IF HAMMARBY

About the Soderstadion
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 Soderstadion
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 Soderstadion
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 for the Soderstadion
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 Soderstadion
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.

Our last visit – August 2008

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.

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.

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