Fans hail Norway Cup’s ‘general’

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This year marks the 42nd year that Frode Kyvåg has been leading the effort to mount, yet again, the world’s largest youth football tournament in Oslo. As secretary general of Norway Cup, Kyvåg has won praise from players to top politicians, and some think the tournament itself should win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Norway Cup's secretary general Frode Kyvåg (left) is used to getting visits from top politicians during the tournament, like former Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who's also served as a referee. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Norway Cup’s secretary general Frode Kyvåg (left) is used to getting visits from top politicians during the tournament, like former Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who’s also served as a referee. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Every year it attracts football (soccer) teams from over the world. This year more than 1,500 teams have participated from more than 50 countries, and Kyvåg calls it an “enormous privilege” to be able to work with so many diverse young people. “For me, this isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” Kyvåg told newspaper Dagsavisen just before the tournament began last weekend.

The 68-year-old Norway Cup boss, who also coached handball for years and was a solid speed skater in his youth, faced an especially challenging start to this year’s tournament when Norwegian authorities issued a major terror alarm just as more than 30,000 young football players, their coaches and parents were arriving in Oslo. He kept cool, though, stressing that Norway Cup had always had “tight and good cooperation” with the Oslo Police District regarding security at the tournament, which plays out over football fields all over the capital. “The police confirmed that they would take security precautions above and beyond what was already agreed,” he said, and they did, with uniformed and armed but good-natured police at the matches. The terror alarm was lifted on Thursday.

This year Kyvåg also had a visit from Norway's new prime minister, Erna Solberg. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

This year Kyvåg also had a visit from Norway’s new prime minister, Erna Solberg. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Even before the matches began, Kyvåg and his crew were winning kudos from grateful football coaches and youth advocates who think the sheer international fraternity of the tournament should qualify it for a Peace Prize. Fuad Timraz, who worked hard to try to get Palestinian teams to Oslo, called Norway Cup “a unique experience” for children who otherwise live in war zones and poverty. “By participating in Norway Cup they get to fly for the first time,” Timraz told Dagsavisen. “They get to use proper football shoes and play on grass, maybe for the first time. They experience parents from the opposing team clapping them on the shoulder, they get to go to an amusement park, meet lots of other kids and get a proper football to take back home.”

Many teams are sponsored by charitable and national organizations and this year they included a team of street children from Pakistan and a team from the world’s youngest if war-torn country, South Sudan. The teenagers from various rival clans in South Sudan didn’t make it into the finals, but they literally had a ball and learned to play together instead of against one another.

“We lost, but we’ll come back stronger next year,” 14-year-old Martin Dominic Martin told news bureau NTB. “Now we’ll travel home and share what we’ve learned.” They were accompanied by South Sudan’s government minister in charge of sports and culture, Nadia Arop Dudi. “We come from a land plagued by war,” Dudi told NTB. “People are traumatized but football brings people together, across clan lines. That’s why we’re trying to help give children and youth the opportunity to play football.”

Stories like that make Kyvåg proud, prouder than he is when surrounded by government ministers, sports celebrities, ambassadors and other officials who frequent Norway Cup every year. “It’s the diversity, the festive mood, the atmosphere, the fellowship, that real joy of sport that makes Norway Cup special,” he said.  He intends to be back next year, too.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund