"Wow, there are some strange sports up here"

Paul Connolly is a little puzzled by some of the odd sports he's encountered in his time in Norrland. But he's found one he likes.

X-trial antics. Go pet a cat instead.

X-trial antics. Go pet a cat instead.

Foto: Simon Eliasson

Engelska2024-04-15 09:00

Wow, there are some strange sports up here. 

Some of them are so unutterably ludicrous I’m not actually sure that I didn’t dream them. 

Did I really watch a television broadcast of a man on a small motorcycle, jumping around on piles of concrete? 

If I did, why do I remember the ‘winner’ being interviewed on TV and beaming excitedly as if he hadn’t just succeeded at the world’s most pointless sport? His elation would have been much more understandable if he'd achieved something relatively worthwhile and more fun to watch, such as boiling an egg or petting a cat.

X-trial antics. Go pet a cat instead.

Then there's trotting. Basically chariot racing for toddlers, minus the excitement and minus the actual chariots. More like watching your grandad get dragged down the street by his overly enthusiastic Labrador. 

Its predictability is also quite astonishing.

The leader at the first bend almost always wins. Why not have them race to the first corner and be done with it? You could fit in, like, fifty races in the time it takes these guys to complete one. The gambling companies would love that.

Even the driver looks bored.

But ice hockey I do get.

My first experience of hockey was a couple of years ago, when my Swedish friend, Nils, took me to see Skellefteå AIK. 

One of my first games was a thrilling win over Norrland rivals, Luleå, but I lost my cool a couple of times at visiting supporters celebrating a Luleå goal. 

My friend looked at me with alarm and patted my arm, as if he were soothing a furious three-year-old. 

In England, at a football match, it’s perfectly acceptable to shout a few angry words at opposing supporters – not so much here. 

This is a good thing, however. At ice hockey games you get a much broader demographic than football matches. In the UK, at least, football spectators tend to be male and 30-60 years old. At Skellefteå ice hockey matches, I think the male-female split is around 60-40.

And there are a lot of younger females. This makes for a much less testosterone-fuelled atmosphere, although the singing from the standing area-located hardcore home fans is pretty constant and adds hugely to the atmosphere.

And ice hockey is to football as Formula One is to trotting. It’s so fast!

You have to train your eyes to follow the puck as it zips about like the golden snitch in Harry Potter’s favorite sport, quidditch, and the rapid turnover, or substitutions, of players can be confusing at first. 

Also, when the puck becomes trapped on the boards, the scrimmages sometimes resemble a football kickabout in a school playground.  

But after thirty minutes or so you find yourself in sync with the faster rhythms of ice hockey. So much so that if you don’t watch football for a couple of weeks, when you do, it seems very slow in comparison.

I'm pretty invested in the current SHL play-offs. 

Skellefteå's coach Robert Ohlsson once told me that he likes the way Pep Guardiola teams play football. They keep hold of the ball. As a Manchester City fan, I totally get that, so I admire the Skellefteå philosophy. 

As I write this, AIK are about to welcome Frölunda to the Skellefteå Kraft Arena for game five. I'll be there.

My mate, Nils, wants me to buy a black and gold scarf for the game. 

He says it'll make me feel like more of an AIK fan.

But I think he plans to stuff it in my big mouth if I start yelling at the Frölunda fans.

This article is a column and the opinions are the writer's own. 

This column was originally published at norran.se/english, the English part om norran.se.