“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” said Hamlet eating Danish Blue Cheese



In 30 days time the holiday plans for thousands of Danes and Swedes for next summer will be decided. One, or potentially both, will certainly be heading off to South Africa to watch their country in the 2010 World Cup. The decider is on the 10th October when the two countries meet in Parken in Copenhagen. Denmark, sitting pretty on top of Group A know that a draw will all but confirm their place in the finals and damage Sweden’s play off chances let alone what a win would do.

Passions run very high between the countries. You only have to look back two years to a qualifying game in the run up to Euro2008. Sweden had come to Copenhagen, on top of the group and raced into a 3-0 lead. The Danes rallied and pulled it back to 3-3 with ten minutes to play. Then Sweden were awarded a penalty, with the Danes being reduced to ten men. A fan ran onto the pitch and assaulted the referee, the game was abandoned and awarded to Sweden, thus eliminating Denmark and sending the Swedes to Austria.

The two countries live next door to each other in a cordial way. Danes and Swedes mix on a daily basis, the Swedes heading over to Denmark to buy their alcohol, and the Danes setting up homes in Sweden to benefit from lower taxes. Whilst the opening of the Oresund Bridge has opened up a whole host of new opportunities, the legacy of their centuries of conflict can be seen up the coast.  Thirty miles north of Copenhagen is the town of Helsingor, home to Hamlet’s castle. Just a mile across the water is Helsingborg, home to Henrik Larsson and Ikea. A regular ferry across the water has run for centuries and it was this route that I was planning on taking all in the name of football.  The narrow stretch of water has always been closely guarded by the Danes, and used to be a huge source of income as they taxed all foreign boats trying to pass by – and those that refused to pay were fired upon from the castle battlements.

I was going to take in a game in either country, crossing between them on this narrow channel via ferry.  First up was to be a game at the old national stadium, Osterbro. Next door to the shiny new Parken stadium sits the old ground, now an athletics track but also used by a couple of Danish Second Division (East) teams including Skjold.  As the game kicked off at 7pm it would finish in time for the start of the Champions League, and McGraths bar opposite would be a perfect venue for that avenue of pleasure.   I hopped on the train at 6pm – rush hour.  Now not for the first time in my stint in Copenhagen I walked into a carriage full of drunks.  In fact the train was going nowhere as one of them, in an attempt to vomit had got his head stuck in a bin.  His mate, who had obviously just pissed himself – whether in laughter or incontinence had pulled the emergency cord so we were stuck.  Eventually a railway worker came, got out an allen key and removed the top of the bin, with drunk number one’s head still attached and we were on our way.  The rest of the carriage hardly batted an eyelid as if this was a normal occurence!

Skjold 1 Vanløse 1 – Osterbro Stadion – Tuesday 15th September 2009

Impressive bust

Impressive bust

I was in luck for this 2nd division game as a chap who had worked for me for the past few years brother played for the visitors (a few stops along the Metro) and so I was invited to the “hospitality” area once I had paid my 80Dkr to enter the ground.  The stadium had gone through a massive redevelopment phase in the past few years to turn it into a first class athletics venue complete with iconic statues around the edge of the pitch.  The crowd was no more than 73 – OK I admit I counted them twice, and most were also invited to the “hospitality” area, which turned out to be a big grill where sausages were being dished out free of charge and beer was on sale at a bargain 20Dkr (bear in mind that a bar would charge 3 times that normally and you can see this game was worth coming to!).  With the sun setting on another beautiful sunny day in the capital of cool we sat and enjoyed the moment, trying to ignore the poor showing of football on the pitch which was about the same level as Brimsdown Rovers from a few weeks ago despite only being the 3rd tier of Danish football.  Half time and no goals but three sausages, setting a personal best and beating my 2 1/2 bridies (Scottish pasty things) I did in the 15 minute interval at Inverness Caledonian Thistle back in 1999.

