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Friday 31st May 2013 ko 19.00

Division 5 Norra Uppland

MÅNKARBO 4 (Lund 54 L Svensson 69 W Svensson 77 Jansson 87)

KARLHOLMS GOIF 0

Att 176

Entry, Programme, Badge, Beer, Sandwich,- Included in hop cost

The day started quietly, Kim and I met the coach and the third member of the team, driver Thomas, in Solna. From there we picked up another hopper, John who’d been to the Djurgårdens game the previous evening. We headed north to Arlanda airport to pick up from two flights, Gatwick and Manchester. On the way we received word that the London flight had been delayed due to the pilot having food poisoning. It didn’t matter too much, the drive north to Uppsala was only around an hour, and we still had enough time to allow everyone time to relax in their rooms for 90 minutes before setting out north once again.

It wasn’t far, around a 40 minute drive along the E4, no bad thing for hoppers who’d spent a fair time sat in a departure lounge for 2 hours more than they’d expected. It turned out that Månkarbo was exactly what everyone needed. It’s a village of 600 or so inhabitants, set in the most gorgeous forest. Nearby is the village of Vendel, where in the 19th century an excavation of the local churchyard revealed artefacts from a 7th century Viking ship burial, and a further dig in 1917 produced the grave of a powerful ruler, probably Ohthere. The character of the same name in the epic Beowulf is based around him.

Tallparken is so clearly the village’s hub. The hall behind one goal is large enough for the club to use as a gymnasium, a bar, and a music venue. For this evening, the bar was open, a 3-piece band called Just Got Paid were set up and ready to rock at the final whistle. It meant that the club had roughly a quarter of the village present and that was likely to remain the case for most of the night. Great for village life, and good for the club’s finances!

For all of that what the SGH party will remember them for is the wonderful hospitality they offered us. We were offered a beer and sandwiches, then were given a talk about the club. They’ve never played higher than Division 4, but did once make the last 32 of the Swedish Cup, quite an achievement for a club of this status. We received club shirts and a badge and further beers were purchased from the bar, which seemed to be cheaper than just about everywhere else we visited.

It was clear that the warm weather and welcome had relaxed everyone, and once we’d put on our shirts (some with more success than others!) we trooped out to watch the game. For Kim, I, and Taunton-based Martin Bamforth there was the pleasant task of being interviewed for the local TV news. That transpired to be the genesis of possibly the moment of the hop, particularly for Martin who whose humour was a major contributor to what was a highly successful Swedish hop, possibly the best yet in its 7 year history. Here’s the report.

tinyurl.com/lo5ef5c

The club had made two comments about the game, that Karlholms were massive local rivals and that there was absolutely no chance of a nil-nil draw. Well, for the first half the passion was obvious but the goals weren’t forthcoming. I exchanged a smile with the chairman, but he still looked confident. He knew though, and once Kristoffer Lund had broken the deadlock, the floodgates opened and in the end it turned into an easy home win, a victory universally popular with the UK travellers. We lingered afterwards, until Thomas’ driving hours dictated our departure.

Over the years I’ve learned to listen to the coach on the way back. The hubbub behind me spoke volumes of what we’d experienced at Månkarbo. For that the club deserve our profound thanks. It was a special evening.