Posted: 6/5/2009


        It's really good sailing weather on the Oslo Fjord as we take out Harald's 41 foot HENSE 320 yacht with on onboard motor from its mooring near the huge COLOR LINE M/S Color Fantasy, 75,000 gross tons with capacity for 2,750 passengers and a crew of 250, a ship that goes daily overnight to Kiel in 20 hours.  Harald bought the boat brand new in Germany and sailed it to Oslo with a buddy. It's due for a clean so we pass the royal yacht of King Harald, then Bygdøy Peninsula and the ship FRAM, which Roald Amundsen took to Antarctica on his South Pole adventure, where he was first to the Pole in 1911.

      We are doing about 5 knots with the motor and at the small dockyard it is hauled out of the water by a giant crane and put on supports so we can clean it this weekend. I am suprised how many little sea creatures have to be hosed off.  It sleeps 4 and has the latest navigation. I take the giant wheel and the instruments tell me the speed, course, windspeed, depth and more.

      In the evening I go to the large training site of Vålerenga IF which includes a full size hall, VALHALL, where lots of teams train and the pros play each other in winter. It seats 5,000 and has a couple of dozen team changing rooms and showers, plus a large weight room and more.  Outside there are a dozen or so artificial turf fields for the 100 plus youth teams. I watch the U 19's play against Lorenskog IF and it finishes 1-1 and despite being early June its very cold. I chat in the lee of the entrance with one of the V.I.F. managers whose son is playing pro for Ålesund on the West Coast and who had a season or so with Parma in the Italian League.

      There are lots and lots of artificial turf fields in every neighbourhood, and small enclosed small sized ones near large housing complexes for the kids. The N.F.F., the national federation has also invested heavily and helped member clubs in large and small cities build full size indoor arenas.

       On Friday afternoon I go to the new indoor stadium, TELENOR ARENA of the champions STABAEK, on the site of the old Fornebu airport. It can accommodate 15,000 watching soccer and 23,000 for concerts. Today I am at the FOTBALL EXPO  which has fun games and competitions for kids, an injury clinic and booths featuring the NFF,  a number of TIPPELIGAEN clubs and booths for the many varied artificial turfs, souvenirs, team uniforms, coaching aids, camps and more.

      I have a chat with Kjetil Siem who was very successful managing and marketing V.I.F. and is here to open the EXPO. He is in South Africa until after FIFA World Cup 2010 as Director of PSL the Premier Soccer League.  I drop by a number of booths, including those af Frederikstad, Lyn Oslo, Rosenborg, Odd Grenland, Valerenga, Stabaek, and Lillestrom.  I meet with Tommy Christensen of the FOTBALLMUSEET which is located at Ullevaal Stadion. Also Niclas Andersson of Gothia Cup.    

      Artificial turf systems have worked wonders in Scandinavia, with the harsh climate, and replaced bald grass and dirt pitches. I go to the booths of GreenFields, a turf system company based in Genemuiden in The Netherlands, and learn quite a bit. There are FIFA approved standards and different lengths and compositions, with shock absorption, resilience, ball-roll behaviour, and sliding and tackling without the risk of abrasion.  I reported on the very first soccer matchin the world on Astroturf in the Houston Astrodome between West Ham United and Real Madrid in 1967 and later matches on 3M's Tartan Turf and lots of thigh burns in the next few years.

      It's been a big help for African and Middle Eastern countries and FIFA has sponsored and paid for pitches of this type from this company and Field Turf., just to mention a couple. Such has been the progress that international matches are now played on a good surface where skill prevails.