A goal apiece in the second half was scant reward for such a loyal crowd which had swelled as soon as the turnstile operator had gone for a pee with people from the bars around the ground who realised it was half the price for a Carlsberg outside, and simply walked into the ground, got their beer and walked back out again.  With 10 minutes to go I headed off, timing my 2 minute walk to the bus stop with perfection as the 1A was just arriving, and exactly 13 minutes later I was on the sofa flicking between Besiktas v Man Utd and FC Zurich v Real Madrid with a Carlsberg gold in my hand.  Sometimes I love Denmark.

Twenty four hours later and I was on the train north to the wonderful town of Helsingør where I was to hop on the short fifteen minute crossing (almost Channel ferry type as well as opposed to Woolwich Ferry with duty free, bars and 1000SEK fruit machines) to Sweden for the Cup Semi-Final between Helsingborgs IF and IFK Goteborg. With the Swedish season coming to an end, both of these teams were keen to end the season on a high.  The visitors were within one point of top spot coming into this game with just 6 weeks to go in the season, whilst Helsingborgs, still with king Henrik Larsson up front were just outside the European spot in 5th place.  Both teams had got here with relative ease and the winner would be playing AIK Solna in the final in Stockholm in October.

The stadium is located on top of the hill overlooking the whole town and the Oresund straits across to Denmark.  The downside is it is bloomin’ hard walk uphill to get to the ground.  Despite talk making the local front pages for years, the stadium still had not gone through its redevelopment programme, and the latest date for work to commence is now in 2010.  Quite why this is necessary to simply built four new stands with the same capacity is lost on me, but then again what do I know about football stadiums!  It had been over two years since I was last here (see post here) and this time I had bought a ticket in amongst the “lively” home fans….

Helsingborgs IF 1 IFK Goteborg 3 – Olympia IP – Wednesday 16th September 2009

Olympia, helsingborgs not Mount

Olympia, helsingborgs not Mount

When I eventually got to the stadium I remembered why it was called Olympia…Nothing to do with the Olympics movement but that the steepness of the hill reminded locals of Mount Olympia in Greece.  I needed oxygen, or beer which ever I found first.  Unsurprisingly it was the latter that won and I had forgotten all of my lessons from previous trips and took a big slurp of non-alcoholic larger….yum yum…On the opening day of the Allsvenskan back in sunny April this fixture attracted over 13,000.  Tonight there seemed to be a third of that in the ground (later confirmed as 4,851), and I counted a disappointing 93 away fans, although a few had decided to sit in the home end around me and pitched their flag on the concrete wall (more of that in a moment!).

Another fact that is unusual about the ground is that the hardcore home fans locate themselves in the upper tier of the seats, at the far end to the away supporters on their open terrace.  None of this traditional crowd behaviour here I can tell you.  The teams were taking this game as seriously as the crowd judging by the line ups.  Now we all know modern football is a squad game but IFK’s team pushed this to the limit.  Normally a team’s squad numbers from 1 to 11 reflect the starting line up at the beginning of the season.  For this game the total numbers on the back of the IFK team was 156 – take away the goalie (number 1) and the average was 15.5!

The game started with both teams playing open attacking football.  After 5 minutes a message was boomed out over the speakers and on the TV screen – a 0-0 draw would pay out at 11.65 (in our betting terms this is around 15/2).  This encouraged the visitors to attack and they had the ball in the net on 11 minutes when the IFK centre forward lost control of a ball in the penalty area, pushed the defender over and as he fell he inadvertently kicked the ball into his own net.  The referee in these situations has a duty to award the goal for the end of season “blooper” tapes but in this instance he had a humour failure and disallowed it!  With the away fans singing a plausible rendition of “You’re just a small town in Denmark” to the home fans the opening goal came five minutes later as a corner could only be punched onto the head of the unaware Sebastian Eriksson and he said that you very much….seconds later we were informed that the odds of a 0-1 win were 11.03 (still around 15/2).

