Riise’s tweets kicked up a fuss

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Norwegian football star John Arne Riise is being accused becoming a bit too star-struck, over himself. Now one of Norway’s leading football commentators has branded Riise as the equivalent of a conceited jerk, after Riise used social media to complain just before a critical match for the national team that his hometown of Ålesund hadn’t fully recognized his contribution to the sport.

John Arne Riise, shown at left during a national squad training session last spring, kicked up a fuss with his Twitter comments before Friday's important match against Iceland. Now the team needs to concentrate on beating Slovenia on Tuesday in Oslo. PHOTO: NFF/Scanpix

It all seems to have begun back in 2005, when Riise served as model for a statue mounted outside the then-new Color Line stadium in Ålesund. Coach Ivar Morten Normark called the statue “The Football Player,” instead of “John Arne Riise.” Seven years later Riise apparently is still hurt over the perceived snub and couldn’t resist venting his feelings of what some consider to be self-importance.

He chose what proved to be a bad time, the day before Norway faced Iceland in the first qualifying round for the World Cup Friday night. Instead of concentrating on the looming match, which went badly for Norway, Riise chose to send a message over Twitter that stirred more bad blood in Ålesund.

Riise, it had been duly noted in local news media, was about to set a record by playing in his 105th match for the national team. Riise sent a sarcastic tweet in which he wondered whether Ålesund would show its appreciation the next time a player sets a record. He followed it up with a tweet that ridiculed Normark, and called him “poor man.”

Website Dagbladet.no wrote about the unconventional tweeting, to which Riise sent a new tweet on the day of the match criticizing Dagbladet for “making a story out of nothing.” That put even more media attention on Riise, for all the wrong reasons.

Norway’s national team (landslaget) went on to lose the match 2-0 and then he launched another attack on the Dagbladet journalist when asked to explain his active tweeting during the warm-up to the match.

On Saturday Riise seemed to tweet for the last time, sending a message that he was “quitting Twitter,” that it had “been fun” but he was signing off. He said later in the day that he felt misunderstood.

That’s when respected football commentator Truls Dæhli boiled over, devoting three pages in major Norwegian newspaper VG to Riise’s poor judgment and priorities. Dæhli wrote that Riise had “revealed himself as a conceited jerk (selvforherligende tufs)” for tweeting gripes over a perceived lack of adulation in Ålesund when he should have been concentrating on football and the match. Riise then refused to talk to Dæhli when the national team faced reporters on Sunday, after losing against Iceland and just before needing to play another World Cup qualifier on Tuesday against Slovenia.

Meanwhile, national coach Egil “Drillo” Olsen seemed baffled over the fuss, claiming he didn’t even know what Twitter was. “But if it means that someone has their focus another place than on the match, we need to correct that,” Olsen news bureau NTB.

Olsen, calling the loss against Iceland “really sour,” was most concerned about winning against Slovenia on Tuesday. Olsen said it would be “a decisive match,” indicating it may determine whether Norway advances to World Cup action two years from now. “It’s seldom we play such an important qualifier,” he said.

Riise, who admitted to newspaper Aftenposten that his Twitter timing was bad, seemed more keen than ever to score and prove his own worth. The next landslag match was to start at 8pm Tuesday on home turf at Ullevaal Stadium in Oslo.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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