The world’s largest youth football tournament, Norway Cup, kicked off in Oslo yet again this weekend by setting another participation record. Opening ceremonies on Saturday were followed by the first matches on Sunday.
More than 34,000 young football players aged 10-19 are taking part in Norway Cup, which started in 1972 with 420 teams and 8,400 players. After 34 years, the popular tournament has attracted both boys and girls from 126 countries.
This year’s tournament will run through Sunday August 7 at Ekebergsletta, a large open hilltop plateau just east of downtown Oslo. Ekeberg, named after the oak (eik) trees that grew there for centuries, was cleared in the 1600-1700s to provide wood for boatbuilding in what today would have been viewed as an environmental crime, wrote local historian Leif Gjerland in newspaper Aftenposten last week. Gjerland wrote that the city bought up most of the plateau and remaining forest from 1889 to the 1920s, to retain it as open park space.
The project was promoted by labour organizations at the time as an important means of offering a source of fresh air and recreation to workers living on Oslo’s east side. Ekeberg was said by some to be eastern Oslo’s equivalent of Holmenkollen in the west.
Labour Party officials also play an active role in Norway Cup, along with politicians from all the political parties. The tournament has grown so large than many football matches will be played on fields all over Oslo, with the finals always back at Ekeberg.