead.

However, I had a cunning plan to combine the two. In the theme park they had a huge tower, with a revolving passenger cab that slowly climbs up the structure, before revolving for a few minutes at the top giving some magnificent views over the city.  Armed with some of the promised candy floss for the Littlest Fuller we headed into the tower, and spent the next thirty minutes revolving at the top, walking around with the turn to watch the game in the Ullevi.  We were not alone as groups of men paced the same way, with their kids patiently sitting eating on the seats.

After a restless night of temperatures in the mid twenties and absolutely no breeze, we headed back to the airport on the farm and back to the UK for a few hours before I unpacked, repacked, put 2nd little Fuller in the car and returned to Ryanairland for the mid morning flight to Stockholm.  Of course, this being Ireland’s least customer (sorry, Self Loading Cargo) focused organisation we didn’t actually land in Stockholm.  We didn’t even land in the same region as Stockholm – in fact I had to check to make sure it was actually in Sweden and not in Norway.  Skavsta is close to the town of Nykoping some 65 miles south west of Stockholm and linked to the capital by a regular 90 minute bus.

I had already seen one of the guys I had travelled to Turkey with (see Turkish Delight – not bloody likely!) back in February and caught up with him on the bus.  He was with a couple of other chaps who were on a whistle stop groundhopping tour of some of the grounds in the area.  There was really only one game in town on the Sunday, and that was IF Hammarby’s home game at the Soderstadion, or so I thought.  These guys are dedicated and they had a list of matches in the Swedish 2nd, 3rd and 4th division that were within an hour of the capital.  They planned to get a 2pm and a 4pm game in before the Hammarby game.  They did ask if I wanted to accompany them, but I politely turned them down, stating that I had promised Lolly that we would do some “fun” things in the afternoon.  My plan was actually to go to the Olympic Stadion, home of Djurgarden to see if I could get some photos.  Nearly all of my dealings with Scandinavians is positive.  They return calls and emails promptly, and if they cannot help they point me in the direction of someone who can.  All except Djurgarden.  Last year I wrote and called them to see if they could let me have a photo of the stadium for my Fans Guide book.  At first they seemed helpful – “sorry, but we don’t actually have any available but what about if I take one for you myself and send it to you?” – Perfect I thought, but days turned to weeks and with a publishing deadline approaching I had to fall back on a poor quality image.  Before this trip I contacted the club asking if I could come and take some pictures.  No reply by the time I left so we headed up to the stadium as it was only 15 minutes from T-Centralen, the transport hub in the city.

Normally there is a 50% chance of getting into a stadium on a non-match day.  If you look hard enough there is normally an open gate where a groundsman has driven in and you can sneak in so I was relatively hopeful of at least getting some photos, despite the lack of a response from the club’s media officer.  We arrived at the stadium to see a number of people coming in and out of the stadium, following signs for the Nordic Classic.  The stadium was hosting a veterans tennis tournament featuring the likes of Chris Evett and Matts Wilander in a specially built stadium at the far end of the ground, which meant I had full access to take pictures to my hearts content, and more importantly they had bouncy castles and climbing walls for Lolly.  In fact it was hard to prise her away after half an hour, and she commented on what a wonderful surprise it had been for her – well planned I think!

We headed through the city centre to Globen, an area of the city also known as and 6 stops on the T-bana from the centre.  Globen is the name of the futuristic development consisting of a shopping centre, bars and restaurants, a hotel (where we were staying), the Soderstadion and the Globen Arena – the world’s largest spherical arena, and the main concert hall and indoor sports arena in the city.  We checked into the hotel, and Lolly was very pleased to see that the Ljungskile SK team were staying there – and she decided to support them.  Our hotel had an excellent view of the Globen, and the football stadium – it is always a rare treat to find a hotel so close to a football stadium where you can seek sanctuary until the last minute.  In the UK some of the newer football grounds include integrated hotels such as Bolton’s Reebok that has a few rooms overlooking the pitch (although you don’t actually get any crowd noise when you are in your room watching it) and West Ham’s which double as Executive boxes.  So 5 minutes later we were in the stadium, and fortunately under cover.  The stadium is a strange design, and there is talk of them moving to a new one closer to the heart of their support in Hammarby around 3 miles to the east.  It has one open end, with temporary seating, two single tier covered stands running along the side of the pitch and the final end that consists of 6 rows of seats with office buildings above.  With sky’s darkening all of the time it was inevitable that the game wouldn’t be rain free, and those in the temporary stand would be soaked.  Queue an operation of military precision by the stewards as they dished out free plastic ponchos to all of the fans.  And what made it even better was the standard of the stewards.  None of the English-style characters who either look like bored students, fat controllers or failed policeman – these were female, mostly blonde and absolutely stunning.  Worth the admission fee alone!

