Football in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’

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Snow is seen around the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League Group K football match Tromso IL vs Tottenham Hotspur FC in Tromso, on November 28, 2013. AFP PHOTO /BERTINUSSEN, RUNE STOLTZ/ SCANPIX NORWAY / NORWAY OUT (Photo credit should read BERTINUSSEN, RUNE STOLTZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Imagine seeing football being played outdoors some 210 miles north of the Arctic circle. This is football in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ in Tromsø, Norway. Games here take place in the northernmost top-level stadium in the world. In August, however, the temperature is a mild 16 degrees. Watching the home team now is a very comfortable experience.

Football in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’

Though on this particular weekend, it turned out not to be so conducive for the locals. Their team lost 2-1 to Molde. It began well enough for new Finnish coach Simo Valakari. Thomas Olsen netted to put the home side in front. However, the visitors replied when Sander Svendsen swept in the equaliser. The match continued with chances at both ends before Molde coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought on Erling Haaland. The robust 17 year-old would soon head in the winner from a right wing cross, prompting celebrations by the 40 or so intrepid Molde fans.

Young Haaland is the son of Alf-Inge, who is most famous for his crunching altercation with Manchester United’s Roy Keane. On this evening, though, the Old Trafford connections were much more positive. However, the loss meant the home side will have to continue to battle relegation.

Sometimes football in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ can be hard.

Bendtner the hero

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Norwegian league table, Rosenborg maintained their hold on top position with a convincing 4-1 defeat of Kristiansund in Trondheim. As usual, they were watched by a sizeable crowd of over 17,000. Not every Norwegian fan travels over to England to watch Manchester United or Chelsea.

After losing to Celtic in midweek, the record league winners returned to winning ways with the help of Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. The ex-Arsenal front man easily converted a penalty. This added to Helland’s earlier effort to give the home side a 2-0 lead. He would eventually add another before neatly setting up Jevtovic for the clincher.

Kristiansund had their moments. Ivorian Daouda Bamba did give them hope when shooting past Hansen on the hour. However, Rosenborg ultimately restored the natural order and ran out comfortable winners.

A cameo from Agyiri

The final encounter of this long weekend took place just south of Oslo, in Drammen. Stromsgodset met Valerenga before a lively crowd. A very watchable match began in pouring rain but ended in sunshine. The home side would score twice through Norway international Marcus Pedersen and Lebanese international Bassel Jradi.

Though the visitors struck the bar, they generally failed to produce enough threats to really trouble the home side. Valerenga did bring on Manchester City loanee Ernest Agyiri and he showed flashes of left foot skills. In the end, though, it was the home fans who enjoyed the ninety minutes the most.

Football in Norway

Agyiri hails from Ghana and he is part of the mix of nationalities in Norwegian football. This young Ghanaian progressed through the ‘Right to Dream’ academy and a number of clubs have connections with such organisations  (Diambars in Senegal being another prominent academy). Often paired up with fellow countrymen, these overseas players settle in an environment far removed from the cities of West Africa.

They would need to be well paid, as this is the country of the £12 sandwich, £8 beer and where 13-year-olds have credit cards. However, Norway is seen by foreign players as a stepping stone to higher ranked leagues, such as Belgium, France and the Premier League in England. 

Whether the large number of artificial pitches in Norwegian football is positive or negative remains a debatable issue. From this observer’s viewpoint, however, the quality of football on such surfaces will enhance passing skills.

Also, where else would you get an opportunity to play football in the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’?

 

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