The Swedish men’s masters team has a familiar look about it. For those fans of European Ultimate who remember the heady days of 2010, it’ll be immediately obvious when you see the names on the roster: Sebastian Sporrong, Nicklas Tehler, Anders Dahlberg, Martin Hargeby. For those readers who don’t remember those days, let’s take a trip back.
In 2008, Skogshyddan won the European Ultimate Championship Finals and were crowned the best club team in Europe. They lost to Chevron Action Flash from the UK in 2009, and to Flying Angels Bern of Switzerland in 2010. They were one of the top clubs around, and sent players to the Swedish national team that won the European title over Great Britain in 2011, and finished fourth at the World Ultimate and Guts Championships in Japan in 2012. After 2012, the club stopped competing on a European level. They’ve played some tournaments in Sweden since then and some of the players have moved over to the mixed division, but the group as a whole left the top table of European Ultimate.
When the squads were put online, it was quickly evident that the Swedes were a team to pay attention to. Bringing the band back immediately makes them one of the more interesting teams for anyone who remembers the earlier part of this decade, and their play since the tournament started has been enough to attract the attention of anyone else. They fell to France in a close game today but have been one of the best teams in the men’s masters division ahead of the knockout games starting tomorrow.
“There are five members of the team who were on Skogs originally,” says Swedish captain Martin Hargeby. “Me, Sebastian Sporrong, Nicklas Tehler, Simon Wesley and Joel Hogberg. All of the other guys are from Viksjofors [Skogs’ main rivals in Sweden].”
Hargeby says that while this team hasn’t played together since the third-place game at WUGC in Sakai, they’ve stayed close and are enjoying playing together again:
“We first played together in 2007 and have stuck together since. It’s been super fun getting together again, and we are still playing the Swedish way – with a short crew! We had hoped to bring more people but another Skogs guy dropped off a day before the tournament. We worked well from the beginning and were trying to get more people in but it didn’t work.”
Despite that, their results have been excellent. They gathered to prepare about a month ago and realised, according to Hagerby, that their physical fitness needed to improve for a tough week on the beach.
“Everyone has been working out really hard for the last month, and we ned that because everyone else has 15 or 20 people. Our mind set has been go for 100% from the beginning and get the other team to drop their heads. We had that against Denmark and Ireland, we pushed on and they weren’t playing as well at the end of the game. We knew we had to kill the game. Against France, they are a good team. We had a chance to go up by two or three, they managed to stay in the game. They are a strong team.”
When pressed on whether they’ll see France later on, Hargeby demures and says that they’ll only be able to see France in the final and that the Swedish are only thinking about the quarter-final tomorrow. He has more to say on another match, though – the Great Britain grand masters have expressed an interest in playing the Swedes, rekindling the battles they fought against each other a decade ago. When asked about that, Hagerby laughs and says they’re open to playing on Saturday. Whether playing against old adversaries or newer opponents, this Swedish team is a throwback to when they ruled Europe – and they’re a good bet to do so again.