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.

The most famous Swede of the lot


Ask 100 non Swedes who they think the most famous Swede is and you will get a variety of answers including Bjorn Borg, Abba, Britt Ekland and Alfred Nobel….ask the same question to Swedes and you will almost certainly get one name cropping up that you would not expect – Henrik Larsson. The striker who for so long was a fixture in the Celtic first eleven is idolised in the country, even more so announcing he would spend two seasons with his boyhood club Helsingborgs before he retired.

He duly kept his word and started the 2007 season leading the front line for Helsingborgs IF as they tried to win a title that they had last won in 1999. With no team able to win back to back titles for many a season the opportunity to hit the top was within their reach as they started the season in March 2007. The great thing about the Swedish season is its timing – meaning that football fans based in and around Copenhagen can watch football all year round. And with work giving me the time to spend in this wonderful part of the world a trip across the water to the historic town of Helsingborg became a must once Henrik had finished his stint with Manchester United and returned home.

The club’s centenary season had started well. Favourites Elfsborg, Djurgaarden and IFK Gotenborg had been distracted by European competition and with Henrik scoring freely things were shaping up nicely. With a midweek game on the horizon with Hammerby from the capital I managed to arrange a meeting with my friends from Google in Malmo and hop across the bridge in the early afternoon. The train from Malmo takes around an hour, and deposits you at the transport interchange – where trains, buses and ferries meet. Helsingborg is a major ferry port, with the regular route across to the confusingly named Helsingor in Denmark. In fact Helsingborg was part of Denmark for centuries, and has been one of those strategic locations that has seen a fair bit of action. Today in true flat pack form it is better known for the fact it is the global HQ of Ikea.

All of the main fun in the town is located within a 5 minute walk of the station, with pavement bars and restaurants lining the narrow pedestrian zone on the way up the hill to the stadium….Ah yes – the stadium…The Olympia Stadium…Open since 1898 and named after……pass. It has certainly never hosted the Olympics, nor does it look like Mount Olympia and so where on earth the name came from I do not know. It was due to be demolished next year, and rebuilt exactly the same size about 500 yards away but the club eventually saw sense and realised the current stadium was more than adequate enough to host the UEFA Under21’s championships.

With Henrik back in the fold tickets are not exactly easy to get, and so I had to rely on the media pass again. The club had produced a special Henrik-inspired media pack, with a Henrik badge, Henrik CD and a special Henrik endorsed housing estate brochure…Do you get the picture of how much Henrik means to these people?

One of the nice things about football at Helsingborg was that they had invested in the small things. The singing of the nation anthem before the game was unusual considering it was a normal league game – made all the better by the very blonde, very cute singer. The teams emerged to a ticker tape welcome, and with the sun setting over the stadium the scene was set hopefully for a classic, and the teams didn’t disappoint, serving up a six goal treat with Henrik scoring a brace on the way to a 4-2 win….and that is about it – nothing remarkable on the 90 minute journey from Copenhagen, nothing remarkable about the pcituresque town, a great game and finally a text book trip back. If only every trip was as easy as this!

About The Olympia Stadion
The Olympia Stadion is one of the most atmospheric stadiums in the Swedish top division. It can hardly be called traditional as it is a mixture of the old and new, perched on a hill high above the historic port city of Helsingborg. The stadium was originally opened in 1898 as a multi-sport venue and was further developed during the 1990’s when the main stand and east stand were rebuilt, and the athletics track removed.

The stadium is one of the most famous in Swedish football, and unusually the hardcore fans can be seen to congregate in one particular corner on both the terrace and the seated area. The views from the main stand and the east stand are very good, although the setting sun during the summer months does cause an issue for those seated in the latter. Away supporters are located in the corner of the north stand terrace. Expect lots of co-ordinated singing and a few ticker-tape showers.

Who plays there?
Helsingborgs IF were founded in June 1907 although their formative years brought little joy in terms of success. The club played in the regional leagues until the end of the First World War when they began to dominate Swedish football, but never quite winning the honours. All that changed in 1929 when the team at last lived up to their potential by winning the Championship. They followed this up by retaining their title in 1930, and went on to win the trophy in 1933, 1934 and 1941 when they completed the domestic double.

After the Second World War ended in 1946, and football returned to normal in Sweden, the club struggled to compete with the big teams, and found themselves on a number of occasions in the 2nd division. They returned in 1993 to herald a new era of success for the club. In the late 1990’s the team at last delivered the goods again by firstly winning the Swedish Cup in 1998 and the following season the title for the final time.

