The goals are global at Norway Cup
Joy, Friendship, and soccer
Jo Christian Weldingh
Norway Cup is a soccer tournament for boys and girls age 10 to 19 that takes place on Ekebergsletta in Oslo every summer. It has been hosted by local sports club Bækkelaget since the beginning in 1972, and is commonly referred to as the world’s largest youth soccer tournament, with a record of 2,199 participating teams set in 2016. In this year’s tournament, which ran from July 28 to Aug. 4, there were participants from over 30 nations, including Iran, North Korea, Palestine, Thailand, Brazil, and the United States.
On June 19, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, opened a new exhibition on the UN’s Global Goals at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, with Norway Cup’s football as the main focus of the exhibition. The “Take-Ball—Hit the Goals” exhibition is about the UN’s Global Goals. The ball used in the Norway Cup since 2016 has all 17 goals printed on it: 1-No Poverty; 2-Zero Hunger; 3-Good Health and Well-Being; 4-Quality Education; 5-Gender Equality; 6-Clean Water and Sanitation; 7-Affordable and Clean Energy; 8-Decent Work and Economic Growth; 9-Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; 10-Reduced Inequalities; 11-Sustainable Cities and Communities; 12-Responsible Consumption and Production; 13-Climate Action; 14-Life Below Water; 15-Life on Land; 16-Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, and 17-Partnerships for the Goals. The exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center ran from June 19 to Aug. 20.
Several former Norway Cup participants have gone on to great careers in international soccer. The most notable are Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Erik Mykland, Steffen Iversen, and John Carew.
Norway Cup has played a vital part in the development of female soccer players and teams, both in Norway and internationally. The tournament made women and girls a priority from the start with eight female teams participating in the the first year, which is pretty extraordinary considering that the first FIFA Women’s World Cup wasn’t held until 1991, and that the Norwegian Soccer Federation didn’t recognize women’s soccer as an official sport until 1976.
Norway Cup’s official vision is “The world’s biggest and most important arena for joy and friendship,” a vision that has been reflected through the tournament’s humanitarian work. During the last 36 years, Norway Cup has evolved into something much more important than a soccer tournament.
In 1979, a team from the slums in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was invited to participate. To them, the trip to Oslo and Norway Cup was a highlight and a break from the misery at home. That invitation was the start of what has been one of Norway Cup’s most important issues: the fight against racism and establishing friendship across borders.
In the 1980s, Norway Cup, in cooperation with the Norwegian Soccer Federation, began several aid projects in Africa. It began with 15-20 youngsters who like playing soccer, but has now evolved into a movement of between 15,000 and 20,000 youths, who are not only interested in soccer, but also involved in all kinds of political projects, for example the fight against AIDS.
One of the events Norway Cup is the most proud of happened in 1995, when a team from Israel and a team from Palestine played each other in a sporting event for the first time ever.
The tournament has won several awards for its humanitarian work, for example the Youth Peace Prize in 1993 and UNICEF’s Award of Honor in 1995, for the tournament’s tireless work for peace among youth internationally.
Norway Cup is a prime example of what Norwegians calls dugnad, as the tournament would not have been possible without the countless volunteers who work day and night all year round. Approximately 1,600 of Bækkelaget’s 2,800 members, ages 6 to 96, work as volunteers during Norway Cup. Rigmor Andresen, Norway Cup’s “grandma,” is 96 years old and has been working as a volunteer since the beginning. She’s a well-known figure in Norway and has won several awards for her work in Norwegian sports.
This year’s tournament lacked any major political happenings, but was, like it is every year, a week of joy, friendship, and soccer.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the August 24, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.