What’s up, Rosenborg?

The team that couldn’t be beat in the last four years begins this season in last place


Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk / VG
Eirik Horneland (sitting) has had a very rough start to his first season as Rosenborg manager. The team that has won four straight Eliteserien titles is winless in five games as of April 29, and finds itself in last place. Perhaps, Samuel Adegbenro’s (foreground) return from injury will help.

Jo Christian Weldingh

For once, it’s difficult being a Rosenborg fan. In the fifth round of Eliteserien, archrival Molde crushed Rosenborg 3-0 at Molde’s Aker Stadium. Rosenborg is now 11 points behind league leader Molde—at the bottom of the table.

“It was brutal,” first-year Rosenborg coach Eirik Horneland told NRK. “A brutal match that is difficult to comprehend.”

Under Horneland’s leadership, Rosenborg has two points in five games in the league (two draws and three losses), which is the worst league start the team has ever had. In 1977, a season that ended with relegation, the team lost their first four matches before they beat Molde in number five.

History did not repeat itself in 2019.

Rosenborg got the worst start imaginable when Molde’s Ruben Gabrielsen scored after one and a half minutes. At halftime, the score was already 3-0, and Molde had, for all practical purposes, already won.

“Nothing is decided yet and we have to keep ourselves grounded. You can’t write off Rosenborg after five games,” Molde’s Magnus Eikrem—who scored two goals against Rosenborg—told Eurosport after the game.

But it seems unrealistic that Rosenborg will be able to turn it around and be a challenger for the league title. The team hasn’t just lost games, they have played bad and uninspired soccer in every single contest. The whole team has been out of shape mentally, technically, and physically. Two points in five matches and last place for the team that has won the league four years in a row, and now trails Molde by 11 points. They’ve scored only two goals.

When asked about Rosenborg’s chances of taking home this year’s league title, team captain Mike Jensen told the press it seems difficult at the moment.

“It’s beginning to look impossible,” he said. “We must keep believing, but 11 points up to Molde this early is a lot.”

There has been no lack of controversy around Rosenborg in the last year. In June 2018, Kåre Ingebrigtsen got fired despite having won almost everything possible in Norwegian soccer in his years as a coach. The reason given by the board at the time was that they didn’t like the team’s development. No further explanation was given. The sacking was followed by a lawsuit from Ingebrigtsen, and then, after months of arguing publicly, a settlement.

Before the 2019 season, Ingebrigtsen was hired as an expert for Eurosport, the channel with Norwegian soccer rights. In the studio after the Molde game, he made no attempt to hide his true feelings about his former club.

“Six months ago, they were the best team, now they have ruined everything,” he said.

It became obvious that he was criticizing the board, and chairman Ivar Koteng specifically, when he continued, “It feels odd when the management says the players are out of shape. This is a team that has won seven out of eight titles in the last four years. That’s impossible to do with unfit players. It’s not Horneland’s fault. It’s the executives in the club that have made the decisions and they need to stand with their coach. I remember the board running around the press zone when we won all the titles, but where are they now? All we see is Horneland.”

Ingebrigtsen was later reprimanded by the channel and probably won’t be allowed to talk about Rosenborg’s matches for a while, at least not this freely, but it remains to be seen if he’s right. Will Rosenborg be able to turn it around, or has the last year of turbulence ruined what made them the dominating force in Norwegian 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 May 17, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.