Gefle Idrottsförening, or GIF, were formed in December 1882 as Gefle SK although the current name was adopted only months later. Gefle itself is the ancient spelling of Gävle a port town around 110 miles north of Stockholm. The port and town thrived on exports of copper and iron and remains a busy hub for sea transportation. The town is renowned internationally for the Gävle goat, a huge straw goat that is erected and burnt every yuletide.
As with many clubs in Sweden the GIF club was originally a multi sports club that then created a football offshoot. In the case of Gefle, football was introduced to the town by an English accountant called Robert Carrick. Carrick would manage the club until 1907. During his tenure the club gained early success in the short lived Rosenska Pokalen winning the first three tournaments defeating AIK twice and also Djurgårdens IF in the finals. At the time the club refused to participate in the Svenska Mästerskapet which was a cup tournament held to decide the best team in all of Sweden with the final alternating between Gothenburg and Stockholm. This meant probably the best side in the east of the country at the time never tested itself against Gothenburg’s Örgryte IS who were the dominant side in the early years of this competition.
Since those early successes Gefle have mainly been a second and third tier club with two short spells in the Allsvenskan in the 1930’s and 1980’s. The 1950’s were a dark period for the club and having sunk to the fourth tier the board actively discussed folding the club altogether. In 1979 the club briefly merged with Brynäs IF although this lasted only three seasons. Gefle enjoyed a renaissance under Kenneth Rosén gaining promotion to the top flight in 2004 as runners up in the Superettan to BK Häcken. The club have done exceptionally well to remain in the Allsvenskan ever since and finished 12th last season. On three occasions during their top tier tenure Gefle had qualified for the UEFA Cup/Europa League. They lost to Llanelli in the first qualifying round of the 2006/07 tournament, and to Georgians Dinamo Tblisi in the second qualifying round in the 2010/11 competition. Two years later they defeated Estonians Narva Trans and Anorthosis of Cyprus before succumbing to Azerbaijanis Qarabağ FK in the third qualifying round.
The club have played at the site now occupied by Strömvallen since 1903, prior to this the town had no set sports ground and games had to be staged in the courtyard of Läroverket school. Strömvallen with its wonderfully ornate wooden grandstand, opened in 1923 and was designed by Erik Vestergren. Extensively modelled on Torben Grut’s iconic Stockholm Olympic stadium the Strömvallen is classical 1920’s design. However, other than the ground of newly promoted Falkenberg, the Strömvallen has the smallest capacity in the top flight at a little over 6,700.
In May 2013 it was announced that the club and the municipality had agreed to build a new, modern stadium in the Sätraåsen area of Gävle, so this is the last campaign at the old stadium. For the 2015 season the club will play at their new stadium, currently known as the Gävlehov Arena. Sadly for the old Strömvallen it does not meet the stringent ground grading rules set by the Swedish FA in 2013 and its days were really numbered from that point.
The area had been a running track since October 1900 and was then known as Strömdalen and was built on the site of the derelict Rettigska orphanage. The football pitch was laid in 1903 and shared with athletics until 1984 when it became a football only facility. It was athletics that bought world wide attention to the Strömvallen in the 1940’s when it was the home track of legendary middle and long distance runner, Gunder Hägg, who was virtually unbeatable for a decade. Hägg is honoured with a bronze statue “The Runner” outside the stadium. Hägg also an athletics stadium named after him in another part of town.
The stadium was extensively remodelled in 1966 and floodlights were also erected at that time. The stadium still has extensive standing room and only gained seating outside of the grandstand after the turn of the 21st century.
This evening’s game sees Åtvidabergs FF visit the Strömvallen for the last time. While both sides are in the lower reaches of the table both should survive unless either Mjällby of Brommapojkarna pull of a miracle escape act from the bottom two places. The game is played in surprisingly hot conditions and is not the greatest of spectacles. A late goal from Åtvidabergs’ substitute Victor Sköld seals the points for the visitors. He had been on the pitch barely three minutes when he slotted home a ball optimistically drilled across the penalty area.
Saturday August 30th 2014 – Allsvenskan
Gefle IF (0) 0
Åtvidabergs FF (0) 1 (Sköld 83)
Attendance: 3,270 (at Strömvallen)
1. Emil Hedvall, 4. Anders Wikström, 14. Jens Portin, 6. Jesper Florén, 16. David Fällman, 17. Jonas Lantto, 19. Marcus Hansson, 7. Robin Nilsson, 12. Anders Bååth-Sjöblom, 8. Simon Lundevall, 9. Johan Oremo.
Subs: 3. Jonas Olsson, 10. Dioh Williams (for 17,81 mins), 13. Johan Bertilsson (for 19,86 mins), 15. Skuli Jon Fridgeirsson (for 4,43 mins), 20. Emil Bellander, 24. Erik Olsson, 30. Oskar Larsson.
1. Henrik Gustavsson, 2. Alan Arenfeldt Olesen, 3. Månz Karlsson, 24. Tom Petterson, 5. Daniel Hallingström, 6. Mohammed Abubakari, 16. Pontus Nordenberg, 32. Martin Christensen, 7. Kristian Bergström, 11. Ricardo Santos, 19. John Owoeri.
Subs: 9. Victor Sköld (for 19,80 mins), 10. Daniel Sjölund (for 2,76 mins), 13. Alberis Silva (for 32,86 mins), 14. Simon Skrabb, 18. Joel Rajalakso, 20. Gustav Jansson, 23. Emmanuel Ageymang-Boakye.
Yellow cards: Bååth-Sjöblom, Lundevall (GIF); Petterson, Gustavsson (AFF)