Meanwhile on the pitch 3rd placed Hammarby struggled to break down the low lying opposition from Ljunskile .  A goal against the run of play had put the away team into the lead mid way through the first half – in fact it was their one and only visit into the Hammarby penalty area.  The home team rained crosses into the penalty area for the remainder of the half, but failed to realise that in order to convert such crosses you actually need someone in the penalty area to convert them.  But the goal did come eventually and they went in at half time at 1-1.  The second half was more of the same, although my attention was drawn to the arrival of the riot police below us.  Not that there was any particular incident, but the fact that the six of them were all female, blonde again and looking as if they had walked off a porn shoot complete with handcuffs, truncheons and filty looks.  It wasn’t just me who had their attention diverted from the beautiful game, but most of the guys around me.  They seemed completely oblivious to the attention they were getting and it took a scrambled goal by Jonokoping to refocus our attention.

With 3 minutes of the 4 of injury time played we headed for the exit although with most of the home fans, but a huge cheer saw most run back up the stairs, causing complete chaos in the stairwell as fans tried to get a view on who had grabbed the equalizer.  You can see how some of the fateful incidents happen at football grounds in such circumstances, and this is still one area that legislation has not addressed.

We headed north, back into the city to go to the Katarina Lift, which is an old container crane that has been converted into a viewing platform and one of the best restaurants in the city.  The view from the top was fantastic in the light of the sunset, with storm clouds gathering over the city centre providing some excellent photo opportunities.  The forecast for the following day wasn’t good, and with rain starting to fall and hunger making its first appearance of the day, we headed back to the hotel for food and some Swedish Allo Allo on the TV.

The following day we were heading for Grona Lund – Stockholm’s amusement park based on the island of Djurgarden.  We headed across the water on one of the ferries in bright blue conditions dressed in our best summer T-shirts and shorts. Over the course of the next few hours we went on everything – whether it went up and down, side to side or back to front, we did it at least twice.  After lunch in the Bavarian restaurant (of course – when in Sweden, eat German) we headed off to the Vasa Museum to give Lolly some culture and to try and explain the reason why the World’s biggest ship in 1628 sank a hundred yards into its maiden voyage – I blamed it on using wood with woodworm which meant that water seeped in as soon as it went into the water as I couldnt really think of a logical answer.  At 5pm the rain started falling again.  We obviously were fully prepared for the weather in our t-shirts and shorts and could only head for cover under a tree. I had promised Lolly a surprise for the final part of the day – a trip to the Ice Bar in the Nordic Sea Hotel.  A great idea in the middle of the summer, but when its pouring with rain entering a sub zero room is probably not the best option.  However, Lolly was so excited and as soon as we put on our thermal ponchos and gloves we headed into the first, and most famous Ice Bar in the world.  With the rain continuing to fall overnight, turning a nice sunny day into one of the worst summer storms in the past decade for the capital, we took refuge in our hotel room, stocked up on episodes of On The Buses and pringles to while away the hours. 

