Stars legend Ove Fundin on his love affair with Norwich
- Credit: Archant
Norwich speedway great Ove Fundin has spoken passionately about the sport he loved - and the English city he called home.
The five-time world champion is happily retired in his native Sweden nowadays, but he served Norwich Stars with distinction – and more – between 1955 and 1964, when the club disbanded.
'I didn't speak hardly any English at all,' he said. 'I could say thank you and a few little things. But everyone was so helpful to me. Everyone was kind and nice so I very much liked it.
'For all the time I rode there with the club, I felt Norwich was my home. Now I live in Tranas, which is my home again, but Norwich is my second home and I go there at least a couple of times a year.'
The 85-year-old, nicknamed the Flying Fox, was speaking to a team from Influx – Adrian Flux's online motoring magazine – for a film produced by WXVE, the film arm of the King's Lynn-based Maze Media Group.
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Fundin's memories of his time in Norfolk are vivid – and he was grateful that the city had a business that helped satisfy his sweet tooth.
'I'm still grateful for the days when the chocolate factory was in Norwich, or part of it anyway,' he said. 'Some of my girl supporters used to bring me lots of chocolate as I'm one of them chocaholics!'
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Fundin's love affair with Norwich came about after a chance meeting.
'After the 1954 world final at Wembley I was contacted and offered a season in Australia, which I took of course,' he explained.
'It was nice to see that part of the world. On the boat back there was a whole gang of speedway riders. All of the good riders went there and most of them were Australians who just went home to race, like I did. Among them was a guy called Aub Lawson – a very good Australian speedway rider. He had taken a liking to me and even without me knowing he had contacted his club in England, which was Norwich. He said, 'I've got this fella, this Swedish guy, and maybe we should offer him a place in the team'.
'When we docked there was someone there to meet us and they offered me a spot in the Norwich team.
'It was tough racing and different kind of tracks. Once you could master all of them you did become a good rider. There was some very good riders. We had one in Norwich called Billy Bales. He was unbeatable around Norwich but he just couldn't get around anywhere else.'
Fundin led the Norwich Stars until 1964, when the gates were locked at The Firs track.
'It really upset me when it closed,' he said. 'I was very sad. I still cannot understand why they closed it. They had a very good crowd and they earned good money. What was wrong was there were five, six or maybe seven directors who owned part of it and I do know at least a couple of them were quite greedy and when they were offered good money for the land they thought they better take it now.
'I wasn't the only one who was sad. So many of the supporters were very, very sad. I almost lost my interest when it closed. I was talked into trying another couple of clubs but my heart was never with them - it was only with Norwich. After them years there, having befriended so many people, it felt very bad.'
The interview with Fundin was conducted by speedway expert, Gavin Caney. The inspiration came from the co-founder of WXVE and Maze Media Group director Nick Curtis. The film is in memory of Nick's grandfather, David Neeve. After he passed away, Nick discovered his love for Ove and speedway after going through his farming diaries where he wrote several entries about Fundin.