The game continued at a pace and both teams forced corners (more than 12  – 14.75) and free kicks in dangerous positions.  IFK’s Tobias Hysen should have doubled the lead when he took the ball around the keeper but blazed wide on thirty minutes much to the amusement of the home fans.  And they had more to cheer a few minutes later when Erik Sundin got on the end of a decent knock down and smashed the ball home for Helsingborgs to draw them level (7.67 on a 1-1 draw).

The highlight of halftime was seeing Henrik Larsson warming up on the pitch and trying to hit the crossbar from varying distance – unfortunately we didn’t get any odds for doing this.  Both teams emerged on time but stood around like lemons whilst the TV company conducted an interview with an ex-pro on the pitch, completely ignoring the referees requests to fcuk off!  The second half was barely a minute old when two tough looking chaps wandered past me and made a beeline for the IFK flag hanging a few yards away.  Within seconds riot police and undercover cops pounced on them, beating them to the ground with batons.  Some of these undercover cops had been sitting next to me during the first half.  So this was a honey trap, and the two home “fans” had fallen for it and were lead away.  Shocking tactics!

The temperature plummeted in the second half and even a spicy hot dog and an appearance from Henrik Larsson couldn’t warm me up.  In the 76th minute our friend Hysen went round the keeper again but this time slotted the ball home (1-2 was a bargain at 9.31) and IFK made sure with a couple of minutes to go when Theodor Bjarnason made it three (8.17).  I decided this was my queue to leave, retracing my crampons I left on the upward ascent.

Helsingborgs is a great looking small town.  Lots of cobbled streets, bars and restaurants that looked very tempting, but I needed to be back on the ferry and back home.  As we sailed past Hamlet’s castle I could imagine him on the battlements laughing at those Swedes shivering across the water.  A young couple stood close to me on the deck and it was obvious from their conversation and animation that he fancied losing his “sea cherry”.  She was having none of it and he gave up in the end, perhaps recalling the words of the Bard when he said “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.  I’ll get my coat…..

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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.

Lolly Leaf leads the singing


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting a ticket
With over 43,000 places available for each game, the chances of a sell out are very rare indeed in Swedish football. Last season IFK averaged just over 10,000 per game, and Örgryte just 5,000. Virtually all games played here (including the national team’s games) are pay on the door. However, you can purchase tickets in advance from 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
Göteborg has one of Europe’s best tram networks with 13 lines that cover the majority of the city. The main hub is Well Park (Brunnsparken) where trams radiate out to every corner of the city. Buses also run around the city from the Nils Ericsson bus terminal. The Göteborgs Passet covers all public transport and attraction entry for 225 SKR per day. The card is available from ticket machines at major stops and the Tourist Information Office at Kungsportsplatsen 2.

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

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

Elite Plaza Hotel – Västra Hamngatan 3
Tel: +46 31 720 4000 http://www.elite.se
Hotel Barken Viking – Gullbergskajen
Tel: +46 31 635 800 http://www.liseberg.se
Hotel Panorama – Eklandagatan 51
Tel: +46 31 767 7000 http://www.panorama.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

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

Football only politer


In my quest to see a game in every country in Europe I had cruelly missed Sweden off my agenda for far too long. In the early part of this century the Oresund bridge/tunnel opened to a great fanfare, linking Copenhagen to Malmo in one swish structure, and in the process joining two arch enemies together. Denmark and Sweden are so similar in many ways, but they will never admit it. They are all blonde and blue eyed, they have the same (type) of currency, they love a beer and they are both prohibitively expensive. Relations between them have soured over the past few weeks after the Euro 2008 qualifying game in Copenhagen in June 2007 when a Danish fan attacked the referee and he abandoned the game – why oh why didn’t someone do that to Graham Poll years ago!