Tuesday morning saw us board another bus, heading for Ryanair’s 2nd best attempt at an airport in Stockholm – Vasteras which is only 68 miles away, or 90 minutes by public transport.  This time the airport really was no more than a couple of big sheds, which was completely overrun by Scouts who had been on a jamboree in the local area.  The concept of priority queuing again went out of the window as the ground staff just boarded anyone they fancied first.  However, I did see a brand new tactic work.  We waited until last to board the plane, and thus there were only single seats remaining.  But, due to the rules on unaccompanied minors on Ryanair, we have to be sat together and so we still got two seats together and some poor person who had probably fought their way to the front had to move – oh well!  We landed on time (queue the appallingly back Ryanair fanfare music to announce the fact) but of course being British we have to tolerate the 45 minute queue to get back into our country.  It is amazing that the joke used to be about US Customs and the time it took to process new arrivals, yet in the UK it takes as long, and we do not have any form filling.  There should be a seperate queue for people holding a UK passport – that would cut down on the queues.  So my adventures with the little ones came to an end for another year.  Two games, four stadiums, two theme parks and god knows how much junk food and additives saw them deposited back to CMF, and me in the good books as a great Dad with children as cool as the Ice Bar in Stockholm.

Who Plays There – Gothenburg
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.

How to get to the Ullevi and the Valhalla
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 for the Ullevia and the Valhalla
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 http://www.ticnet.se.  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 Gothenborg
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 in Gothenborg
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   http://www.elite.se
Hotel
Gullbergskajen Tel:  +46 …  Hotel Panorama – Eklandagatan 51 Tel:  +46 … 
http://www.panorama.se Barken Viking –http://www.liseberg.se

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 
Website:                  http://www.lfv.se

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 
Website:                  http://www.goteborgairport.se
Gothenburgs 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 60SEK one way.

About the Stockholms Stadion
After a season playing at the national Råsunda stadium, Djurgarden returned back to the Stockholms stadium. The original idea of this switch was borne out of a disagreement on the ownership of the commercial revenues in the municipal owned stadium.  However, the team will still use the national stadium for the derby matches with AIK Solna, as well as Champions League matches (if they ever managed to get into the group stages).

The small Stockholms stadion is best known for being the venue of the 1912 Olympic Games.  Many of the unique features are still retained within the stadium – including the listed towers at the east end of the stadium.  Outside, the ivy-clad walls give the impression of a time gone by.  In fact the stadium today looks more like its 1912 original due to the renovation work that took place in the mid 1990’s.  This has been the club’s home since 1936, after moving from the Tranesberg Stadium.  The current ground still retains the athletics track, and is still used for all major track and field events.  The stadium consists of a horseshoe double tier stand, which sweeps around three sides of the stadium, leaving the historic Olympic stands still in existence.  The club actually started their playing history in the same area in 1896, with the previous ground, the Idottsparken their home until they moved to the Tranesberg Stadium in 1910. 

Who plays at the Stockholms Stadion
The club was originally formed in 1891, taking their name from the island in the city centre where the founders used to meet.  The club played in the lower leagues for a number of seasons before being allowed to compete in the national leagues.  In 1904, the club reached the Swedish Cup final where they lost to Örgryte.  The club did gain revenge over the team from Gothenburg eight years later in their next final appearance, thus becoming Swedish Champions for the first time.

The club won further championships in 1915, 1917 and 1920 but struggled to compete with the likes of Malmö and Göteborg.  In fact it took a further 35 years for the team to win the title again, in 1955 and then followed a golden period with four further cups in a period of 9 years.  After relegation to the second division in 1981, the club floundered for twenty years and even summer loan signing Teddy Sheringham couldn’t keep them in the top division for more than a season at a time. 

Finally in 2001, the team managed to find the right on field formula and at last deliver some success for the supporters when they finished second in the Allsvenskan.  The following year they went one better and were crowned champions, beating off the strong challenge of AIK and Göteborg.  They retained their crown in 2003 and won it in 2005 to underline their position as Sweden’s number one team.

The current team is built around young Swedish talent, with players such as Andreas Johansson and Daniel Sjölund who actually had spells with Liverpool and West Ham United and coached by Jonas Riedel.  Last season the team finished in a disappointing 6th place, and so the club will have to do without European football again in 2007. 

