Bengt Olof Gustafson, was born in Mölnlycke, Sweden in 17 of May 1963. Bengt Gustafson, Bengan as he is well known amongst his fans and teammates, is one of the most famous volleyball players in volleyball history.
Born in a mid-suburban family, Bengan always knew that he would become an athlete. He did a lot of sports, football, handball, hockey, athletics before ever thinking of playing volleyball and also two summers he worked as a windsurfing instructor. His first contact with the sport came at the age of 13 when he started playing with friends while at the same time he went on with all the rest and soon was drafted for the youth national team of Sweden at the age of 17.
His first team was Sjovalla with coach Bertil Bjorqvist and then he decided to be focused on volleyball at the age of 18. The doors were widely opened and then came the first pro-contract (there were no pro-contracts in Sweden those days), with Robe di Kappa Torino in 1983 that would open the path to a great career for the Swedish outside hitter.
Bengan’s bright star began to shine.
After two years in Turin, Bengt signed a contract with Santal Parma (that was named Maxicono in 1987) and remained in Italy till 1988 (his favourite country as he admits) and then came an offer he couldn’t resist from a tycoon in Greece, the president of Olympiacos, Giorgos Koskotas, that told him, you will come and play for the team you can’t do otherwise! Olympiacos was well-known and there were players he already knew from the national Greek team, so he couldn’t say “no” even though he had to say no to Sisley Treviso. What he didn’t expect then was that Koskotas was not good at his word and that money was like dust in the wind and that he would stay and play in Greece the following five months with not one cent.
When he arrived, two weeks before the beginning of the championship, in Greece he couldn’t believe how many over-enthusiastic people would have waited for him at the airport, his surprise was that much that he thought that some rock star was about to come and that all those people weren’t waiting for him, then came his presentation in Karaiskaki, football court of Olympiacos that was filled with fans that were cheering, that was one of the most vivid memory of the first times in Greece. Then he realized that all things were not that sweet, at least the hotel was one of the best in Athens, the food was great, and when the hotel management informed him that Koskotas wasn’t paying anymore of the hotel, some good in word fan gave his credit card in order to have at least that. Bengan was good at his word though Koskotas was not, and stayed and played for 5 months and left with one Million dollars short, the only thing he wanted at that point was to leave Greece and told his manager he wanted to be released from his contract and wouldn’t ask for his money and returned in Sweden to play for Kungälv VBK for the playoffs.
Fortunately Treviso still wanted him back, and Bengan left for Italy once more to stay there till January 1991 when he had a surgery on his knee.
The historic game against S. Union
Swedish national team at the 80s was one of the best in Europe with a lot of success. Anders Kristiansson, the head coach was the heart of that team that brought Swedish volleyball at the top rank of Europe.
Soviet Union had won the European Championships for 11 years in a row, and in 1989, all expected it to win one more, but the team of Anders Kristiansson had a different opinion. Sweden entered the European Championship against West German with a win by 3-2 then won a 3-0 over East Germany and France by 3-1 but lost Italy by 3-0. Sweden had to win Bulgaria to qualify and fortunately in a thrilling match did that. As a result Italy came first in the group in Stockholm in Sweden and Soviet Union won the first rank in its own pool. As it won all games with no trouble. So Sweden began the semifinal game against S. Union infront of 7.000 spectators. Sweden managed to neutralize completely the Soviet players, after 2 sets, all wished for a miracle, but Dmitri Fomine of S. Union brought the game at the final 5th set, 20 million people in front of the tv sets were watching the game. At 15-15 Sweden went ahead with a 16-15 and then Bengan made and incredible defense rescue on an impossible ball and Hakan Bjorne did the final attack and Sweden got the European Championship in this incredible game.
Anders Kristiansson was a great coach, though very strict, but Bengt admits that he owes a lot to his coach, that his dedication to the game and his teachings made him a better player and by far he is the best coach he ever had as well as a good friend.
“I remember that we won and it was a fantastic moment for Swedish volleyball and that we did it in Stockholm in front of our fans.”
Bengan’s career was at its peak when a car suddenly came to change his life completely.
He was in Italy with Sisley Treviso, September 1991, a motorcycle was a much easier means of transportation and besides he loved bikes, it was after practice when one of his worst dreams were realized, a car didn’t see his motorcycle and bumped him on the right side smashing his right leg, four breaks was the outcome, a year of therapy to make the leg work once again, and a lot of pain. He was crashed in heart as well, he realized that his career had come to a halt but he was determined to make the best of it. He went back at Sweden for a series of operations and at the hospital he met his wife that he married in 1993 and in 1994 they had their son, John, Bengan’s pride and joy.
With a lot of effort his leg was fixed but he couldn’t play volleyball in a hall anymore, nevertheless he did play beach volley and with much success.
Teamed with Per Magnusson, between 1995-1997, they played in Sweden and played in 2 world tournaments.
Bengt Gustafson volleyball career ended in 1997 after winning 2 tournaments in Sweden because of knee problem.
Bengt’s career is brightened with a lot of titles.
With Robe di kappa he won championship as well as the Cup of Cups in Europe, with Maxicono the Italian cup, Cev cup and the Cup of cups and he was voted MVP in the final, with Sisley he won the Cev cup.
As for the National team, in 1989 he won the second place in European championship and voted as MVP and best attacker
What is after volleyball…
Bengt’s life didn’t stop when volleyball days were over, he became network and computers’ technician and he lately works in a project called Volleyball World Arena whose goal is to spread volleyball knowledge worldwide and to help federations and teams to improve their financial states.
A few more things about Bengt:
Nick name: Bengan or Ben
Favourite colour : Blue
Favourite music : the 80s
Favourite place in the world : Santa Lucia
Person who admires most: his mom, she is a strong and pleasant woman
What he likes on people : People that are honest, outgoing, and like to joke
Favourite pets: Cats
What he would like to be if he hadn’t been a vb player: Sports teacher
Hobbies : Fishing, golf, bowling, computer games
He speaks fluently Italian and English.