Maybe not the most famous or trendy city in Scandinavia, but the 5th largest city after Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki is GOTEBORG-GOTHENBURG on the West Coast and a firm favourite of mine since I first visited in early 1976. On the Gota river and with tram No. 11 to catch big ferries to Hamburg, Harwich, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and local ones to the islands of the archipelago.
It is the home of Volvo, Hasselblad, SKF bearings and is on the water with old canals, marvelous restaurants, shopping and nightlife on and of the broad boulevard the AVENYN. It used to be a shipbuilding and heavy industry city but after those industries declined, new waterside apartments and buildings such as The Opera House, Universum have been added, as well as Liseberg, Scandinavia's biggest amusement park. Some huge hotels have srung up for increasing tourist hordes, such as Gothia Towers opposite Liseberg with three tall towers and the wonderful Heaven 23 restaurant and local specialities bar way up high..
I love the homely food and cafes in the Saluhallen market at Kungstorget and the iconic Fisekyrkan or Fish Church, a former church on one of the canals,with its fresh catches. However my favourite restaurant in Europe is www.smaka.se. I always choose Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberries..and washed down with pear cider.
Wonderful fish, prawns, oysters, mackerel, lobster, crayfish, turbot, hake, whiting......are harvested in local waters. There are also British style pubs, Italian and Greek restaurants and the boulevards are packed past midnight in the summer months.
Gothenburg is a sports happy city of 500,000. The very first football match in Sweden was played on 22nd May 1892 at The Heden between Orgyte IS and Lyckans Soldater (soldiers of happiness).1-0. There is a stone marker there. IFK Goteborg-The Angels, have won 18 titles and two Uefa Cups. We also have the newest club, formed in 1940 BK Hacken in Hisingen, also in the top Alsvenka with a brand new stadium. We also have GAIS and the womens team Kopparberg FC.
In 1958 a new stadium Nya Ullevi was built to host the World Cup. The four team group featured England, Brazil, Austria and Soviet Union. 17 year old Pele played his first World Cup here. His team went on to win their very first World Cup title, beating hosts Sweden 5-2 at Rasunda Stadium outside Stockholm on 29th June 1958. Nya Ullevi also hosted the European Championships in 1992 when late entry Denmark were the surprise winners. 2-0 over reigning World Champions West Germany.
The older Gamla Ullevi nearby was rebuilt about 5 years ago ( Nya Gamla Ullev)i, and now hosts most IFK league matches plus GAIS and Orgyte while BK Hacken's new stadium is Bravida Arena across the gigantic river bridge on Hisingen Island. The Frolunda Indians play in the Swedish ice hockey league at the indoor Scandinavium. Lots of rock and music shows fill Nya Ullevi and Scandinavium. Bruce Springsteen will attract 120,000 fans on a couple of summer evenings.
GOTHIA CUP www.gothiacup.se will bring 1,600 teams from 75 plus countries this July and they have franchised GOTHIA CUP CHINA in SHENYANG, a 6 million populated city in N E China starting in August. I met with Gothia Cup boss Dennis Andersson who doubles up as CEO os BK Hacken a week or so ago. Already the Chinese version has attracted 500 teams from 30 countries and the local organizing committe has built 45 new pitches in one location and has thousands of beds in the local universities and hotels.
We met in the lobby of the Kviberg Park Hotel & Conference Centre, part of a magical new £80 million indoor sports complex at Kliberg on Gothenburg's outskirts. The site already boasts 30 outdoor pitches used annually at Gothia Cup. The hotel boasts about 325 beds in 2-4 bedded rooms, some, like mine, overlooking the full size indoor pitch. Draw your curtains back and watch the action below..
There are a number of restaurants, gymnasiums, wellness features, and in the basement a 1km snowy cross country SKI DOME course. Also on site an indoor team handball gym and BEACH, the world's biggest indoor beach volleyball area with 20 plus courts in a Caribbean climate. There is also an upstairs bar and restaurant where I was treated to a salmon, potatoes and salad lunch by the staff. Look at www.prioritetserneke arena.se for more details.
Lillestrom BK www.lsk.no, Fugla, The Birds-Canaries, are my favourite Norwegian fotball club and brought 80 youth players and trainers in residence for 4 nights under the guidance of the iconic Jan-Roger Sannerud who is in charge of the u13's, u14's u15's and u 16's and led the club to the Norwegian national youth title a few months ago. The week before I had been at St. George's Park near Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, sitting with Inge Sandberg whose (just)16 year old son Erick Tobias Sandberg captained the Norwegian national u 16 team against England, They narrowly lost 1-0 to a superb Three Lions side,but beat Czech Republic and lost to Italy, both on pk's.
The four teams played outdoor and indoor against IFK Goteborg, AIK, visiting from Stockholm, and other local teams in perfect conditions. My best friend from 40 years Sven Ivarsson who was himself a former Gothia Cup boss and later with Dana Cup No.1 in Frederickshaven, Denmark, took me to a nice French cafe and later across the river to look at the new Hacken BRAVIDA ARENA , who are more than holding their own in the top ALLSVENSKA league which is in its long winter break. He was a former player and still a club member for many years.
GOTHENBURG www.goteborg.com. Pay a visit anytime.. you will not be disappointed.