“Like the team, I always make a comeback”: Faktum vendor Ulf lives and breathes for the Gothenburg football club Gais

Faktum vendor Ulf in his Gais football kit

Photo by Pär Ljung

By Malin Clausson

  • Vendor stories
Originally published:
Faktum street paper, Sweden

Ulf Gustafsson, 65 years old, sells Faktum in the Partille Centrum outside Gothenburg. As the World Cup rolls on, he extolls about his passion for local team Gais – one of Sweden’s oldest football clubs which plays in the second tier of the country’s league system – and how his fandom has intersected with his personal life.

I was born in the maternity ward in Alingsås in 1958, the same year the new Ullevi arena was built. I grew up in Gothenburg because my father got a job at the spinning mill in Gårda, while my mother worked as a cleaner at Hisingehus [a local office block]. I started school in Tolered. At that time, Saturday mornings were also for school. But our home was cramped as I have two siblings, and when we had the opportunity to move, we ended up in Vidkärr. It was a good time with lots of friends and football.

As a little kid, I went to IFK's football school, and we had Ronnie Hellström as our goalkeeper coach. It was great fun. Later I started playing in Qviding. I became the centre-back and got to be part of Leif Eriksson's football school, which was a TV programme broadcast from Karlstad at the time. I remember I was even paid 50 SEK. That was awesome.

My friend's dad played in Gais' A team and once in the third grade we got to watch the Gais A team versus IFK derby. Gais won that match. Since it was my best friend who brought me and they even set off green flares, I became a Gais supporter.

I wasn’t a very good student, but I still finished primary school with decent grades. It's easy with hindsight: I should have become a carpenter, electrician or painter, but I didn't get any advice from adults, so I followed the two-year social programme. I also had a paper round and worked as supplementary staff at Kålltorp's nursing home. I learned a lot there and also met many people who were lonely, who didn’t get any visitors. I became very involved and gave extra care to a lonely lady who was missing her son. Then I was considered too sociable and got fired. But the residents missed me so much and complained until I got my job back. I was really proud.

A friend of mine took me to Bugg dance lessons [a common dancing style in Sweden] so we could go out to dance and meet girls. When we were out, I met Suzanne. We danced a few times and became a couple. During a holiday trip to Rhodes, she became pregnant. There we met a nice tour guide named Rickard, and so our son got his name. He was born 1980. We lived in Kållered and I then started at SKF [manufacutring company] where I worked for 36 years. Twelve-hour night shifts, that was tough. I also sold vacuum cleaners for a while. Actually, I even sold one to the football legend Gunnar Gren.

I retired when I was 62 and we had plans to travel. But Suzanne became seriously ill. She was hospitalised several times. In the end she never came home. I blamed myself and started to drink myself to death.

Then I met Krister, who sells Faktum in Nordstan, and decided that I should try it. The extra money it brings is important so that I can afford somewhere to live and food. Besides, it is also something social. I have always appreciated the little things in life.

A couple of years ago I got cancer, that's why I have a scar on my forehead. But I'm like Gais, I always make a comeback. And now I’m gonna get a cat.

Translated from Swedish via Translators without Borders

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