Anyway, with another work trip to Copenhagen in the diary, a swift look on UEFA.com found an opportunity to “hop across the pond” – FC Malmo v Halmstad. Malmo is almost visible from Copenhagen – a silhouette in the distance, past the nuclear power station. Sleepy little Malmo….Coming over the Oresund Bridge you are immediately hit with how neat and tidy things are in Sweden. That is not to say that Copenhagen is messy – but the huge amount of redevelopment in the city has meant that the presence of cranes and building sites does tend to obscure the image of “Wonderful Copenhagen”. Well manicured lawns, the absence of any grafetti and pedestrians and cyclists alike waiting for red lights to change was certainly an eye opener.

However, we were here to check out the football scene in Sweden, and a drive past the iconic Malmo stadium 90 minutes before kick off didn’t fill us with confidence that it was a hotbed of football. In fact the presence of a team coach was the only visible sign a game was going to start soon. Even the bars close by were empty..Having been told by everyone in Denmark that the beer is Sweden was “expensive” – and that is coming from people who do not bat an eye at paying £5 for a pint, we had to go into a complex fag-packet calculation for a workable exchange rate (trying to change Swedish Kroner into Danish Kroner into Sterling is not the easiest thing to do) to find out a beer was 45p, or was it £4.50?? However, a couple of pints soon put us in the football mood, and being typically English we waited until two minutes before kick off for the 5 minute walk, only realising it was more like a 20 minute hike.

However, with very little atmosphere in the stadium we made an assumption that they must be waiting for us to double the attendance. A bargain 110 Swedish Kroner (£8 or £80) got us through the turnstiles to be met with a crowd of over 18,000 – where had everyone come from?? And where was the noise? Down one side of the stadium the Malmo fans stood shoulder to shoulder underneath their flags with slogans like “Malmo Massive” and “No One Likes Us” (being in Sweden where everyone is so polite you almost expected a sign underneath saying something like “and that is really upsetting”), politely clapping when something exciting happened.

The stadium is certainly unique in design. Built for the 1958 World Cup Finals, it has lots of curves and corners – the main stand looks like a huge white wave from a distance. Behind each goal there was a bank of terracing, set back from the pitch by an athletics track. Whilst the stadium was busy, the ends were empty and we delighted in the fact that beer was being served from an open bar. Now this being a football match with “hardcore” fans you would have expected queues around the block. But not here.  Everyone seemed happy to sit and watch the game so we took the opportunity to have a beer and a burger.  Great plan except the burgers were organic reindeer ones and the beer was non-alcoholic.  Alex was inconsolable.  Not only was it his first match but we had promised real beer.  He saw through our ruse in a flash and started remonstrating with anyone and everyone.

The football was pedestrian to say the least.  The visitors Kalmar came to Malmo sitting on top of the table and they looked more like league leaders than Malmo who seemed content in playing the ball around the midfield without any idea as to how to break down the Kalmar defence. With 15 minutes on the clock the visitors took the lead with a well worked free kick from the edge of the penalty area.

Five minutes after the break it was 2-0 as Kalmar beat a non-existent offside trap and made light work of a 3 v 2 situation.  On that note Alex headed back to the bar,only to return looking shocked a few minutes later…”They have run out of beer” he stammered.  Whilst it wasn’t real beer, he could at least pretend but now that avenue of pleasure had been closed to.  There was only one thing left to do, as by now the noise he was making, like a smackhead being told that the methadone had now run out, was waking up the locals.  We headed for the exit and back to the central station where we managed to get a final beer in Finnigans Sports Bar before it closed (at 9pm!) and then onto civilisation across the Oresund in Denmark.  Too much of a bad thing is good for you but when it is all so polite it is hard to stomach.  “Next time” Alex vowed “we do things my way”…judging by his nickname of Dr Colonic I will make sure our traveling plans are separate for a few months at least!

How to get there
The stadium is located south of the main city centre, in a very green residential area. It is a 20 minute walk from the central station, or around 10 minutes from the bus station. Bus number 2 runs close to the stadium, although these get very busy before the game. A taxi from the central station will cost around 75Skr.

