VIKINGS have invaded Wearside – a group of Scandinavian Sunderland fans travelled hundreds of miles to watch the last match of the season at the Stadium of Light.
Emil Heilborm, 23, was looking forward to seeing his first game at the Stadium of Light yesterday, having been invited by his friend Jesper, a massive Sunderland supporter.
“My friend Jesper is a very big fan. He loves Sunderland,” Emil said.
“His father went to London many, many years ago and saw Sunderland play and has been a fan since.”
Emil said that Swedish international Stefan Schwarz also helped to increase the club’s profile in Scandinavia during his time with the club earlier in the last decade.
However, the long-distance fans were disappointed by Black Cats losing 1-0 to Manchester United.
Ove Høiland, from Stavanger, said: “It was a great match and there was a lot of noise from the United fans.
“I’ve been to Sunderland about 10 times for matches and on holiday.
“My sister was with a guy from Sunderland and that’s why I support the team.”
The Norwegian Mackems stay at the Belmont Guest House in Roker.
The hotel’s Pam Tate said: “The link with the area seems to be the lads in their 60s, who studied over here when they were in their 20s.
“Clearly, they’ve continued to support Sunderland, had families and now dragged their sons along too. They obviously have very fond memories of their time here as students.
“It is mostly sons, not daughters who come with them, although some of the wives come along.
“They don’t go to the football, though, they go and do lots of shopping.”
But the day was nearly a disaster for four Norwegian soldiers, just back from Afghanistan, who arrived at Pam’s guest house insisting they had reservations.
It turned out the confused foursome – all in their 20s – had booked up with a hotel of the same name, but hundreds of miles away in Ayr, Scotland, and their tickets for the game, which cost about £270 each, had been sent to Pam’s Scottish counterpart.
Luckily the kind-hearted hotel owner was able to save the day by helping to arrange a taxi to bring the tickets down from the west coast to Sunderland – which left the baffled footy fans more than £200 out of pocket.
She even offered to lend one of the men her 87-year-old dad’s wheelchair, as he was struggling with an injured foot.
“I felt so sorry for them,” Pam said, “as they had all just come back from Afghanistan and one of them was one crutches, as he’d been shot in the foot.”
She added: “After everything that has happened in Norway recently, I just wanted to help them.”
Thanks to Pam, the Norwegians were reunited with their tickets, but unlike her other guests, they sat in the away end of the Stadium of Light as die-hard Manchester United fans.