Ulleval Stadium is very easy to reach, less than 100 metres from the light rail station of the same name, and less than 10 minutes from downtown Oslo.
Its the national stadium of Norway, and also the home stadium of FC Lyn Oslo and Valerenga, the country's richest club, and tonight was KAMPEN OM OSLO, the bragging rights for the nation's capital. Red v Blue. It was an 8.00pm kick off and the sun was still bright and hot. I had a reindeer burger and a giant sausage and some Norwegian pancakes in the press room prior to the start and watched an earlier game from Trodheim, Rosenberg v Start on the TV monitor.
Both sets of local fans were out in force and FC Lyn in red were the home team against their opponents in blue. Troy Perkins ex Evansville and Cape Cod Crusaders and 4 years with MLS DC United was in goal for Valerenga,(VIF) one of a number of Americans plying their trade in Norway. USA is one of the cheaper places to obtain players these days, since the Norwegian League teams are not as wealthy as the big countries. He probably earns about $185,000.00 US a year and signed a 5 year deal in January. Foreign players only have to pay 25% tax, half of what domestic players pay. Norway have been in a couple of recent World Cups and won the Womens World Cup on a limited budget.
I visited Lillestrom SK www.lsk.no to watch training. Last season the club were Norwegian Cup winners, but their form in the league this season after 8 matches or so is not too good, and after a 1-0 loss way up north against Bode/Glimt they find themselves next to bottom. They have a splendid stadium Arasen Stadion,with a statue of their greatest ever player TOM LUND outside. and have just completed an impressive full size indoor pitch with seats for a couple of thousand fans, where their B team play. Also it's the new home of a top division womens team which is about to change their name from Team Strommen www.team-strommen.no to something else. I saw them this time last year play at Strommen Stadion in front of 50 fans, When they switched to Lillestrom indoor hall they got 1,200 fans for their first match. Lillestrom SK, the Canaries, get good crowds and the city is a boom town, half way, about 15 km from Oslo and the new international airport, and boasts the country's biggest convention centre.
Not far away is a club with the biggest youth set up in Norway, Lorenskog IF www.lorenskogif.no Much travelled John Carew, now at Aston Villa, started out here and they will have 8 teams at Gothia Cup in Goteborg, Sweden next month. I watched a Division 3 regional league match, Holand IF at Sorumsand IL.(there are 24 regiional leagues of about 14 teams each in Division 3). My friend Harald Solberg, a former international player is winding down his playing career, and now plays and helps coach Holand IF, from a small farming community. They won 7-1 but the home fans had a core of about 30 teenagers with flags and banners who sang and chanted and danced throughout the 90 minutes. Most of the team's defenders were ambidextrous. That is they were equally bad with both feet!!!
The next day I went to training at Holand IF's small ground where they have a much used indoor hall for training and for gymnastics, handball and badminton, and are just finishing, with volunteer retired senior citizen fan labour, a huge indoor headquarters. The will have new changing rooms, offices, sauna, weight room and multi use rooms to raise money by renting various spaces out.
Floating like a giant iceberg is Oslo's latest tourist and cultural attraction, the OPERA HOUSE, opened just six weeks ago on one of previously stagnating parts of the old docks, Bjorvika. It's white and the room curves around the building so that people can walk on the gentle slope round and round to the very top for spectacular views on the Oslo Fjord. As a recent European Capital of Culture, the politicians deemed it necesssary to add a very significant piece of culture, to make a change from ice fishing and reindeer wrestling. Although opera and ballet are supposed to fill the bill, I wouldn't be suprised if WWF wrestling and The Stones helped make it pay it's way eventually. King Harald V was on hand to open it April 12, along with Queen Margeritta II of Denmark, and Angela Merkel from Germany who has not yet crowned herself Queen!!