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Saturday 20th August 2022 ko 12:00

Sweden Gästrikland Youth League

STRÖMSBRO IF 3 (Bergland 53secs Törneld 35 Salminen 72)

GEFLE IF BLÅ 8 (5 15 25 41 51 65 68 75)

Att 25 at Testebovallens IP, Gävle

Free Entry

We’d long since planned our last full day in Sweden to be based around football. I’d thought about taking Robyn to any of the big 3 grounds in Stockholm, the Friends Arena, the Tele-2 and top of the list, the Olympic Stadium but there wasn’t a single game for us at any of them. We were happy to dip further down the Stockholm pyramid, but I knew Swedish Hop organiser Kim Hedwall was going to be in Gävle and let’s face it, you know he’d be able to sniff out an interesting game, or two as it turned out.

We took the express train from Stockholm Central, and here’s two groundhopping top tips, book in advance, it’s cheaper, and if you’re in first class there’s free hot drinks and the train leaves before 9am you get an inclusive breakfast too. Our train left at 8.50, so it would have been churlish not to, and who couldn’t love the extra-wide reclining seats as we blasted north from Svealand to Gästrikland? 

Gävle is town probably most famous for its rather combustible goat. The goat, outsized and made of straw is the centrepiece of the town’s Christmas decorations. The problem is that Christmas, straw and anyone with nefarious intent really don’t mix, and year on year the goat goes up on flames. They’ve tried all kinds of things to stop it happening including coating the straw with a flame retardant material, but each year that goat always seems to combust!

On a more serious level Gävle was one of Western Europe’s worst affected places following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. It was down to bad luck on Gävle’s part, the wind was blowing south-west sending radioactive particles over the area, and since it was raining at the wrong time, the radionuclides entered the soil and consequentially the foodchain. To this day all animals for slaughter legally must be checked to see if their meat’s level of radioactivity is within acceptable limits.

That talk of rain leads me neatly back to the present, and there was a persistent drizzle as we met Kim at Gävle station but that gradually turned into a deluge as we took the bus into Gävle’s northern suburbs; it was no bad thing that Testebovallen has its own bus stop. Just to allow a little irony into the mix, we were less than a mile south from Hille IF who we visited on the 2013 Swedish Hop. I’m bound to say the weather was a lot kinder that day!

We were aware that the adult male team play at Division 4 level, and that we’d be watching a youth game under the banner “Våra Barns Bramtid” or “Our children’s future,” What we did know was just how tough they breed their youth up here, or that we’d walked into a family fun day.

That last fact was fortunate, the club had put a barbecue and drinks under a large gazebo and there was enough room to shelter. I use that last word loosely, while the canvas roof kept the rain off our heads, it didn’t stop a river forming around our feet, and completely engulfed the power cable connecting the coffee and popcorn machines!

Eventually a table was used sideways as a makeshift dam which helped those serving, diverted the water onto an already sodden pitch. Swedish football does come with a reputation of postponing games if conditions aren’t perfect but perhaps this was the exception that proved the rule, and both sides contributed to an entertaining game, even if Robyn did have the best idea of the day. She watched the second half of the game from the bus shelter for the trip back into town.

Groundhoppers do tend to talk in superlatives, such as most goals or most red cards. Talk of wet games tends to lean to towards games on organised hops such at St Dennis or Pencader where I suspect the game only took place due to the throng watching. This was different, the game took place because those there wanted it to, and that reflects well on all that made it so.