Oslo has become a multi-cultural city in recent years and this week especially, with youth from all over the world in town to take part in the annual Norway Cup football (soccer) tournament. More girls than ever before are taking to the field as well.
More than a third of this year’s players are women, reports newspaper Aftenposten. Tournament organizer Bækkelaget Sportsklubb pioneered women’s football in Norway and this year’s statistics show they’ve come a long way.
Girls were included from the very first Norway Cup in 1972, four years before women’s teams were recognized by the Norwegian football association (Norges Fotballforbund). Eight girls’ teams participated, compared to nearly 500 now.
Among them is the Players Soccer Club from Las Vegas, the only American team participating in this year’s tournament. They’re ranked #2 in the state of Nevada and said they’re “going for gold” at the tournament, where they received a visit from US Ambassador Barry White.
This year the organizers launched a new category for 17- to 19-year-old women, which Norway Cup leader Terje Lund said helped raised the total number of women’s teams. The new category came about as a result of requests from clubs that were not able to field a full team of 11 players, but who still wanted to take part.
One such club is Sagene from Oslo. Its members have taken part for the last 10 years, but the club could not manage to send 11 players this year. With no substitute in reserve and one of the players having her first encounter with football as the Cup began, the team lost 13-0 to Bergen Nord/Hovding.
“We could not manage to field a team for this year’s series and we have hardly trained with each other, but everyone pulled together to make up a team,” 15 year-old Karina Hauge told Aftenposten. “Taking part is great fun. Even if we lose, the Norway Cup is much more than just the matches we play. We meet people and have fun.”
She and her teammates said they particularly like to watch the foreign teams play, especially those from Brazil. The tournament, they said, has “its own special atmosphere.”
One of the foreign teams which has come to the Cup for the last 20 years is Mathare United from Nairobi in Kenya. The players are recruited from a Nairobi slum area with more than half-a-million inhabitants. On the second day of the tournament their team of 13 year-old boys beat Langhus 3-0, despite the local team’s strong defense.
There’s also a team from Afghanistan, trained by Norwegian soldiers, which beat Lyn of Oslo 2-1. Two Norwegian cabinet ministers were on hand to watch the action, including Defense Minister Grete Faremo, who gave all the players backpacks and told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that she hoped the tournament would give them a break from the trouble in their homeland along with “memories for life.”
The first-aid posts at the tournament’s Ekeberg arena report that injuries are down so far from last year. This may be because despite fears of bad weather, the sun has been shining and the pitches are in better condition. One experienced health care worker says that the most serious injuries he’s seen have been incurred by girls. He thinks it’s because they’re more determined than than the boys.
Meanwhile, Norway’s most talked-about soccer player, Mohammed Abdelaoue, nicknamed Moa, got a tumultuous reception when he visited the arena on Tuesday. His team, Vålerenga of Oslo, trounced visiting Start from Kristiansand on Monday by 8 goals to 1, reversing the result from April when Start won 5-3. According to his agent, clubs from England, France, Germany Spain and Italy are interested in hiring the attacking player.