In fact European football still hasn’t been too kind to the club.  They first competed in the European Cup in 1955 when they actually reached the last eight before losing to Hibernians.  In 1964 they met Manchester United in the first round of the UEFA Cup and lost 7-2 on aggregate.  In fact after their win against Grasshoppers in the 2nd leg of their UEFA Cup game in 1965, the club had to wait ten years before they gained another victory, beating Kristiansand of Norway 7-1 in the 1975 UEFA Cup.  In 2002 they recorded their best performance to date in the UEFA Cup, reaching the third round after beating Shamrock Rovers and FC Copenhagen before going out 3-1 to Girondins de Bordeaux.

Their Champions League debut in 2002 lasted one round as they went out on away goals to Partizan Belgrade, and the following season a 6-3 defeat to Juventus prevented them reaching the lucrative group stages.  European games are  normally played at the national stadium in Solna.

How to get to the Stockholms Stadion
The ground is located close to the red T-bana stop at, surprisingly enough, Stadion.  It takes around 10 minutes from the central station in the direction of Morby Centrum.  As you exit the station follow the subway under the road and then continue for 100metres, then the stadium will be visible on your right. 

Getting a ticket for the Stockholms Stadion
The experiment of moving their matches to the much bigger Råsunda stadium only resulted in thousands of empty seats at each game.  Swedish football, like most of the football in Scandinavia comes a second in terms of popularity to Ice Hockey, and attendances for almost all domestic matches fail to generate the passion and atmosphere that exists elsewhere in Europe. 

Therefore, prebooking of seats really isn’t required.  Tickets can be booked from the ticket hotline on  +46 77 1707070  or http://www.ticnet.se.  The average attendance last year was just under 13,000 although as some of these games were held in the national stadium, the figures do not give a true reflection of the gates at the Stockholms stadium.  Tickets range from 150SEK for games at the Stockholms to 375SEK to the derby games with AIK and Hammarby.

About the The Söderstadion
The stadium has two almost identical covered stands that run the length of the pitch and offer protection from the elements. At the east end of the stadium there is a large open terrace, which is where you will find the hardcore fans. However, the most dominating feature of the stadium is the west stand. This stand is a small covered terrace but on top of this is a four-story structure, which includes offices, and residential apartments that overlook the pitch. The stadium was originally opened in 1966, and has recently been upgraded with the removal of a covered stand at the east end of the stadium, which was curved away from the pitch. The grey seats do give the ground a bland feel but Hammarby are one of the most passionate groups of fans in Sweden and so match days are very rarely as bland as the seats.

Who Plays at the Söderstadion
Hammarby have always been considered the third club of Stockholm. In terms of supporter base, history, trophies and current form they lag behind their inter city rivals, but that does not stop the games against Djurgarden and AIK being passionate affairs (in some instances such as the derby versus Djurgarden resulted in significant numbers of arrests after violence spread on the terraces). The first football team fielded by the club can be traced back to 1897 but amazingly it took until 1977 for the team to actually reach a major final when they lost to Östers 1-0 in the Swedish Cup Final. In 1983 they lost the final again in 1983 to IFK Gothenburg.

Since then their highlight of their history was in 2001 when they won the Allsvenskan for the one and only time in their history. This championship allowed them to compete in the European Champions League qualifying for the first time.  However, as with their rivals Djurgardens, the Second Qualifying round proved to be tougher than then thought and a 5-1 victory to Partizan Belgrade proved a fair reflection on the standard of Swedish football. This season the team has started indifferently with a mixed bag of results under coach Anders Linderoth that saw them in 6th place as at the end of September. Last season the club qualified for the Royal League, reaching the Quarter Finals before losing 3-2 on aggregate to eventual winners FC Copenhagen.

How to get to the Söderstadion
The Stadium is a 15minute train ride away on the green T-line from the central station. Exit the train at Globen and then turn right over the bridge and then left when you reach the t-junction in the pedestrian area.  For a more detailed overview of football in Stockholm go to Footiemap.com to access their excellent Swedish football map.

