Drillo lands in media glare

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Egil “Drillo” Olsen should be basking in the glow of his national football team’s victory over Slovenia on Tuesday, but instead the 70-year-old coach has had to tackle all kinds of problems from badly behaved players to claims of tricks on the field and a half-empty stadium. The respected veteran of the sport seemed, though, to be taking it all in stride.

National football coach Egil "Drillo" Olsen is accustomed to the media glare in Norway, but it was particularly harsh this week, even after winning over Slovenia. PHOTO: Views and News

The latest batch of trouble began when star player John Arne Riise vented some personal frustration over Twitter just before last week’s match against Iceland. The Norwegians lost, Riise caught all kinds of criticism and even though he could claim sweet revenge by kicking in the winning goal against Slovenia, Drillo’s problems only escalated.

There were suggestions the Norwegian side may have tricked referees into awarding the penalty kick that saved them. Drillo continued to claim he’s “a strong opponent” of such things and would talk with the player involved and suspected of falling too easily.

Drillo also had to deal with another unpleasant incident following Tuesday’s victory, when goalkeeper Rune Almenning Jarstein didn’t like getting some critical questions from a TV2 reporter. He threw off his headset and stormed off, abruptly ending the interview with an experienced sports journalist who was doing his job. The next day, Jarstein had another temper tantrum when a journalist for photo agency Scanpix took some pictures of him while Jarstein was leaving his hotel in Oslo. Jarstein admits he became “extremely provoked” and later apologized for physically threatening the photographer.

Jarstein’s temper has flared up before, such as when he threw a ball in the back of an opposing player, made obscene gestures at fans and smashed in a door in the locker room at Fredrikstad Stadium while playing for Odd Grenland. At a training match in Marbella, he ran after a referee in anger over one of his calls.

His angry and threatening reaction to critical questions from reporters has also prompted reaction from football association officials and Coach Drillo himself. Jarstein’s behaviour, they claim, was not acceptable “and he must learn from that,” said information chief Svein Graff of the national football association Norges Fotballforbund. Kjetil Siem, secretary general of the association, said it was “very important” that Jarstein had acknowledged his bad behaviour and apologized for it. Drillo told reporters that he was “satisfied” with Jarstein’s apology. “If he hadn’t apologized, I would have thought that was stupid,” Drillo said.

Meanwhile, Norwegian football officials were disappointed once again over the poor turnout for Tuesday’s match at the country’s national football stadium Ullevaal in Oslo. Only 11,168 fans showed up, less than half the stadium’s capacity, and now Drillo supports a proposal to move national matches such as Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier to smaller stadiums in other Norwegian cities where more enthusiastic fans might fill them up.

Drillo told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday that “we could surely have filled up other stadiums,” mentioning Brann’s in Bergen, Rosenborg’s in Trondheim and Viking’s in Stavanger for example.

Siem, however, pointed to the football association’s “strong commercial ties” to Ullevaal, with sponsor logos from fruit and vegetable marketer Bama, Norsk Tipping, newspaper VG and Telenor plastered around the grandstands. “It could be possible to solve the sponsor challenges at other stadiums, but it’s not an issue right now,” Siem said.

Drillo ultimately decided to take a break from the football flap. He admitted to being weary, telling reporters “therefore I’m heading for my hytte (holiday cabin). Hope that’s OK.” It was time to breathe in some fresh mountain air and the stillness of Eggedal before the next World Cup qualifier against Switzerland on October 12 in Bern.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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