Every once in a while you have one of those moments you know you’ll remember for a long time. Hearing Simon and Garfunkel in Hyde Park, or Elton John in Madison Square Garden are two musical examples. In football, I will never forget being in the Stade de France when my school mate John Collins scored a goal for Scotland against Brazil in the opening match of the 1998 World Cup.
And I will not forget in hurry last night’s match at the new Friends Arena, the great Steven Gerrard’s 100th cap and Zlatan’s last goal in particular.
Others, I hope, will have special memories from the week as well. That will certainly include 20 teenagers from Fryshuset, who got the chance to meet the England team the night before the game.
We have worked with Fryshuset on several occasions before, most recently during the visit of HRH Prince of Wales and HRH Duchess of Cornwall to Sweden in March this year. I’m delighted that we could offer these youths such a special opportunity this week.
Fryshuset makes a huge difference in many people’s lives every day, especially through their work with children in the field of sports and music, and the way they help combat racism in society through their different programmes and projects.
The young fans were very impressed by the new Friends Arena, and so was I. It was built with the support of several UK suppliers, was filled virtually to its 50,000 spectator maximum on match night, including 1,867 England fans who had travelled to Sweden for the game.
Travelling football fans are a growing group. 6% of Swedes travelling to the UK every year are football tourists. That makes 48,000 Swedes visiting the UK mainly to watch Premier League football (with perhaps just a few pub and shop visits thrown in!) every year. If the games they see are half as good as last night, they’ll be lucky indeed!