Cool with the little Fuller

31 Jul

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


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