Norway remembers footballer “Ivers”

Former Rosenborg striker and soccer legend Odd Iversen dies at age 69

Photo: Scanpix / NRK Ivers in action. He still holds the record for per-season goals, with 30.

Photo: Scanpix / NRK
Ivers in action. He still holds the record for per-season goals, with 30.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Norway lost one of the country’s best soccer players of all time when Odd Iversen passed away at age 69 on Monday, December 29. After a period of illness, Iversen spent his last days in his hometown of Trondeim at Øya helsehus.

Iversen was born on November 6, 1945, and would soon become a star in Norway’s elite soccer league and an idol for many young Norwegian athletes.

The young striker, commonly called Ivers, moved from his home team of Trond to Rosenborg in 1964, making his way into Norway’s 1st Division league (what is today called Tippeligaen). He quickly achieved fame as the top scorer in the 1967. But one year wasn’t enough for Iversen; he went on to score the most goals in the ‘68 and ‘69 seasons as well for a total of 73 goals in the three consecutive years. He scored 30 goals for Rosenborg in 1968 alone, setting the record for most goals in a single season; this record still stands today.

Already a national success, Iversen decided to try his luck internationally. He accepted a position with the Belgian club Racing Mechelen in the spring of 1970, but suffered an injury and was never able to excel abroad. He stayed with Racing Mechelen through 1973, but eventually returned to Rosenborg.

In 1975, Iversen transferred again for a five-year stint with Vålerenga. But yet again, he came back to Rosenborg to finish off his professional career in 1982. He is widely considered to be Rosenborg’s best-ever player, and was honored as the first Norwegian player in history to get a testimonial match by his club.

“It was with sadness today that Rosenborg received the news that one of Norway’s best footballers of all time has passed away,” reported the club’s website on the day of Iversen’s death.

But the Iversen legacy continued with his son Steffen, who also competed as a striker for Rosenborg.

“Odd was a superstar for those of us who grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s. I have been ‘Odd Iversen’ many times on the playground. He is a legend in Norwegian soccer. He had incredible skills and a physique to excel at many sports. His outlook and control were very special, something we have seen again somewhat in Steffen. There’s no doubt where Steffen got it from,” commented Rosenborg’s former director of sports, Rune Bratseth.

Throughout his career in the 1st Division, Iversen broke the all-time goalscoring record with 158 total goals. He held the record for over two decades until Petter Belsvik reached 159 goals in 2003. The current record holder is now Sigurd Rushfeldt with 172 goals.

In addition to his professional success, Iversen represented Norway in 45 national games and scored 19 goals for his home country.

Many of Norway’s soccer experts believe that Iversen deserved a better international career. “I would so like to have seen him in a bigger club. He deserved more than being in a backyard club in Belgium. Odd should have been one of the biggest clubs in Europe,” argued NRK commentator Arne Scheie.

But Iversen isn’t just remembered for his talent on the field; he is also celebrated for his quick remarks and good humor. When competing in shootouts against the Northern Irish George Best, the confident Iversen declared, “From now on, he will be called just George second-Best.” According to his closest friends and teammates, such remarks were anything but rare.

Iversen’s coach and teammate for many years, Nils Arne Eggen, has endless good things to say about his lifelong friend.

“I trained Odd on the boys’ team already in the early 1960s. He is the greatest talent I have trained. He was fast, very good with his head, strong, and shot equally well with both feet, even though he was right footed,” he commented. “We said he had ‘fly eyes.’ Flies can see in all directions, and so could Odd.”

Without a doubt, Odd Iversen will be remembered as one of the greats in Norwegian soccer.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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