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Sunday 5th June 2016 ko 16.00

Division 5 Södra Uppland

ROSERSBERGS IK 1 (Lyngbrant 34p)

FANNA BK 1 (Abbas 88) Smedlof sent off 68 (2nd booking)

Att 121

We left the countryside and narrow-gauge railway and headed back to the Swedish Hop’s eventual terminus at Arlanda Airport. The planes flying over the top of Råbergsvallen seemed to me a horrible reminder of what was shortly going to finish. My girlfriend Robyn was half-asleep, half gazing in wonder at the scenery so whatever occurred at our final game I knew that at least from her perspective, her first trip to Sweden had been a success. The last sign back to Kårsta disappeared as we reached the E4 motorway and we headed north.

Rosersberg is a small town that grew up around the Pendeltåg or commuter train that heads south from Uppsala, via Märsta and takes its name from the nearby Royal Palace that predates it. The castle, built in a baroque style is now would you believe used by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the country’s rescue service?

We were a little tight for time in reaching Råbergsvallen but the welcome was fulsome, chairman Thomas Vesterlund shaking everyone’s hand before telling us all about his club. That was accompanied by coffee and the most delicious cakes. What is it about Swedish lower-league clubs, they all seem to be able to attract the most incredible bakers! I wasn’t the only one to shuffle back to the clubhouse at half time for further supplies!

The game was interesting, not least because it was in the same division as our previous game at GoIF Kåre. Kåre’s win had sent them top in a league where only the champions are promoted, moving above Fanna (a district in Enköping) in doing so. If Rosersberg could win this game then Kåre would stay top, any other result would see Fanna retake top spot. A combination of Kåre’s Reindeer Kebabs and Rosersberg’s cakes saw 20 British hoppers’ loyalties easily bought for the afternoon!

And for the vast majority of the game Kåre’s wishes looked to be coming true. Jonny Lyngbrant’s penalty had seen Rosersberg take the lead and when Fanna’s Jakob Smedlof saw red for his second booking, a poorly aimed volley of verbals, it looked like a slightly unlikely home win was on the cards.

But good sides usually have that little bit extra, and even if Rami Abbas’ late free kick had been illegally moved forward to put the ball in an ideal spot to curl in, the free kick’s execution was superb.

It wasn’t far to get back to Arlanda, in fact it seemed that it was a little too close! There was barely enough time to complete the formalities that have built over 10 Swedish hops. There was the attendance certificates, prizes for the “Guess the score” competition, the collection for the driver, and the gift for the 4 remaining “Ever Present” hoppers.

The sadness was that there wasn’t enough time to properly thank the man in the middle of the maelstrom. Kim Hedwall started an event that in some ways shouldn’t work and created a beautiful little coda to the season. Sweden isn’t known to be a hot bed of football, and it’s not a cheap place to visit, but as I write I’m glancing up at 20-or-so pennants on my office wall, all from Sweden. Now imagine all the stories and experiences behind those pennants, and in some case friendships made. The seed of all of that came from the taciturn Solna resident.

We had a little time at the airport, enough time to glimpse a rather glum looking Welsh team half way from being beaten 3-0 at the Friends Arena by Sweden en route to France. We plonked ourselves down at one of those awful ersatz-Irish bars that these days seem to restrict their activities to hotels and airports. The beer was hideously overpriced, but the football was on the TV.

I’m used the groundhopper’s insatiable appetite for football, but Robyn wasn’t and I was mighty proud of how she fitted in when little or nothing was what she was used to. Hopefully she’ll be back with the rest of us next year, because already the emails between England and Sweden have started, and the ideas have started being exchanged. One thing Kim and I will never run out of is ideas!