Eliteserien 2020 to start under COVID-19 cloud—and protocols

Eliteserien

Photo: Svein Ove Ekornesvåg / NTB scanpix
Can Molde defend its title in an abbreviated season? Due to the coronavirus pandemic Eliteserien is starting the season June 16 instead of April 4, and teams are grouped geographically in four groups of four teams playing each other twice in the first six games. Molde and rival Rosenborg will play each other twice in the first six games. The schedule after that is undetermined at the moment, though the Norwegian Football Federation says the complete 30-game schedule will be finished by the end of the year. Among the protocols are players can’t celebrate goals together and social distancing may prevent gatherings like this.

JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
Oslo

In early May, the Norwegian government decided that the Norwegian men’s soccer league, Eliteserien, would be allowed to start June 16. The season was scheduled to begin on April 4, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the season was first delayed until May 2, then further delayed to May 23. Desperate Norwegian soccer fans have taken to watching the Nicaraguan and Belarusian soccer leagues to quench their soccer abstinences, but now their wait is finally over. The Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) has stated that they are planning to finish all official league games in 2020, meaning all 30 games will be played before the winter break.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation and travel guidelines from the Norwegian government, only six rounds have been scheduled, and the 16 teams have been divided into four regional groups consisting of teams from the same geographical areas. The teams in each group are scheduled to face each other two times, both home and away, in the first six games. This is done to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection. The schedule after that has not been determined yet.

As a natural consequence of these groups, the first couple of rounds are packed with games between local rivals. The battle for Møre og Romsdal between Molde and Ålesund comes already in the first round, and what might be the biggest game in Norwegian soccer, Molde vs. Rosenborg, is scheduled for round two. The last game of round two features the two biggest teams in western Norway, Brann from Bergen and Viking from Stavanger. The highlight of round three is probably the game between Odd and Vålerenga, where newly appointed Vålerenga boss Dag-Eilev Fagermo will face the club he managed for the last 13 seasons before taking over Vålerenga from New York City Football Club coach Ronny Deila earlier this year.

There are no current plans to allow spectators in the stadiums when the league reopens. The ministry of health has left the door open for events with more than 500 participants “in June or later” but still recommends that “all sports in the current phase must be performed without spectators, and one must make sure it doesn’t attract crowds.” 

“We’re not planning any games with spectators as of now,” Leif Øverland, head of Norsk Toppfotball, the organization in charge of the Norwegian soccer leagues, told Aftenposten in an interview in early May.

When it comes to the actual league, Molde is seen by most experts as the biggest favorite to take home the title, with Rosenborg as a close runner-up. However, since the season is shorter, the teams will play more games in less time than usual. The teams that avoid injuries and manages their squad in the best way possible will have a big advantage. The lack of spectators might also become a factor. Bigger teams that are used to large home crowds might find it odd playing in front of empty stands.

No matter what happens, it will be exciting to see Norwegian again in a year where most people were afraid it might not happen at all.

The NFF has yet to issue a statement about the Norwegian cup, but the Women’s league is planning a start-up in July.

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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