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Friday 2nd June 2017 ko 19.00

Division 7 Sydvästra Skåne

BOSNISKA FK BEHAR 4 (Pajovic 8 27 F Guta 73 76)

TURKISK CENTER FF 1 (Xhemajli 4)

Att 55

Entry FREE

Programme FREE

At one point Joachim “Kim” Hedwall was a fixture on most British-based groundhops, and every time we saw him, we’d ask him when he was going to organise a hop in his country. Eventually he relented, and in 2007 the first Swedish Hop took place based in Nyköping and Stockholm. I was there, and I flew back fully expecting it to have been a one-off event, so catching the plane from Stansted for the 11th Swedish Hop I regard this event as being groundbreaking but also feel fortunate that its still taking place. 

Sweden isn’t a straightforward place to hold such an event. It was started, and continues to exist because Kim Hedwall is prepared to take the time, put the effort in, and on occasions cover the losses. His own situation has seen his presence in the UK massively limited, due to family and work commitments, and simply attracting people to the hop has never been easy.

The biggest problem he faces is that Sweden is an expensive country. This year has seen two other hops, one in Serbia, the other in Romania; in those countries you can organise a hop for roughly half the cost of the equivalent in Sweden, and avoiding completely the next issue Kim has. The clamour has often been for the Swedish Hop to include professional clubs, so in the past we’ve taken the plunge and included the likes of Hammarby, and Norrköping. That added an additional cost on to the price of the hop to an already price-sensitive clientele and we saw no increase in numbers for it in the 2 or 3 occasions we tried it.

So a few years ago Kim settled on a formula, pick an area, target the most interesting grounds in it and build the rest of the hop around them. It kept the attendance stable at around the 20-25 mark for a few years,  but this year poor Kim endured the perfect storm of circumstances.

Clearly the two Eastern European hops attracted some who might have headed to Sweden, and the Island Games in Gotland attracted others away too. That’s no criticism of anyone who opted not to come, but 12 bookings for the 11th annual Swedish Hop was a disappointment both to Kim and I. Then using his “Find the interesting grounds” formula he’d arranged for us to see a game Trelleborg’s main ground Vångavallen, only to for the away team to fold a week before the event and the game cancelled.

But when something disappointing like this happens you tend to see the calibre of the organiser. Kim took the news phlegmatically, booked a slightly smaller coach and decided to make this year’s offering even more special than planned. Vångavallen was quickly replaced and he and I took the view that since the Swedish Hop cannot compete on price Kim would compete by creating something that would live long in the memory. I’ll leave you to judge whether he succeeded over these next 6 articles.

The big change for this year was that the hop’s base was switched from Stockholm to the Skåne region in southern-most Sweden. It meant the Swedish Hop actually started in Denmark, at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport before fulfilling a travel ambition of mine, travelling across the 5 mile long Øresund Bridge to reach the Malmö district. We were waved through customs without a check on the Swedish side, but the fact that the migration crisis has seen a physical border reintroduced became a running theme throughout the weekend.

We headed south-east and soon reached  our new base in Trelleborg, literally the city of the wooden castle, and a major seaport for southern Sweden. With our hotel not being ready for a few hours Kim had decided to take the hop party to visit Trelleborgen, the ancient Viking castle that gives the city it’s name. It was a fascinating place, full of history, but it proved to be castle of many surprises.

The first was that the place had clearly been closed to accommodate us. A tall gentleman made a short speech welcoming us all to his Kommun (county). He introduced himself as Torbjörn Karlsson, and yes did I hear him correctly, he’s the mayor of Trelleborg and we were cordially invited to a reception at his house tomorrow evening. Cue 12 British tourists eating a Viking lunch (chicken, vegetables but no potatoes), drinking local mead and beer,  talking about Derby County (the mayor’s favourite English club) enjoying a fascinating tour of the castle, but all the while each and every one of us with that slightly surreal look on our faces that Kim seems to delight in producing.

We made our way to the waterfront, and our hotel for the weekend. Kim explained that since he’s not from Skåne (or Scania if you’d like it anglacised) he’d approached the local tourist board, and that’s how the mayor decided he’d like to be involved. We ended up having two Tourist Board representatives present throughout our stay to make sure we wanted for nothing. The connection proved to be handy, the hotel The Best Western Magasinet, a converted grain silo was interesting and well-appointed, and was perfectly placed for Trelleborg’s pubs, restaurants and main railway station. The pubs and restaurants saw plenty of us over the weekend! I suspect that was the aim of the tourist board; have 12 British people stay, enjoy what Trelleborg has to offer, then return home to tell everyone the place isn’t just a ferry port.

We relaxed for a while before heading out to the western edge of Trelleborg. Now I’ll admit that normally a one-off trip to a ninth tier game on a basic grass pitch at the back of an industrial estate probably wouldn’t be high on many people’s priorities. But that analysis fails to account for goodwill. Think about the day we’d just had, think about the fact that a crate of subsidised beer was waiting there for us, and think about the fact that Kim had told the tourist board that English hoppers love programmes. You virtually never see a Swedish League Division 7 club do a programme if you go to a game on your own steam, but there they were, a glorious one-off.

The game reflected the level of migration seen over the last few years in Southern Sweden. Bosnian Swedes versus Turkish Swedes, in what seemed close to a meeting of two cultural centres. The Swedish hop has long learned not to worry too much about the level, just immerse yourself in something completely different, and in this case a darned good game too. Okay the Bosnians beat the Turks, but this was more about a friendly, shared experience which is of course how it should be.

We were dropped off back at the hotel soon enough, and headed into Trelleborg for a beer and something to eat. As ever I watched and listened, and the smiling faces and excited conversations spoke volumes. Once again Kim Hedwall and Sweden had spun its magic on us all; this time it was with a little help from his friends.