Football fans, officials and commentators were mourning the loss this week of a man considered to be one of Norway’s best football players ever. Odd Iversen died Monday at the age of 69 after a life full of incredible highs and very deep lows.
Best known as simply “Ivers,” the legendary player from Trondheim was credited with being a top scorer. He kicked in no fewer than 158 goals during his top league career, mostly for Trondheim’s football club Rosenborg, and 19 goals in 45 matches for the national team. He held what newspaper Dagsavisen called an “enormous” position in Trondheim, where he started playing for Rosenborg in 1964.
“Odd really had it all,” reminisced Nils Arne Eggen, himself a legendary coach for Rosenborg. “He was good in his head, he shot equally well with both feet and he was strong and fast. But most important of all, he had an enormous overview (of the field). He had the eyes of a fly.”
“He was one of the greatest players in Norwegian football,” agreed Yngve Hallén, president of Norway’s national football federation. Echoed Ola By Rise, a former coach for both Rosenborg and the national team: “With all respect for the other legends, Odd is Rosenborg’s greatest player of all time.”
He was also known for what the Norwegian media diplomatically called a “colourful” life off the field as well, with some commentators describing him as “the representative on the field of those in the stands.” He was filmed while an active player with a large glass of beer in his hand, suffered two failed marriages and was injured during a relatively brief period playing abroad for Racing Mechelen of Belgium. He returned to Rosenborg in 1973.
He openly stated, also in a biography published in 1998, that he grew weary of “all the rumours” back in Trondheim of his alcohol consumption. He eventually felt he had “no peace” in Trondheim because, he said, fans would “come to the door ‘to get Ivers out for a party.'” If it wasn’t the fans who came calling, he claimed, it was Rosenborg’s own “nanny-type” management in the 1970s who came to the door, to make sure was home and not out partying. He moved to Oslo to play for Vålerenga, but returned to play for Rosenborg again in 1980 until he retired in 1981.
‘Too much talent’
Ola Bernhus, football commentator for newspaper Aftenposten wrote that Iversen was “a completely different type of football player,” who had “too much talent for his time, his career and the lifestyle he chose.” Iversen had an attitude towards his sport, according Bernhus, that defied all urgings to take care of his body and his soul.
Eggen played a key role in eventually bringing Iversen back to Rosenborg once again, this time to manage equipment after he’d fallen into what the club itself called “bad company” following his retirement as a player. Iversen was unemployed, down and out in Gjøvik when Eggen and Rosenborg management offered him a job and support back at his old club, where his son Steffen Iversen also excelled and went on to an international football career. Odd Iversen settled back in Trondheim and kept working for the club until he fell and suffered a fracture a few years ago. He died at the Øya Helsehus after what was described as a short illness.
The club expressed its sympathy to Iversen’s family on its website Tuesday, and stated that the family wanted to be left in peace.