Now age 71, Egil “Drillo” Olsen became a legend in Norwegian football years ago. On Friday he suddenly found himself stripped of his post as head coach of the national men’s football team (landslaget), but insisted he’s not bitter that he was asked to make room for his replacement, Per-Mathias Høgmo.
Norway’s national football federation NFF announced Friday that Høgmo was taking over immediately as national coach, and would be in charge of the squad’s two final World Cup qualifying matches against Slovenia October 11 and Iceland October 15. Høgmo, who had a long football career in Norway, has most recently been coach of Djurgården in Sweden.
Asked whether Drillo felt that he was fired on Friday, just before the last two matches of the World Cup qualifying rounds are played in mid-October, Drillo answered vaguely “both yes and now. If I had said that I wanted to coach the last two matches, Per-Mathias wouldn’t have taken the job. So I could have said ‘no.'”
He thought the circumstances leading to the hiring of Høgmo as new national football coach were “suprising and a bit strange. But it’s not true that I look at this as very dramatic. I knew that I had only a few matches left,” adding that he doesn’t really care about losing any honour.
Others weren’t as gracious, claiming that Drillo’s abrupt dismissal was “drastic and unnecessary,” according to longtime coach and commentator Tom Nordlie. He admitted, though, that football officials may have wanted to “create new energy” if they thought folks had lost faith in the team’s chances under Drillo.
Arne Scheie, veteran football commentator for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) said he thought it was “extremely surprising” that Drillo didn’t or couldn’t fulfill his contract and lead the last two qualifying matches. “He had signaled himself that he wanted to,” Scheie told NRK. Football president Yngve Hallén, however, seems to believe Norway still has a chance of playing in the World Cup with Høgmo as coach. “If that happens, it will have been a fantastic hire,” Scheie said.
Drillo himself repeated that he was surprised, “and it would have been better for both Norwegian football and myself if this had come up earlier … but I’m more surprised than sour and bitter.” Nordle said he would have preferred to see Olsen, who took Norway to the World Cup in the 1990s and has coached teams from Lyn in Oslo to Wimbledon in London, end his long and legendary career on a more dignified note.
Høgmo, meanwhile, played professionally until launching his coaching career in 1989. He’s headed clubs including Tromsø, Fossum, Rosenborg and Djurgården along with the national women’s team from 1997 to 2000, during which time the women took fourth place in the World Cup and won Olympic gold in 2000.