Wednesday’s GP was keen to emphasise the economics of this mammoth exercise in logistics. The cup brings in 200 million crowns, almost half of which ends up in the government’s coffers. This makes it at least three times as big as other major events such the O-Ringen orienteering event, Hultsfred rock festival and the Vasaloppet ski race.
Gothia week never fails to produce plenty of ‘human interest’ stories and this year is no exception. The team attracting most attention has been the Peace Team, in the Boys 11 age group (Group 24!). Sponsored by the Shimon Peres Peace Centre in Tel Aviv, Israel, the team is made up of half Palestinians and half Israelis. But the figure attracting most attention hasn’t been the Israeli or Palestinian coach, or the star midfielder, but their illustrious guest trainer, Sven-Göran Eriksson, who’s been offering his words of wisdom from the sidelines.
‘Can football really do anything for peace?’ asked a cynical reporter. ‘I don’t know, but if you never try, nothing will happen,’ replied the famously diplomatic Svennis.
Having lost their first game, the Peace Team seemed inspired by the arrival of Svennis in time for their second game, comfortably defeating Swedish team Näset 4-2. ‘This is going fine, they don’t need any help from me,’ said the great man at half time. A jubilant team member, Khader Obeid, commented after the game: ‘Mr Eriksson gave me and the whole team the energy to win the game. I hope we can write a contract with him so that he can stay.’
GP reported that it hasn’t been such a happy story for other Palestinian footballers wanting to participate. The Migration Board turned down a visa application from a wholly Palestinian team as it feared defections from members of the party. ‘The last two or three years we’ve had extremely strict guidelines concerning the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,’ said Marie Andersson, the press officer at the Migration Board. ‘The risk of defection is particularly high.’
Another team attracting attention is Kampala Kids from Uganda. They’ve sent teams on two previous occasions, winning their age group both times. This year, Uganda’s only sports club for children is represented by a team in the boys’ 12 year age group. The players come from all walks of life from sons of diplomats to street children. Daniel Ojara lost his entire family in a massacre.
The GP reporter was impressed by their fantastic performance as they thrashed Boo FF 8-1 and everything was summed up by coach Eddie Butindo:
‘It’s looking very good. Our best forward played in goal today and our key defender rested. The lads are in fine form, we’ve eaten a lot of meat, cheese and eggs since we arrived. We can’t afford those things at home.’