How to get a ticket to the Söderstadion
In terms of capacity, Hammarby fairs better than most with an average utilisation of close to 75%. However, they still only average just over 12,000 and with a season high last year of 14,700 you will not struggle to get a ticket on the day from anyone of the ticket booths around the ground. However, after the crowd trouble at the recent Stockholm derby versus Djurgarden caused the match to be abandoned. Tickets can be bought in advanced from the club shop at the ground and at the Globus Shopping Centre, Tickets can be reserved by emailing the club at biljett@hammarbyfotboll.se, or from the Swedish equivalent of ticketmaster at http://www.ticnet.se Tickets for all matches (except Malmo, Djurgarden and AIK) start from 60SEK for a place on the terrace, to 265SEK a nice covered seat. For the “A” list games the ticket prices start from 240SEK and rise to 500SEK.

Around the Söderstadion
The stadium is sandwiched between the main south railway line, the main road of Arenavägen and the Globus shopping centre. Therefore there are a number of places to stop and have a drink in the area.

Getting around Stockholm
Stockholm’s public transport is based on the metro and bus lines, combined with local boat services to the main islands.  In contrast to eating out, transport is cheap.  Single tickets are 40SEK, with a 24 hour card 60SEK.  Most of the city centre is walk able.

Local Hotels & Bars in Stockholm
Finding good, reasonably prices accommodation in Stockholm can often be a problem for those arriving without a reservation.  The tourist office is a good first stop in this instance.  As well as selling public transport tickets and being able to book sightseeing trips, they also have a hotel booking service.  Their address is Sverigehurst, Hamngatan 27 (Tel: +46 8 5082 8508 ), http://www.stockholmtown.com.  They also have a smaller office in the main railway station (T-Centralen), which is open from 9am Monday to Friday, and from 10am on a weekend.

Nordic Sea Hotel – Vasaplan 7 Tel:  +46 8 505 6300   http://www.nordicseahotel.se
Villa Kallhagen –
Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen 10 Tel:  +46 8 665 0300   http://www.kallhagen.se
Grand Hotel –
Södra Blasieholmshamnen Tel:  +46 8 679 3500   http://www.grandhotel.se

Stockholm has enough good restaurants to keep you happy for a long weekend, although it’s not a cheap place to eat or drink in.  The bar scene gets more widespread every year, with each new opening trying to out do each other.  The traditional part of the city for bars was Stureplan, but this has been replaced by the waterfront eateries of Gamla Stan.  The following bars and restaurants are all good in terms of food – but remember your wallet!

Bon Lloc – Regeringsgatan 111 (Tel: +49 660 60 60)
Spisa Hos Helena – Scheelegaten 18 (Tel:  +49 654 49 26 )
Villa Kallhagen – Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen  (Tel:  +49 665 0300 )

In terms of bars to watch Premiership football in, you will find loads around the old town.  The following Irish bars are guaranteed to show at least four games over the weekend live from the UK:-

The Foggy Drew – 39 Sveavågen
O’Learys Bar – Kungsholmsgaten 31
Galway‘s Irish Pub – Kungsgaten24

Nearest Airport – Arlanda Airport (ARN)
Telephone :              +46 8 797 0000 
Website:                  http://www.lfv.se

Arlanda is the main airport for Stockholm and is served by both British Airways and SAS flying from London Heathrow.  The airport is linked to the city centre by the Arlanda express train that runs from the terminal in less than 25 minutes every 15 minutes.  The train costs 360SEK for a return ticket.  A taxi would take around 45minutes and cost close to 500SEK.

Alternative Airport – Skavsta Airport (NYO)
Telephone:               +46 155 28 04 00 
Website:                  http://www.skavsta-air.se

Skavsta Airport is around 50 miles to the south west of Stockholm, close to the town of Nyopking.  Ryanair are expanding Skavsta as another European hub – although the local residents of the surrounding villages are not particularly happy about this.  Ryanair provide a bus to meet all incoming flights, which takes around 2 hours to reach the central bus station in Stockholm for 100SEK single or 150SEK return.  They currently fly there from London Stansted.

