Lolly Leaf leads the singing

4 Aug

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!

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