As many as 25,000 football fans were expected to flock to Ullevaal Stadium in Oslo Saturday night, even though it’s in the middle of Norway’s long pinse weekend. That’s when many locals traditionally head for their summer homes (hytter) by the sea, but a big national football match is keeping a lot of them in town.
The Norwegian national team (landslaget), led by coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen, was set to kick off against England just before 9pm at Ullevaal and the match is attracting lots of interest, also from abroad.
“To meet England with a new coach right before the European Championships, it doesn’t get any bigger when we’re talking about a training match,” Norway’s team captain, Brede Hangeland, told newspaper Dagsavisen. British football fans were also reportedly keen to see how their national team would play in the run-up to Euro 2012.
Norway got knocked out of the qualifying rounds for Euro 2012 but was eager to face off against England. Hangeland, who’s been playing professionally in England himself since 2008, for Fulham, also noted how it’s a tradition in Norway to follow English football. Lots of fans also still relish memories of when Norway even beat England, although that was years ago.
Hangeland thinks there are two national squads that always attract Norwegian fans: England and Brazil. Saturday’s match was almost sold out as of Thursday, despite ticket prices being jacked up to as much as NOK 750, 650 and 550. That’s NOK 150 more than normal, and the gouging sparked criticism, because it will be the most expensive match in the history of Ullevaal, the stadium that’s long served as Norway’s national arena.
Tom Fodstad of Norges Fotballforbund, the national football association, admitted “we would have made a mistake if only 12,000-15,000 showed up. That’s what happened when organizers jacked up ticket prices for the annual Holmenkollen Ski Jumping competition, and fans stayed away. But the football fans went along with the ticket price hike, another sign that a match against England is special.
Tickets have also sold briskly for an exhibition match later this summer between Oslo club Vålerenga and Manchester United. More than 22,000 tickets had already been sold by Thursday, for the match on August 5. Last year’s match between Vålerenga (VIF) and Liverpool also drew a full house.
England’s match against Norway marks the debut of new coach Roy Hodgson, and he’s given the day off to some of England’s biggest stars like Wayne Rooney. Norway’s national team coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen nonetheless thinks it will be an exciting match, and then he’ll gear up for another national match against Croatia next week.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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