Supporting Newcastle United and Women’s Football In Sweden
Having quite a few friends from Sweden who support the Toon (remarkably they hail from Norrkoping who United played 3 times in the early 50s when both Sweden & Norrkoping had some famous players), I was always going to have an interest in the 2013 Women’s Euros as well as moaning onto friends about the way the FA have been treating a couple of northern women’s teams in recent years.
Of the games I have seen, I have enjoyed them and no, I am not starved of football during pre-season because I never bothered with any of the Confederations Cup but felt that after watching a lot of the early games, this tournament is quite refreshing & along with the added possibility for quite a few teams to win it.
Now having been to Sweden on a few footy trips & always been curious as to why Sweden always had a good women’s team, I posed the question to my (Swedish) toon mate & asked:
How come your women’s team does well at international level when you only have a total population of approx 10million?
The answer was simply ’we treat women’s football equally’.
I didn’t go into all the ins & outs of his statement but obviously they must get a fair crack of the whip in respect of help & support from the Swedish FA & government who happen to run most things in the country, like alcohol & betting, hence I believe they pay higher taxes.
During this tournament so far in Sweden I felt in the majority of games there doesn’t seem to be a fear of attacking & often at times it’s been end to end stuff which really has been a breath of fresh air. As well as team selection coming across to me as players being judged on ability rather than seeing the many manufactured type players whose assets are height & strength, which I see a lot in the men’s game.
It was great to see the smaller, less physical players who possess great technique, skill & creativity. Lastly, the amount of quality crosses & headed goals have been impressive. England women tried their best but it wasn’t to be, though I still can’t help thinking that this team belongs the richest league in the world with a population of approx 60 million. Surely whatever the FA are doing, or not doing, needs to be improved in many ways to help them become the world’s greatest. They can start, in my opinion, by putting on an incentive for volunteers & my idea is that most people in grassroots got involved as volunteers because of their children. So as a reward why doesn’t the FA reward these same people who are working for free developing youngsters and give them some priority ticketing options or discounted tickets for international games.
On a different note, the cost of living in Sweden I feel is expensive & hotels for visitors always over-priced. I still respect the Swedish lifestyle as they appear to have just what is needed. I was already aware that the Swedes were football mad & their biggest interest was with England.
On my last footy visit, amongst our group of Swedes we had longstanding Spurs, Villa, Newcastle, Forest, Man Utd & Liverpool, this is mostly down to approx 30-40 years ago when Swedish TV had a live game on national TV (no first row sports in those days) at 3pm every Saturday & most choose their teams from watching this English TV football programme on a weekly basis (of course I can confirm they get some bad winters with constant ice & very cold conditions so I guess this may be the highlight of the day if you are stuck in the house).
The lads themselves are well up to date with teams, players & often visit England for games & will gladly take in lower league games as well on visits to the UK . One of the lads who was at Euro 2012 got talking to an England fan who was amazed that the Swedes knew more about the England squad/selection than the England fan. However, I have found they also prefer our pre-match build up & of course our reasonably priced beer, as well as choice & quality, when over in Newcastle.
Sweden also recently entertained England & Ireland in their impressive new (Friends) arena but they found that the atmosphere v England was poor so they immediately created a section behind the goal for their next game v Ireland for like-minded people who wanted to sing & wave flags.
On my previous visits to Sweden I was well aware the Swedes like a drink but found again it’s not a big drinking culture pre-match, probably because alcohol is too expensive & perhaps the lack of beer strength, so I never saw anyone get drunk at games. I was also aware that alcohol up to 4% is available to take to your seats inside the ground & found the newly opened stadium to be the best I have been to since the Aztec in Mexico City & better than Wembley because in the upper concourse at Wembley I feel that you are not part of the game due to its height.
Once at the ground, to go inside you go through a proper glass door & are searched & ticket checked with no turnstiles, this is far more relaxing & a different experience. Some other advantages are that you can stand on the concourse drinking without being moved & watch the game overlooking the pitch & at the same time view the game via the many 50 inch TVs that are everywhere.
Our remarkable experience was that we were able to take off coats (mid March time) inside due to the roof being closed, even though it was minus 10 outside. We even saw the low profile & non-confrontational stewarding on walkways. However, I saw stewards frequently telling away fans who were smoking to put cigarettes out.
Lastly, I just wanted to make you aware that as well as sitting next to a Norwegian lad v mackems at home, who was among 100 over for our last derby game, that Newcastle have some great support in Sweden.
Of course I also suspect KK helped a lot in that respect, again though these are markets where I feel Newcastle could tap into with planned out/well advertised pre-season tours to the likes of Sweden, Northern Ireland, Norway and more importantly it’s more accessible to our fans who wish to travel for a week & have a holiday. At the same time supporting the toon and meeting like-minded fans..
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