Getting a ticket
Whilst attendances are on the up at the Mälmo Stadion, there are still plenty of spaces for those turning up to pay on the gate. The average attendance over the past few seasons has been around the 14,000 mark, making them the second best supported team in the Allsvenskan behind AIK. Tickets can be bought in advanced from the website http://www.ticnet.se. Tickets range in price from 200SKR in the upper tier of the main stand to 125SKR behind the goal on the terraces. At the gate these prices are reduced to 180SKR and 110SKR respectively. The main Mälmo fans congregate on the terraces of the lower side stand. If you are watching an early evening game then it may be best to avoid the main stand due to the issues caused by the setting sun.

Getting around
The city centre is relatively small and it is easier to walk than wait for the local buses. Trains run to the outskirts of the city, and on to places such as Trelleborg and Helsingborg. A new railway tunnel is being constructed under the city centre at the moment that will alleviate some of the congestion in the city centre.

Local Hotels & Bars
The opening of the Øresund Bridge has given a new lease of life to the city of Mälmo. Whilst it has always been known as a pretty little city, the influx of visitors from across the water has lead to increased investment, and the general tidy up of the major areas. In the summer the city is a great place to visit, and like many Scandinavian cities, there are loads of outdoor activities that attract families to spend time here. The tourist office in the central station is a good starting point for new arrivals to find their bearings, as well as finding a hotel room if you haven’t found one before arriving. The following are good options if you have a chance to book one before you travel. They can be contacted on +46 40 34 1200. Elite Hotel Savoy – Norra Vallgatan 62Tel: +46 40 66 44 850 http://www.elite.seRica Hotel – Stortorget 15Tel: +46 40 660 95 50 http://www.rica-hotels.comRadisson SAS Hotel – Ostergatan 10Tel: +46 40 698 40 00 http://www.sas.radisson.comSweden is not known for its contribution to world cuisine, but it does have a few good places to eat. Unsurprisingly fish and seafood feature heavily on most menus. The following are all highly recommended if you have a chance to visit.

Rådhuskällaren – Stortorget 1 (Tel: +46 40 79020)
Hipp – Kalendegatan 12 (Tel: +46 40 974 030)
Smak – St Johnannesgatan 7 (Tel: +46 40 505035)

In terms of bars, then head for the area around Lilla Torg where most of the action takes place. Here you will find a mix of trendy cafes, laid back bars, traditional pubs and nightclubs. The following are three good options for various points in the evening.

Kulturbolaget – Bergsgaten 18
Brogatan – Brogatan 12
Caramello – Stortorget 25

If you are in need of a place to watch some Premiership football then head for the following bars in town that show games all weekend long from around Europe.

The Bishops Arms – Norra Vallgatan 62
The Pickwick – Malmborgsgatan 5
Paddy’s – Kalendegatan 7

Nearest Airport – Kastrup Copenhagen (CPH)

Telephone: +45 3231 3231

Website: http://www.cph.dk

Despite being in a different country, Copenhagen’s main airport is the nearest airport, located around 15 miles to the west of Mälmo across the Øresund Bridge. It has three terminals – two dedicated to international and intercontinental flights, and the remote Terminal 1 is dedicated to internal flights. Easyjet are the main budget carrier to fly to Copenhagen. They fly here daily from London Stansted. BA and SAS also fly here from London Heathrow. Snowflake, SAS’s budget brand fly twice daily from London City. Sterling are Denmark’s biggest Budget airline – they fly three times a day from London Gatwick.To get to Mälmo from Kastrup airport, simply catch one of the three trains per hour from the station under terminal 3. The journey time is 23 minutes and you need a train from track 1. A single ticket costs around £8. A bus also runs from the airport costing 100DKr.

Other Airport – Mälmo Sturup Airport (MMX)

Telephone: +46 40 613 10 00

Website: http://www.lvf.se

Ryanair fly into Malmö’s small and compact Sturup airport. Despite the fact that the airport is located across the water in Sweden, the completion of the Øresund Bridge, means the two countries are now permanently linked. It is approximately 17 miles from the city centre. Buses link the airport to the city centre, taking around 40 minutes.