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Thursday 4th June 2015 ko 19.00

Allsvenskan

DJURGÅRDEN 1 (Johnson 37)

IFK NORRKÖPING 1 (Tklalcic 55)

Att 17.902

Entry 275 sek (c£20.61)

Programme 20 sek

If you want to know why I watch so much Swedish football this evening demonstrated why neatly. After a day’s sightseeing I was in the process of dumping my bag at the hotel in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan when my phone went off. Back in 2011 the Swedish Groundhop visited a tiny club called Åkersberga, and since the away team objected to the club’s choice of club linesmen, I was roped into helping out! It would have ended up being an obscure footnote, and a fun story to tell at parties but we were being followed around by Christian and Lars from “Offside” magazine so my rather portly flag waving ended up being seen by half of Sweden! The message was from the Söderströms, involved then at Åkersberga saying they were at reception and did I fancy a coffee? It was a most convivial hour.

After the game Christian spotted where I was and I was invited to his home to meet his wife and have a beer. Football without its people is nothing and thankfully Sweden has no lack of warm friendly people to make this obsessive welcome. My trips here have marked points in my life and long may that continue. But let’s tell this story…

Until 2012 in Stockholm, the football stadiums for the 3 largest clubs were as follows. AIK played at the Råsunda Stadium, Hammarby played at the Söderstadion, and Djurgården used at the Olympic Stadium. Each had their own issues, the Råsunda was too small for the Swedish national team, so both they, and AIK moved to the Friends Arena in 2012. More pressing were the difficulties facing the other clubs. Neither the Söderstadion with its capacity of 12,800 or the Olympic Stadium with its capacity of 13,145 were really suitable for top-flight football and since neither club had the means to build themselves a new stadium perhaps the groundshare was inevitable.

From a DIF perspective it must be slightly galling to be sharing at the Tele-2 Arena, or Stockholmsarenan if you’d prefer the non-sponsored name. Because the remains of the Söderstadion are adjacent to the Globen with the Tele-2 the other side. Whilst the new stadium, opened in 2013 is owned by Stockholm City Council, make no mistake you are well and truly in Hammarby country! And that fact has caused a few problems too.

The first game was due to be Hammarby vs Örgryte in the Superettan on 20th July 2013, but on 27th June a test event was scheduled, a match involving former Djurgården players but a bomb scare saw the game cancelled with the council commenting that they hold the full and final say as to who uses the stadium, or for that matter who doesn’t.

A tip though before we explore the Tele-2 in detail. Do get to the Globen earlier, and take a 150sek ride on the “Sky View” ride on the outside of the Globen itself. Other than a quite wonderful view of Stockholm you also get a fantastic view of both the remains of the Söderstadion and Tele-2 too.

Much as I enjoyed the two club’s iconic grounds, the Tele-2 Arena is far more suitable for their needs, even if Djurgården do still hanker after a stadium of their own. Their offices are still in one of the clock towers of the Olympic Stadium. The Tele-2 holds 33,000 when configured with standing for league football (30,000 when all-seater) the pitch is 4G and the roof can be fully closed, allowing full flexibility of use. The stadium has been designated as being the national stadium for speedway, bandy and American football.

For the casual visitor the specification is breathtaking. From the six jumbotrons, to the free wifi, and padded seats the quality is obvious. I spent a few minutes walking round the top tier concourse enjoying the little touches. Whilst I loved the old stadia this is a magnificent replacement for both, but I did notice how there is no permanent branding for either club anywhere. The only places I saw a club logo were on the screens, and as I walked back to the metro, the switch was flipped and the colours were changed to Hammarby green and white!

At times the match seemed a little incidental to the whole edifice. Two middling sides that I suspect will neither challenge for honours nor be forced to glance over their shoulders. The one moment of real class was the opening goal, Liberian striker Sam Johnson’s thumping strike, but Nikola Tkalcic was allowed to dance through the home defence for the equaliser.

It was a hugely enjoyable evening, not least due to the kindness of Swedish friends, but the measure of a new stadium is how much you hanker after what has gone. I sat on the metro train back to Slussen, thinking about the Söderstadion and the Olympic Stadium. Still, for those that would like to visit the Olympic Stadium DIF womens team play SOME games there.

Dedicated to the memory of Lars Tunbjörk, an extraordinary photographer. 1956-2015. Rest in peace.