It was the Swedish version billed as EL CLASSICO with banners in the streets of Goteborg, last night and as big as it gets these days in Sweden´s second city.
Goteborg is one of my favourite cities in the whole world, and I have been coming here many times since 1976. With its wide avenues, downtown parks, shady trees and flower beds, it´s a pleasure to stroll around in 27 C weather. Harlad and kids had met me at Oslo Rygge airport over the Norwegian border and we had driven down E6 in 3 hours to Gammla Ullevi, round the corner from the more famous Nya Ullevi, which was built in 1958 for the World Cup.
Gammla(or Old) goes way back, but 5 years ago was torn down and a modern 20,000 plus stadium rose up from the ashes. Nya(new)Ullevi holds over 60,000 and is too big for all but big time Swedish international matches, the Opening Ceremony of GOTHIA CUP, some big rock concerts and World and European Athletic Championships. This Saturday it will host the World Speedway Championships. Gammla will host Sweden v Iceland next week and later Sweden v Japan women's international, part of a three team tournament including USA. Two more matches will be in Halmstad.
I usually am in Gammla Ullevi stadium with 4-5,000 when GAIS are at home to most visiting clubs, but EL CLASSICO was against the arch rivals IFK Goteborg(the blue angels) one of only two Swedish clubs, the other being MALMO FF, to feature in a European Final. Malmo lost 2-0 to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1979 while I was in Dundee, Scotland in 1987 to see IFK win the European Cup Winners trophy against Dundee United, at Tannerdice Park.
These days Swedish and indeed any Scandinavian club cannot compete money wise with the mega rich clubs from England, Spain, Italy and Germany,and must develop their own talent and sell them to keep their hopes alive.
There was a much too heavy police presence last night, plus dogs and horses and the crowd of 18,000 that showed up was enthusiastic , noisy and fairly well behaved. One group in the blue and white stripes of IFK march to the stadium with maybe 20 flares, without being troubled. I met my long time friend Sven, whose company ISP holds the marketing rights for board advertising inside and collected our tickets. Inside at one end were two tiers of GAIS supporters in their green and black stripes, standing up and waving green flags. At the other end IFK waved flags and held up the match in the second half when they lighted flares.
The third major local club is BK Hacken who play in their own stadium a few kilometres away. It's very old but the commune of Goteborg has announced that they are financing a rebuilt stadium soon. After 11 rounds of this new season(played through the summer) they are in third place behind Elsfborg and Malmo FF. IFK are in mid table while GAIS (the mackerels) are third from bottom in the 16 team ALLSVENSKAN.
Markus Gustafsson opened the scoring for GAIS after only 7 minutes and itturned out to be a very entertaining contest with lots of flare from both sides. Tobias Hysen equalised for IFK after 54 minutes and that's the way it ended.
The evening would not have been complete without moving on to SMAKA,(www.smaka.se) my favourite restaurant in Europe. Swedish meatballs, new boiled potatoes, lingonberries, thinly sliced cucumber, salas and a rich sauce. Swedish crispbread and washed down with pear cider. Smaka means TASTE. Nicole was my charming waitress, young, enthusiastic and hard working, with a big smile.