Alternative Airport – Västerås Airport (VST)
Telephone:               +46 21 80 56 00 
Website:                  http://www.vasterasflygplats.se

Västerås sits on Lake Mälaren an hour west of Stockholm.  The airport is around 10 miles out of town and is served by Ryanair from London Stansted.  There are two ways to reach Stockholm from here.  Firstly, catch a local bus to the main station and then hop on one of the regular trains to Stockholm.  The journey takes around an hour and a half to get into Stockholm main station.  The second option is to catch one of the buses that wait for all incoming flights, and take around 2 hours to reach Stockholm central bus station.

Withdrawal symptoms


Malmo FF v Hammarby IF – Malmo Stadion – Monday 14th July

Just 8 days after the end of Euro2008 I found myself in serious need of a football fix, and not through one of those ridiculous Masters tournaments which Sky try and hype so much – “Liverpool v Tranmere Rovers in the big one tonight” said Sky last week as a host of players who hardly wore the shirts of either puffed their way through 10 minutes.  Neither do I have much time for friendlies, which do not actually prove anything.  Last season I went along to watch Dagenham & Redbridge versus West Ham which was notable for two things.  Firstly, it was Dean Ashton’s first game back and he proceeded to shoot at every occasion, including corners and an attempt from a throw in, a pattern that would be repeated throughout the season.  Secondly, West Ham had not taken deliery of their new Umbro kit and so were forced to play in a training kit without numbers, names or sponsors name.  Quite a refreshing change, although a year on the biggest rip off club in World football have just announced that they have dumped both kits from last season and replaced them already.  So much for the Fans Charter which states that a club has to state the “life expectancy” of the kit.

So, back to the story.  I had already sussed a game “over the bridge” in Malmo for my regular trip to Copenhagen.  With summer football a part of life in Scandinavia, summer football means that you can normally catch a game within an hour 11 months of the year in Copenhagen.  I had fond memories of my last trip to Malmo to see them play Kalmar last season (see https://theballisround.co.uk/2007/06/14/football-only-politer/) so I headed over to Sweden, changed by Danish Kroner for Swedish Kroner and headed south through the pretty city centre for their game versus Hammarby IF.

I had neglected my map so had to use the normally trusty Fuller navigation system.  I headed south out of the station, neglecting the “Stadion Special” buses, through the pedestrian areas of the city centre, across a canal or two and eventually came to a major crossroads.  Malmo are currently building a new stadium slap bang behind the old one, in order to host games in the 2009 UEFA U21’s championship, and so the presence of a few large cranes to my left was a good sign as I headed in that direction and also found out that they are building a brand new hypermarket, which is 2 miles in the wrong direction from the football ground. 

Undetered I upped the walking rate (in preparation for my mammoth 5km run this week) and reached the familiar 50’s style white stadium with 10 minutes to kick off.  The new stadium was indeed being built at a pace behind the south stand and is rumoured to be ready early in 2009 and will be the newest stadium built in Sweden’s top league for well over a decade (unless the new Gamla Ullivi is ready in Goteborg before – another venue for 2009).  The queues outside were lengthy to say the least – Monday night football is very popular in Sweden and it was a family affair.  There were also quite a few away fans having made the trip down from Stockholm mingly about without any particular issues.  Malmo had kindly almost doubled the prices for this game realising that a) the team were doing ok, b) it was a nice sunnyish night and c) Hammarby were one of the teams the neutrals like to watch play.  Still the equivilant of £25 for a seat on the upper tier is a bargain when compared to the same seat at my beloved West Ham would cost nearly treble that.

I got talking to a group of Malmo fans during the first half who were interested in my view of football in Sweden and England.  They had travelled as a group over the past few years to games in England on a regular basis, but now even the Swedes who are used to paying £8 a pint found themselves priced out of the market and were planning their weekends away in Germany and Spain.  Does anyone actually consider this loss of import income into the game?  I bet not. 

