Norway’s national men’s football team managed to attract more than 25,000 fans to its showdown with Hungary Thursday night at Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadium. The outcome, along with that of a second match in Hungary on Sunday, will determine who gets to play in the European Championships next summer.
The hype was building all week, with newspaper Dagsavisen describing the match as an “historic” chance for the Norwegian team. If successful, it would be the first time Norway qualifies for championship action since 2000, and be an important breakthrough for a new generation of players.
A lot of money is at stake as well. If Norway makes it into the finals in France next year, around NOK 100 million will be in the pot as participants’ bonus from the European football federation. When Norway played in the European Championships 15 years ago, Dagsavisen noted, it provided the economic basis for building new football fields with artificial turf around Norway.
“It means an enormous amount,” Karen Espelund, who was secretary general of the Norwegian football federation at the time, told Dagsavisen. “But the funds have to benefit the entire organization in the form of new facilities. They won’t go into operations of the federation.”
Norway was favoured heading into the match, with kickoff time at 8:45pm and aired nationwide on the commerial station TV Norge.