Watching football in Gothenburg
Andy Nash and Karen Stanton took in a double header of football in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
We arrived in Gothenburg on Friday morning and took the bus from the airport to the city centre, a 25 minute journey which costs approximately £8. The bus route ends at the Nils Ericsson Terminal, both the bus station and entrance to the central train station.
We immediately made our way to our hotel, which was situated over the river in a science park. After checking in and a quick refresh we headed out back across the river into the town via the ferry.
Working port city
Gothenburg is a typical working port city where most things are accessible by foot, but, it also has an extensive public transport network. The tourist Gothenburg Card is well advertised. However we didn’t want to make use of the free or reduced entry to museums and attractions. You can buy excellent value 24, 48 or 72 hour transport tickets covering the entire region.
We spent the day exploring the city and combined this with finding a number of bars selling a wide variety of local beers. These included a couple of excellent venues for watching football on TV. In Beerista we watched the all-Madrid Champions League final the following evening. Flyngarns Haga on Vasagatan 35, is worth a visit for the football scarves covering the ceilings. In fact, the majority of the scarves in the bar represent the matches played in the 1958 World Cup, which Sweden hosted. It was good fun counting the number of grounds of the teams on display we had been to!
Saturday we spent the morning walking through different districts, following a cycle route found on the tourist information website. This culminated in a walk through a very pleasant park area. We then headed back into the centre to get down to the real business of the weekend.
Our first game took us to the Division 1 Sodra (South) clash between bottom of the table Qviding FIF and 11th placed Tvaakers IF from the Varberg Municipality, Halland County. This is actually the third level of Swedish domestic football.
The game took place at the Valhalla IP. It sits in the shadow of the stunning looking Gamla Ullevi, with one of its unique curved stands visible form the terrace opposite the small, also curved, main stand. The Ullevi played host to the Gothenburg Summerfest during the weekend. Consequently the match, was accompanied by a monotonous thumping beat, which some people would call music!
We arrived at the ground 15 minutes before kick-off, paid our 100 Kr (£9) and entered through the only turnstile. We walked past the club shop, which consisted of a plastic box on top of a fold-up chair containing scarves and hats, with the turnstile operator doubling up as shop cashier.
In the run-up to kick-off we played count the crowd and reached 125, many of whom appeared to be away fans wearing the red and white of Tvaakers. However, the official attendance in the paper the following day was 375. This was presumably made up of season ticket holder who had stayed away – maybe they’ve suffered the music in previous years!
The game proved to be an entertaining 2-0 home win. It was a fairly even contest decided by a flying header into the top right hand corner by Linus Olsson and a close-range finish from Arvid Bergman Lovborg.
The game was spoiled a little by a referee who seemed to let everything go until he flourished the first yellow card after 37 minutes which was followed by numerous more, many for seemingly very little.
Indeed, after 48 minutes, the referee blew his whistle mid-flow and awarded a free-kick against Sandeep Manko of Tvaakers, for what appeared to be comments he made following an unsuccessful penalty appeal by Qviding’s Malik Kone. Play had continued after the alleged dive and was in the other half at the point the referee stopped the game.
On Sunday morning we took a trip across and down the river to Saltholmen which is the gateway to the Southern Archipelago. Numerous islands can be reached by a regular ferry services.
We didn’t have time for this and spent an hour or so watching the busy harbour area and some rather brave, or stupid, individuals brave the water. Given the length of time they remained in the water, we assumed that temperature was still very cold!
We headed the hour or so back into Gothenburg for Sunday’s entertainment which was provided by BK Hacken versus Djurgardens from Stockholm, who ply their trade in Sweden’s top flight, the Allsvenskan.
The 7,000 Bravida Arena can be found over the river from the town centre. From the outside it looks more like a warehouse, with sides of concrete and glass, than is does a football stadium.
The only give away are the oversized floodlight pylons, which compete in height with the tower blocks overlooking the ground. It is a small, compact ground which only opened in 2015. It looks like there could be room for expansion if required.
As we made our way around the ground to our entrance we passed the away end. Several hundred noisy Djurgardens supporters were queuing watched closely by the local police.
As seems to be tradition in Swedish top flight games, immediately prior to kick off the away fans unleashed several flares. The same happened at Hammarby v IFK Gothenburg when we visited Stockholm a year ago.
Indeed, the Djurgardens fans were relentless in the backing of their team, whereas the noise from the BK Hacken fans was sporadic, with the drummer spending more time silent than drumming.
Once the clouds of smoke had cleared from the pitch, and the acrid smell had faded, the game got underway. Hacken had the better of the early stages, and following a tenth minute shot which had the goalkeeper scrambling back towards his line to tip the ball over the bar, they took the lead. Paulinho finished a good move down the right hand side with a close range shot. The lead lasted four minutes when some awful defending allowed Mathias Ranegie an unchallenged header.
Both teams had further chances in the first half before Paulinho scored his second one minute into added time. After a flowing move down the right hand side, clever work by Marcus Hansson saw him wait for the goalkeeper to commit before playing the ball off to the grateful Paulinho, who slotted home his second.
John Owoeri looked lively all afternoon for Hacken. He was rewarded when a speculative shot from outside the box beat the keeper at his near post after 57 minutes. He was also unlucky 20 minutes later, almost beating the keeper from a narrow angle after collecting a long pass, but his shot was saved.
As the second half progressed, Djurgardens came more into the game, and on 84 minutes a corner was headed off the line when the keeper failed to collect. A spell of pinball followed but Hacken stayed firm and weathered the storm.
For a team that started the day towards the bottom of the table, they didn’t look like they would struggle, being decisive upfront and dogged in defence. This 3-1 victory moved them up six places to eighth.
One noticeable point was the amount of sponsorship on the BK Hacken kit. They had different logos on the front, back and seat of the shorts, the socks, the shirt front, sleeves and back . So much so that there was no space for the player’s names. Surely if you got points for logos, BK Hacken would be top of the league – its surprising long sleeves aren’t compulsory!
After the final whistle, most of the 4,059 crowd stayed in place as the players of both sides made a concerted effort to acknowledge their respective sets of supporters.
On leaving the stadium, the Police had cordoned off the road leading to the away end, and were lining up buses to take the Djurgardens fans away to the city. Thankfully, we wanted to go the other way to the tram stop and the short ride into the city centre.
Both games exceeded our expectations of Swedish football, as our previous game at Hammarby was immediately forgettable; in fact I only remembered there had been a goal about three months after the game!
All three Swedish games we have been to have been played on artificial pitches, which seem to impact on the style, though the pitch at Hacken was a marked improvement on that at Hammarby. There are noticeably less tackles, and players seem reluctant to pass the ball back to their goalkeeper. The pitch seems to makes the ball more difficult to control.
It’s certainly a good option for a late spring, or summer, football fix, when the other domestic leagues have finished.
This feature first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, a UK-based magazine for football fans who enjoy travelling throughout Europe. Magazines are posted worldwide: for details visit www.footballweekends.co.uk