Football Fever in Norway
European Football Chamiponships 2012
John Carew, Jon Arne Riise, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Brede Hangeland, Bjørn Helge Riise, Thomas Rogne, Vadim Demidov, Torstein Helstad, Mohamed Abdelloue, Christian Grindheim, Daniel Braathen and Steffen Iversen are just a few of the Norwegian superstars of international football (soccer). They are paid unbelievable amounts of money to play for some of Europe’s best football clubs. Football is by far the largest and most popular sport amongst young children in Norway. In a country with about 5 million people there were in 2009 more than 170 000 children under the age of 12 who played football for a local club. Also the amount of girls who are playing football is impressive compared to other countries. That can be related to the policy of the Norwegian Football Society that before the age of 12 teams should not differentiate between players based on skills. Everybody has an equal right to participate.
Norway is making huge investments in what can be considered our national sport based on the number of organized players, and our society’s appreciation for the sport, both our own leagues, international leagues, and the World and European Championships. Just recently the famous Norwegian millionaire and owner of Norwegian football club “Molde”, Kjell Inge Røkke, made an effort to keep their Norwegian coach and former UK Premier League superstar Ole Gunnar Solskjær. When the former Manchester United superstar started discussions with multimillion British Premier League club Aston Villa he was given an offer he could not refuse. The details of their agreement are unknown, but I am sure he was generously compensated to stay in Molde.
Still, Norway is unable to create a winning national team. Only once has Norway qualified to participate in the European Championship (in 2000), and the World Championship three times (in 1938, 1994 and 1998).
Being probably one of the least football interested people in Norway this is a mystery to me. Perhaps it is related to the idea that we do not favour the elite in Norway, young talented players are not being put into practice to become future superstars before after the age of 12, while other countries often scout talented players at a much younger age. Still I am not convinced that this is the only answer, because this is also true for other sports, also the ones we are really good at, as cross country skiing. I am also not sure if it is possible to predict the future talent of a 10 year old because their advantage towards other players could also be related to physical development, and this advantage may be lost later on.
These days our neighbors in Sweden and Denmark are playing the first rounds in the European Championship, and because Norway are used to standing on the outside we are happy for Denmark's victory last Wednesday almost as it was our own, and cried a tear with Sweden when they lost against Ukraine this Monday. “How exciting wouldn’t it be to have a Scandinavian team in the final rounds of the European Championship??!!” is the reaction from our sports commentators.
I am not really watching the actual games, but it seems like everybody else in Norway are, so it is impossible to not know how the European Football Championships are evolving, but perhaps I would be a little more interested if all the Norwegian international superstars one day found a way to play together as a winning team. Meanwhile: GO Sweden! GO Denmark!