There can be nothing better in life than watching decent football in the sunshine, with a beer in ones hand that this was one of those evenings.  Malmo are a decent team.  They try and play the ball along the ground although they have a shocking centre back who looks the spitting image of Rufus Brevett.  It was his mistake that led to Hammarby’s opener, when a hopeful cross from the left was left by Brevettalike and the American college superstar Charlie Brooks tapped in unmarked.

The goal managed to shake the Malmo team into action but the Hammarby defence was playing a tight offside line, and yet again Malmo showed why they would never worry many defences in European football as they were caught offside time and time again.  Finally, on the half hour mark one of the two Finnish strikers in the Malmo team beat the line and calmly slotted the ball over the Hammarby keeper a la Torres in the Euro2008 final.

The goal did spur on the home team, and with the hardcore home fans congregated along the side of the pitch urging them on they forced corner after corner without ever getting close to another goal.  As luck would have it, or in this case wouldn’t have it, Hammarby went up the other end of the pitch and forced a corner of their own.

In one of those training ground moves that come off once in a million on the pitch a long corner was played to the edge of the penalty area where the deeply unpopular Hammarby midfielder Gaets volleyed it.  On paper it sounds impressive – although the shot actually travelled so slowly into the net it fooled everyone.  Just two minutes later that man Davies was at it again, chasing a ball of lost cause into the corner, beating a defender before drilling the ball into the corner of the net.  3-1 in a blink of an eye was a tad unfair on Malmo, but Hammarby did deserve the lead at half time for their attacking play away from home.

One interesting diversion during the first half was the constant replays being shown on the big screen at the far end of the stadium.  So what is the issue with that?  Nothing as long as it was the highlights and replays from this game.  Oh no – not in Sweden.  They kept relaying action from another game being played elsewhere .  Again if it was a vital game, with a championship or a cup depending on it but this was the equivilant of Wigan v Fulham on a Monday night in October.  Pointless, absolutely pointless.

Malmo’s stadium is unique in terms of design in world football.  It has two identical stands that run full length of the pitch that are crescent in design, sloping down in each corner.  The top tier of the stands start in each corner with a single row of seats, rising to a decent height in the middle. What possessed the stadium designers I do not know but based on the quality of the beer on offer and the ease in which they were slipping down I would suggest that they had had a few!  Behind each goal were terraces, set back behind the curve of the athletics track meaning the views were terrible for those who had braved it.

The second half failed to live up to the excitment of the first one for the first 30 minutes, and Malmo had a few chances to pull a goal back, again corners providing their best option.  However, as is always the case it was the away team who scored the decisive goal, again another defensive lapse allowing the impressive Hammarby midfield the freedom of the pitch to slot in the fourth and queue a huge exodus of home fans.

Malmo, to give them credit never gave up.  They continued to push and pressure and were rewarded with a goal back direct from a free kick with 5 minutes to go.  At this point a melee broke out on the far side of the stadium as it appeared that a Hammarby fan who had been in amongst the Malmo fans on the hardcore stole a flag and ran towards the exit.  In a move similar to a scene from Benny Hill, the Malmo fans set off chasing the Hammarby fan up and down the terraces for a good 3 minutes before the police intervened. 

The victory for Hammarby took them into the European play off spots and within a win of top spot currently held by Kalmar.  I headed back on the bus to the station and jumped on a train back to Copenhagen.  Despite having many good features, public transport in Scandinavia tends to be as bad as in the UK at times, and as we sat in Malmo station watching the minutes tick by without any announcements it was interesting  seeing the growing anger of the passengers. 

Eventually our train rolled in 45 minutes late to Copenhagen central station, and I returned to my minimalist chic and completely disfunctional hotel, ready for my next challenge. Hopefully my next trip back to Malmo will see me visit the new stadium, which by all accounts will be unique and ground breaking.  Apparently, according to the website it will be a completely enclosed structure of 25,000 seats, with two tiers on all four sides.  For Malmo read Leicester City, Southampton, Geneva, Salzburg and so on and so on.  Still at least it will be without the scurge of decent football – the athletics track!