New York’s Club Gjøa returns to roots

Six of the Norwegian-founded club’s youth teams played in Oslo’s Norway Cup this June

Club Gjøa

Photo courtesy of SC Gjøa
Girls from the Club Gjøa U14 Ronning team celebrate a goal at the Norway Cup.

Randy Vogt
Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

Sporting Club Gjøa of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL) rediscovered its roots this summer by bringing six youth travel teams to Norway to compete in the world’s largest youth soccer tournament, the Norway Cup, in the capital of Oslo from July 28 to Aug. 5. Over 2,000 teams participated and SC Gjøa Berg, which won the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association’s Boys-Under-15 Arch Cup in June, advanced the furthest of the Gjøa teams, making it to the quarterfinals. Making the journey were the U12, U13, U14, U15, U18 boys and U14 girls teams.

“The Norway Cup was amazing! Their slogan is ‘Memories for life,’ and that’s exactly what our trip was,” commented SC Gjøa Director of Youth Soccer Lee Kellett. “There are multiple field complexes, and they bring in a carnival with a big stage. Our whole club there watched our teams play, and we had 83 players, seven staff, plus parents on the trip.”

Sporting Club Gjøa

Photo courtesy of SC Gjøa
Club Gjøa U15 Berg team celebrates a goal at the Norway Cup.

The following week, Aug. 5-11, Gjøa was hosted by the Nesodden IF club, a short corner kick from Oslo. The New Yorkers toured the Viking Ship Museum as well as the Fram Museum, where they saw the Gjøa boat for which the club is named. It was skippered by Roald Amundsen, the first person to make it to the South Pole. The boat was recently restored at the museum by Hardanger Fartøyvernsenter (Hardanger Vessel Protection Center).

Gjøa’s soccer program, New York’s oldest youth soccer club, is celebrating its centennial in 2018, although the club was originally founded in 1911. “The Sporting Club was set up by Norwegian immigrants (Norwegian Seamen’s Association) and they played multiple sports, including soccer,” said Kellett.

Gjøa’s philosophy has always been to provide soccer training to as many children as possible, regardless of their family’s financial status. Currently, over 400 boys and girls are registered in the club, which is based in Brooklyn. Soccer and darts are the only sports Gjøa competes in nowadays, as whaling and tug-of-war were both dropped nearly a half-century ago after having champion teams for many years in both. Some club alumni are enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame and have been winners of the Herman Trophy, awarded to the outstanding college soccer player every year. The club is more diverse, now, though all travel teams are named after famous Norwegian players or teams.

“Our Club president (Jimmy Svendsen) is of Norwegian descent, and we have some Norwegian families, but the majority of players are not,” said Kellett. “We have players from all over the world living in the area.”

Club Gjøa

Photo courtesy of Club Gjøa
Above: Members of the Brooklyn-based Club Gjøa U8-U18 teams pose in front of Roald Amundsen’s ship, Gjøa, for which the team is named, at the Fram Museum in Oslo.

That didn’t prevent the players from appreciating connecting with the country of its club’s founders, especially visiting the ship.

“A lot of players enjoyed explaining the story about our club to the locals and especially enjoyed seeing the ship we are named after,” said Kellett. “A club with such rich history is not common in the USA.”

Meeting and playing against peer soccer players from around the world fulfilled Norway Cup’s global goals.

“Most players said that they enjoyed Norway and seeing the sights, but the main thing they all enjoyed was the Norway Cup and the experience, many saying it was the best trip they have ever been on,” said Kellett.

With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island, to the Canadian border. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees, and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players, as well as soccer for children with special needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please visit www.enysoccer.com.

This article originally appeared in the October 5, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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