Text: Ian Murphy Foto: Åke Westin SAIF Sveriges Akademiska Idrottsförbund
My name is Ian Murphy and in the beginning of May I spent a week enjoying the hospitality in the student capital of Sweden, Uppsala. I am a medical doctor and privileged to spend part of each year working for FISU – the International University Sport Federation. Every second year the World University Championship (WUC) is organised. The WUC event in American Football was the reason for my visit to Uppsala. As a member of the FISU medical committee I assist the local organising committee to ensure that the event maintains the health and welfare standards expected by FISU. The safety of the athletes is of paramount importance to FISU.
American Football in Uppsala
The Swedish University Sport Federation (SAIF) took on the task of organising the first ever WUC in American Football – a feat they achieved with considerable success. This was a massive event with five teams from China, Japan, Finland, Mexico and of course Sweden participating. The competition field, Österängens idrottsplats, and surrounding environment were first class.
Each of these teams had over 50 members in their delegation and in some cases closer to 100! They all played four matches in a round robin format. Teams required training venues, laundry to be done, to be fed and of course accommodated. In the final Mexico beat Japan with 14-6, and Sweden got the bronze medal. Matches were televised via the internet. The people of Uppsala did all of this and more with aplomb. The city should be proud of its rich university history and the kindness of its people.
What were my impressions of Uppsala?
Uppsala is a very welcoming city and we were lucky to be here at a special time of the year – Valborg. This is clearly a time of celebration as the spring is welcomed. It was clear that the students get right into it with celebrations happening across all the student nations. The University of Uppsala clearly has a rich history that goes back to before New Zealand was even formally recognised as a country. It is hard to imagine that a university can be that old! One thing that university have is strong traditions and the wearing of the graduation cap was evidence of that. The antics that were clearly going on with the student within the nations were further evidence of that. One thing I can say is that no matter whether the university is 50 or 500 years old or it is in New Zealand or Uppsala, students around the world enjoy a beer and loud music to dance to! I am sure that the day following Valborg was a tough day for some as the inevitable hangover set in.
We were privileged to attend the Valborg lunch and celebration at the Uppsala Concert Hall. I did not know there were so many ways to eat herring. It seemed that there was herring with all manner of sauces to suit every taste. Whilst I tried some I am not sure that I found any that particularly suited my taste – it is certainly an acquired taste! It was also neat to hear people singing traditional folk songs with such gusto.
A day later we were back to the concert hall for the opening ceremony of the event and a cultural experience of dance and singing. It would not be a trip to Sweden without some reference to ABBA and we were not disappointed with wonderful rendition of the appropriately entitled ‘The Winner Takes It All’. This was however surpassed by the wonderful singing of a local choir group whose cover of ‘Baba Yetu’ would not be out of place in a Swahili village.
The city is an easy place to get around, and in many cases, made even easier with the use of bikes. The city centre is within easy reach of the hotel. This meant the shopping was close at hand and that has meant that I was able to take home plenty of local gifts for my family. I even had to buy another bag in one of the shops to cope with it all!
So Uppsala provided many highlights and I have barely mentioned the football tournament which was a great feat in itself.
The weather reminded me that I was in Sweden and the snow that fell one night was a cool surprise. It made me realise that my wind jacket wasn’t going to be enough (back to those shops!)
What about New Zealand?
I have now returned to my own little slice of paradise in the South Pacific – New Zealand. In the native language of New Zealand, Maori it is called Aotearoa. Translated literally it means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.
I am based in Wellington (the capital) where I work in a number of different roles with various organisations including with New Zealand Rugby. Rugby is our national sport and occupies us like football seems to pre-occupy all of Europe.
One of the things that my job allows me to do is see many other countries in the world and to experience other cultures. Despite this I find myself always keen to return to my home town and to my family. This always makes me think that I am very lucky that I can see all these places but the one I always want to see the most is home – there is no place like it.
I welcome you to visit my country and its capital and see all that New Zealand has to offer. If I can help with this please let me know. I only hope that it can match the experience that I have just had in Uppsala.