Last night I found myself sitting in front of the TV eating pytt-i-panna and watching NCIS at 6:55 in the pm. It was obviously the start of another exciting night. So in an effort to do something I decided to get my ass in gear. There was a soccer game going on.
Sweden was playing Hungary at 8:15 in Solna at Råsunda Stadium. I had to leave now. So I threw on my shoes, scrounged around for a vest to wear under my jacket, grabbed a bright orange beanie and bright orange gloves and I was ready to go. Despite it being only mid-September it was cold and rainy and I was going to be damned if I was going to freeze while watching soccer.
So I made my way to the stadium and got a ticket. I was surprised at how easy it was to get a ticket actually. Stood in line for maybe five minutes. I was approached by one scalper, but for some reason I’m somewhat hesitant to buy scalped tickets. I went ahead and paid full price.
I got to my seat, which happened to be right behind a large pole. Seriously. No big deal, there was a national anthem to get through so I was standing up anyway. And when 28,177 people belt out the national anthem with “ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i norden” well that’s just cool.
Then the game got underway. The field was wet and sloppy. It wasn’t long before the Hungarians in their white jerseys were looking a bit worn. And despite the pole I managed because when I leaned forward in my seat I could see all but one corner of the pitch (see… I’m learning). It looked like I was really into the game. Which was weird because the first half was miserable. I mean really boring. Nothing happened. I was more intrigued by the drunk guy who got up on the railing (as seen in the picture to the right) and led the section in a cheer. “Andra sidan är ni klara?” Glorious. Apparently I was not alone in my disgust with the game. The Swedes were actually booed off the field at halftime.
The second half came around and I decided to move. I was tired of the pole obstructing my view. And I figured that if people hadn’t made it to their seats by the second half they weren’t coming. So I found myself a seat close by and plunked my ass down. And it was glorious. Right behind the goal. Dead center. Beautiful. I could see everything.
And the game picked up too. Two goals were scored within 20 minutes of the second half. Kim Källström and Samuel Holmén, both on passes from Henrik Larsson, playing his 101st game in the Swedish blue and yellow.
The Hungarians got a goal in the closing seconds of the extra time. The 90+2 minute if you will. And I mean really the closing seconds, I wasn’t even sure the goal counted the whistle blew so quick afterwards. But it did. Sweden wins 2-1.
A few thoughts on the game. After plenty of railing against soccer, I haven’t completely changed my mind. The first half was rough. The second half was fun. There wasn’t too much rolling around on the ground. Maybe because the ground was wet and cold and even soccer players have limits to how much they will try to act. I understand that Zlatan is an incredible talent. But he seems kind of like a spoiled athlete. Every time the ball didn’t roll his way he was shaking his head in disgust. He was jogging everywhere. I wasn’t impressed. I’m hoping it was just a bad first live impression. But then again, I’ve read that he often times doesn’t play his best when he’s wearing the national team jersey. So maybe it was just that rearing its head.
But seeing a national team game live in Sweden was a pretty damn cool experience. Because in the end, that’s what sports are all about. The experience. The atmosphere. The competition. Next on the list is a regular game from the Swedish league. And if not, Sweden plays Portugal in October. Who knows, I might even check that game out.
Welcome to Sweden.