Helsingborgs IF 1-0 IF Brommapojkarna (14:03:10)
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Someone in the EFW Brilliant Ideas Dept. is in need of a serious pay rise - again. On this chilly but sunny Spring Scandinavian Sunday, they'd suggested we visit two games, in two different countries within the space of a couple of hours. Oh, go on then, if you insist.
After a Saturday evening of football (Odense BK) and beer (Copenhagen) in Denners; Mr Fuller, Big Deaks and I were ready to give Sweden a try. A short train journey through the snow filled countryside up to Helsingør was followed by an even shorter ferry trip over to Helsingborg.
A shot of Gammel Danks isn't normally the way I choose to open my drinking account for the day but our new best friend Henrik - who was running the bar on said ferry - insisted. He gave each of us a free shot each, which we duly washed down with a bottle of Mariestads. When in Sweden as they say, or were we still in Denmark? It took less than 20 minutes to cross between the two countries.
After a very steep and sweaty climb up through the town, you arrive at the Olympia Stadium. The first thing that smacks you between the eyes is their agreeable floodlight arrangement. 2 x old skool standard coupled with 2 x beauties that angled in at 45 degrees. I'd been in Sweden a shade less than 20 minutes and I was already in love with Helsingborg and their quirky little floodlights and free shots policies.
EFW on the pitch again. What's Swedish for "Stewards arrest this man"!?
The love was set to extended. The three of us we welcomed with open arms by the club officials. We marched triumphantly down a red carpet (no really), picked up our press passes and were ushered into a lounge and offered some warm food by the delightful staff. It may have taken the form of the world's smallest ham and cheese toastie but this was just terrific. The only beer on offer was a low alcohol effort weighing in at 2.1%. Swedish football has recently experienced a bit of 80's style hooliganism by all accounts and as such, civilised beer drinkers have to suffer.
Inside the ground the HIF fanatics choose to sit (sit!) in section 37 of the main stand. This despite the Olympia having two small banks of terracing behind each goal. A strange choice to my mind but they get a great view from there, have a roof and made a great noise throughout the game. The attendance in total was a little disappointing at just under 7,000 but this was the earliest ever start to a Swedish football season, HIF's legendary star attraction Henrik Larsson was no longer playing and the cold may have put a few fans off.
IF Brommapojkarna (BP for short - phew!) had turned up with one (one!) away fan. Five FIFA Stars and some IKEA vouchers to him for making the long trip. Oddly enough, their number swelled to a massive four during the second half so they'll have to share the prize. BP are probably most famous for their enterprising youth system. All players tend to be home grown and they are the largest club in Europe in terms of number of active teams of all ages. So they're into playing rather than supporting down in that particular Western part of Stockholm.
As the game kicked off, it was unusually hard for me to concentrate on my job of enjoying the football and pretending to take notes. Sat two rows in front of us was actual Henrik Larsson! Big Deaks had told me he'd said hello to him about ten minutes beforehand but I just thought he was taking the piss.
Then there was four. Clearly not the best of mates either!
Both Larsson and the vociferous HIF ultras kept us entertained for the opening 20 minutes, which was a good job because the football was a bit dull and we were Helsing-bored of that early on. That all changed 28 minutes into this opening game of the season, BP keeper (Nordfeldt) decided enough was enough already. He inexplicably handled the ball outside his area and then just for good measure, he booted the ball out of the stadium. 1 x yellow card swiftly followed by 1 x red. What a loon!
I can think of worse ways of spending half time than chatting away to "Henke" and eating free muffins but that is what we did. Larsson was a gentleman and if he's not managing either Celtic or HIF in the next year or so I'll eat my viking helmet. The muffins were great as well. Correct amount of moisture and minimal crumage.
Annoyingly, we had to leave shortly before the end of the game to get the ferry back to Copenhagen to arrive at the FCK v Brondby match in time for kick off. Inevitably, we missed a goal accordingly. So if any HIF fans out there can talk us through Mattias Lindström's 91st minute winner - can you get in touch please.
So, thanks a million to Helsingborgs and their fantastic hospitality. If you're ever in Sweden, or Denmark for that matter just nip on the ferry and go and pay them a visit. Skål!
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