Norway’s teenage football sensation Martin Ødegaard charmed a national TV audience over the weekend when he delivered a thank-you speech at an annual sports gala after winning an award for making the biggest breakthrough of the year. Speculation continues to swirl over the 16-year-old’s future.
Ødegaard became the youngest athlete to ever win the award at state broadcaster NRK’s festive annual event called Idrettsgala, broadcast live from a former Olympic arena in Hamar. Commentators raved afterwards that his acceptance speech in front of a large audience full of celebrities was as accomplished as his performance on the field, and way beyond what might be expected at his age.
He stressed that football is a team effort, and thanked everyone involved with Stromsgodset, the Drammen football club that he’s expected to soon leave to pursue an international career. There’s been enormous media hype of late over his recent trip to Spain, where he’s being courted by Real Madrid, and over the interest of other top football clubs. While some urge Ødegaard to stay in Norway for a while longer, the sky’s the limit for the young man considered to be one of the world’s top football talents at present.
The sports event where he spoke had stirred controversy, meanwhile, after its jury was accused of giving undue preference to skiers on its list of nominations for athletes of the year. Critics claimed the jury overlooked other major accomplishments by athletes like Alexander Kristoff, the cyclist who won Milano-San Remo last spring, and Mats Zuccarello, the star hockey player who has excelled during the past year for the New York Rangers.
Kristoff ended up winning “The Name of the Year” award, while Zuccarello won for being “best team player.” Alpine skier Kjetil Jansrud was voted best by the athletes themselves, while cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen won as best female athlete and Jansrud as best male athlete.
Magnus Carlsen, who retained his chess world champion status this year, won in the open classification while physically challenged swimmer Sarah Louise Rung won the award as the ideal athlete of the year. The team of the year award went to the national women’s handball team, which recently won the European Championships once again.