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Sunday 6th June 2016 ko 13.00

Division 5 Södra Uppland

GoIF KÅRE 1 (Zachrison 64)

UNIK FK 0 Holm sent off 81 (violent conduct)

Att 126

Sweden’s countryside is so friendly, even the bus shelters talk to you (If you push the button on them)! Following Swedish hop tradition it seemed, we followed the Roslagsbanan narrow gauge railway, but this time to its terminus at Kårsta, although there are plans to reinstate the line right through to the heritage lines further north-east to Rimbo. We were at the furthest outpost of Stockholms Lan (Stockholm County) and our coach bumped down a track at the edge of the village but what we were to find at the end blew us all away.

For the hop’s last day we’d been joined by Pontus and Vlada from national Swedish television, it wasn’t the first time in the hop’s industry we’d had the press along for the ride, and as ever I did wonder how they’d choose to report the party of 20 British football fans visiting, it would be all too easy to misunderstand our motives.

Fortunately they took exactly the same view as dear GoIF Kåre did, not quite believing that we’d eschewed the European Championships to come and see them. Head of the welcoming committee was chairman Staffan Hassius who explained that the club’s nickname is “Dem lilla klubben med det storra hjärtat,” or “The little club with the big heart” and every single thing Kåre did bore proof to the club living that motto.

I should explain the term GoIF. It stands for Gymnastik-och Idrottsförening, or Gymnastic and all-sports team. The club was started in 1935 and sports included Orienteering, Bandy, Wrestling and Tennis. Here now the summer sport is almost exclusively football, and it seemed that the entire village was at the idrottsplats to support their team and meet their visitors. It was, however the little touches that I will remember.

I’m sat here channelling inspiration through the pennant I received, and I’m not sure when a 45-year-old is meant to wear a snapback baseball cap, but I’ll treasure both. Then there was the union flag flown for our benefit, and the live music which included, would you believe a woman wearing odd trainers, playing the euphonium!

We all loved the fact that the club laid on British beers for us, and though we normally like to try the local brews it was wonderful to watch our party drink at least one “Spitfire” or “London Pride” before switching back to the Mariestads. We understood what the club was doing for us, and that understanding allowed me to smile with just a little pride.

But for the hoppers it was the reindeer kebabs that grabbed the attention. Yes, you have read that correctly, the club barbecued reindeer meat and that, in pitta with salad was tempting in the extreme! In fact so popular was it that further supplies had to be sourced!

It goes without saying that every single one of the British people there wanted a home win, but they struggled to breakdown a talented Unik (unique (!), from Uppsala) side who seemed as urbane as Kåre seemed as being of the countryside. Kåre won, due to a goalkeeping howler, and Unik’s Daniel Holm saw red for kicking out, or spitting, depending on where you were sat.

That pleased just about everyone, but especially Staffen who celebrated with his megaphone! It was one of those afternoons where you didn’t want our time with Kåre to end. But end it had to, but there was chairman Staffen to shake our hands to thank us for coming. The truth of course was that it was our pleasure, and writing as I am with the benefit of hindsight I cannot remember any other club on a Swedish Hop presenting themselves as well as Kåre.

I’d like to think that one day I’ll be able to return to Kårevallen, I think I owe Staffen and his club that. Just one thing will be different though, I really do have to get there by narrow-gauge railway! Because sometimes half the fun is travelling out to the end of the line, just for the sake of doing just that.

Here’s what Swedish television made of it all