Football bosses bury the hatchet

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Egil “Drillo” Olsen, the popular national football coach who was abruptly replaced earlier this fall, has won a formal apology from the leaders of Norway’s national football federation (NFF). He then retreated to his hytte in the mountains at Haglebu, telling reporters that he hopes the football bureaucrats have learned something from their personnel blunder.

Egil 'Drillo' Olsen, pictured right, is a legend of Norwegian football - but even he must be feeling the pressure in advance of the era-defining 'Battle for the North'. PHOTO: Views and News/Morten Most

Egil ‘Drillo’ Olsen remains a legend in Norwegian football, even though his abrupt departure as national head coach led to a nasty conflict with football bureaucrats. He’ll likely still be welcome on the lecture circuit, if not on the field. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Morten Most

“We’ve had a few meetings and they admitted that they did some stupid things,” Olsen told Norwegian broadcasting (NRK) from his mountain retreat Thursday evening. “Then I can’t manage to be angry any longer. They said they’ll do a better job in the future, and then I don’t have any need to keep pursuing this.”

The conflict between the former boss of the national men’s football team and his own former bosses has been the sports soap opera of the season, after Olsen was replaced by new head coach Per Mathias Høgmo two matches before the World Cup qualifiers were over. All involved blamed misunderstandings, with the NFF bosses claiming they hadn’t fired Olsen but Olsen feeling like he had indeed been unceremoniously kicked off the field.

Høgmo was caught in the middle and gamely tried to concentrate on coaching the last two qualifying matches, even though the Norwegians no longer had much chance of making it into the World Cup. Olsen boycotted the matches, claiming he couldn’t stand the thought of heading over to Ullevaal Stadium. Olsen’s wife had gotten involved, too, yelling at NFF Presidnt Yngve Hallén and going public with her fury over how her husband had been treated in newspaper VG.

Olsen ultimately hired a lawyer and then speculation rose over what he was trying to achieve, after both Hallén and NFF Secretary General Kjetil Siem thought they’d smoothed things out. They also have been targets of criticism over many other problems affecting Norwegian football, from player transfer scandals to match fixing allegations to financial trouble and poor attendance at matches. Speculation flew over whether they’d survive the Drillo drama.

It now seems they have, with NFF issuing a press release Thursday that it was “sorry” about “the process” in connection with the “the change of national head coach.” NFF admitted that “Egil Olsen should have been involved in the process before the board handled the issue on September 26. NFF has learned from the case …”

Hallén said it was “important and good that we can now put this conflict behind us. It’s been negative for both parties. We acknowledge that Egil felt he’d been fired, even though that was not our intention,” Hallén said.

Both sides confirmed that Olsen received no financial compensation and Olsen continues to claim that was never his intention. It was more, it seemed, a matter of restoring his honour after a long and, many feel, legendary career that ended on a bitter note.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund