For many years from 1976 I used to fly into the old Forebu Airport in Oslo over the magnificent Oslofjord until it was replaced by the much bigger Oslo Gardermoen Airport near Lillestrom. They built an indoor stadium on the old site, Telenor Arena, which holds 15,000 fans for matches and 7,000 more for concerts. I once watched Staebek play football about 6 years ago until they were kicked out since more revenue was available from other events.
This weekend the NFF www.fotball.no . hired the facility for a number of youth and women's cup finals and LILLESTROM SK won the boys u16 and the ladies won their final 3-2.. After watching the men's national team limp out of the Euro play offs at home and in Budapest you would think that Norwegian football had no future. However, with a 4-1 victory over Brann Bergen at the Telenor on Friday the young guns, or Canaries ( Kanari Fugla) The Birds, showed a touch of class. BANENS BESTE, or MAN OF THE MATCH was 16 year old Henrik Loholt Kristiansen who has already played for the senior Tippeligaen team at their home in Arasen Stadion. A star is born.
Henrik is an inspiring player with a great future. He is one of 3 national team u16 age playerds on the young team including goalkeeper Emil Gunderlach Odegaard and defender Arne Holter.. In addition Erik Tobias Sandberg is captain of Norge u15s and had played twice in Belfast earlier in the week against Northern Ireland (4-4 and 2-1) and touched down at Gardemoen just hours prior to the final. Henrik scored the third Fugla goal, a 30 metre scorcher into the top corner of the Brann net and Erik scored the 4th. Triumphant coach is Jan Roger Sannerud...a local legend.
The 1990's were considered Golden Years in Norwegian international football. I had flown into Fornebu in late September 1993 for the BIG MATCH. Norway were hosting Poland and a win would guarantee a place at FIFA WORLD CUP 1994 in USA. I was sitting behnd the goal taking photos as Jostein Flo scored the only goal after 54 minutes. Two minutes later home 'keeper Erik Thorstved of Spurs received a red card but they prevailed and topped their 6 team group. Four years later they qualified for France '98. while the women's team won the FIFA World Cup in Sweden.in 1995 with a 2-0 victory over Germany in Stockholm. After the Poland match I was at the press conference. I jokingly(maybe) told coach Egil 'Drillo' Olsen that his team looked as if they were playing in fishermen's boots and that I could have stood outside Ullevaal and watched most of the match which was mostly in the air.
They got 4 points in their group in USA but did not advance due to goal difference.(italy, Ireland, Mexico, Norway). In 1998 they did advance from group play.. They actually beat Brazil 1-0 in Marseilles after tieing with Morocco and Scotland before losing to Italy in the next round.
Architect of this success was a wealthy Norwegian businessman, Helge Sovdsnes.who was asked to take over the federation in the early 1990's 'Only if you want to succeed' was his answeer as we chatted at Norway Cup about 9 years ago. He later retired to Kenya where he helped sort out the youth game including Mathare United who bring teams to Norway Cup annually. With 1450 teams it rivals the more famous Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden but less than 10% of competitors are foreign teams.
Lillestrom SK are 98 years old and outside their neat Arasen stadium is a statue of their most famous son Tom Lund. They have been a member of the Tippeligaen longer than any other club. Kanarifansen is their fan club with their own website. Nearby are their training pitches and LK Hallen, a full size indoor stadium where the women play home matches.
The future is bright for Fugla fotball