From a tournament with 1,600 teams in Big City Gothenburg to a 4 team tournament in the countryside is quite a contrast. One hour East of the Gothia Cup city is Falkenberg and its 2 week old new train station, much better than the old one for handling the fast X2000 Íresund express trains from Goteborg, via Malmo and Copenhagen and into the heart of Denmark.
I am trying to find VINBERG, but at Falkenberg station there is only a waiting room and no office or information. Fortunately a lady seeing off a relative offers me a ride the 5 km to the Vinbergs IF 'stadium' in the middle of HALLAND, the county stretching across the South Coast from Goteborg via Varberg all the way to Halmstad. In the waiting room is an an 18 " penguin hanging upside down- Strange! Not even a village, just a beautiful, well cared for, small soccer stadium and 3 ajacent fields plus a unique clubhouse, an old wooden red 2 storey train station, 50 years at least since the last train stopped there and home of Vinbergs IF.
Committee member Helene Gunnarsson tells me that they bought it, renovated it, and use it for offices, meetings and socials. They have a senior team in the Swedish 4th Division and a dozen or more boys and girls youth teams. I am here for an annual 4 team U17 national team tounament and Wales play Norway, followed by Sweden v Turkey. Why here?, Well, according to the charming local officials, Vinberg is in the centre of the county, the club committee is well organized and the Swedish F.A, SFF know that they will do another first class hosting job. Helene's daughter Matilda, 18 years old, pretty, and a recent high school graduate is proudly wearing a Welsh jersey and is the official team liason officer. They already have the flags of the 4 nations, plus the FIFA Fair Play and the UEFA flags flying, plus the Falkenberg flag with the motto Hitta Del Hier- Find it Here.
I chatted with a couple of youth players from Vinbergs IF who were going to be ball boys- Mohammud, born in Somalia, and an AC Milan supporter, and Caner, born in Turkey, who supports Besiktas. Also Jerry Preen from South Wales, whose son Garyn, age 16 plays for Southampton FC, and he has come to support the Red Dragons and watch his son, a clever forward.
'Sweet Home Alabama' is the tune that the loudspeaker opens up with, and prior to the first match Linda Ístman sings both the Norwegian and Welsh national anthems, in Norwegian and Welsh, and the gospel singer does a magnificent job. Wales are coached by former national player Brian Flynn with another couple of ex pros of distinction, helping out, plus Paul Jones ex Southampton and Wales (50 caps) goalkeeper warming up the 2 goalies. There are a couple more technical assistants almost falling over each other, plus 3 very corpulant officials in suits and a young thin suit. Obviously none of them have ever missed a free lunch in their lives.
The Norwegians start out strong and after 5 minutes take the lead and seem to be in complete command. Whatever was said at half time seemed to work for the Red Dragons, as they return to the Vinavallen Stadium pitch with a much more positive attitude. Kayleden Brown of West Bromwich Albion levels the score and after 75 minutes Billy Bodin jumps high to head in the winner. Round the field they have placed hundreds of metres of colourful tape in the blue and gold of the SFF: Se, Upple, Alska. SEE, APPRECIATE, LOVE is the motto, and a splendid day in the sun in the Swedish countryside.