The club have played in Europe a number of times – in fact they played in European competition every season from 1996/97 through to 2002. During that period the most notable success was playing in the Champions League in 2000/01 when they beat Inter Milan over two legs to qualify for the group stages along with Paris Saint Germain, Rosenborg and Bayern Munich. They will once again return to the UEFA Cup in 2007 after winning the Swedish Cup in 2006 by beating Gefle IF 2-0.

The club is managed by Scot Stuart Baxter who has been playing and managing in Sweden since the mid 1980’s. Their most famous player, without doubt is ex-Celtic and Barcelona legend Henrik Larsson who promised the club he first made his name with at least one season at the end of his career. He was good to his word, despite turning down an offer to stay at Manchester United where he was on loan during 2006/07. Larsson was actually voted Helsingborgs Player of the Century in 2007. One notable feature of the team this season is that they have more sponsors on their kit that a Formula One car – with 6 different sponsors on the short and 2 on their shorts.

How to get there
Most visitors will arrive at the central station which is close to the ferry terminal and adjacent to the bus station. If the weather is nice then the best way to reach the stadium is to walk through the pedestrian area opposite the station, stopping at a few hostelries along the way before taking one of the paths that wind their way up the steep hill. Once you are in the park area, keep heading eastwards and the stadium will come into view behind the houses. The walk from the station takes around 15 minutes. There are a number of special buses laid on for the football that run from the bus station.

Getting a ticket
Swedish football is enjoying a renaissance, and with the signing of Henrik Larsson, Helsingborg have become a very attractive team to watch now, and so tickets can be in short supply for some matches. However, the good news is that it is easy to book a ticket in advance using http://www.ticnet.se where tickets go on sale around 6 weeks prior to the match. Tickets can also be purchased from the stadium. Ticket prices depend on the opposition, but in general you will pay 105SKR for a place on the terrace for most matches, rising to 145SKR for the game versus Mälmo, whilst a good seat would be 175SKR and 245SKR respectively.

Getting around
Helsingborg is very compact and you will really not need any public transport once you arrive unless you are planning on going up the coast towards Gothenburg, or southwards towards Landskrona and Mälmo. Local buses will get you a bit further a field if you need to – they run from the central bus station which is attached to the train station.

Local Hotels & Bars
Despite its relatively small size, Helsingborg is a popular city, both as a landing point for ferries from Denmark and further a field but also on the main Swedish west coast train line. However, it does have a number of good hotels which means that you should not have many issues in finding a bed for the night. There is a small tourist office at Rådhuset and they can be contacted on +46 42 10 43 50. Their website is http://www.helsingborg.se. The following hotels are central, good value and near all of the action.

Clarion Grand Hotel – Stortorget 8-12
Tel: +46 42 38 0400 http://www.clarionhotelhelsingborg.se
Best Western Hotel Helsingborg – Stortorget 20
Tel: +46 42 37 18 00 http://www.bestwestern.com
Elite Hotel Marina Plaza – Kungstorget 6
Tel: +46 771 788789 http://www.elite.se

The city also has some reknown restaurants that unsurprisingly have some excellent seafood. The following are some of the best that you will find, and don’t have too high prices.

Restaurant Amica – Rönnowsgatan 19 (Tel: +46 42 13 0715)
Wärdshuset Gamlegård – Nor Storgatan 9 (Tel: +46 42 147950)
Lagmarks – Sundstorget 3 (Tel: +46 42 14 8830)

The main concentration of bars and cafés are close to the station in the pedestrianised side streets. Here you will find traditional pubs as well as pavement bars where you can sit outside and enjoy some excellent Swedish food and drink. The following should be a stopping off point if you have a night out planned in the city.

Bara Vara – Fågelsångsgatan 23
Crombar – Drottninggatan 7
Gretas Krog – Furutorpsgatan 38

If you want to find somewhere to watch a game from back home then head for one of the following that show regular live Premiership games.

The Charles Dickens – Södergatan 43
The Bishop’s Arms – Södra Storgatan 32
Pub Norrbro – Norrbroplatsen 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 60 miles to the south 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.

From Copenhagen Airport train station under terminal 3 you can catch an hourly train direct to Helsingborg. The journey takes around 75 minutes – but make sure you are in the right carriage as the train often divides at Mälmo Central. A return ticket costs 265DKR.

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. . Buses link the airport to the central station, where you can change onto a train to Helsingborg. The bus takes around 40 minutes and costs 25SKR.