The world’s most popular sport also has an ardent fan following in Norway. While the country’s professional league lags behind the rivals from other nations, it has not impacted the popularity of the sports in terms of participation or spectatorship.
It is the country’s most popular sport and takes precedence over other sports. However, interestingly enough, it is not the most popular spectator sport in the country as other sports like skiing are preferred for spectatorship. Football’s popularity as a participatory sport is another story, as the highest number of active players in Norway is that of football.
It is known that around 8.5% of the total population plays football actively, while the number of registered football players in the country is 393,000. At present, Norway has around 1822 registered soccer clubs, and the number of registered soccer teams is more than 25,000.
If you are keen to learn more about the sport, this article offers a detailed insight into the history of football in Norway, its evolution through time, and its current status. Let’s get started!
Norwegian Football History & Norway Football Federation
Football was introduced in Norway in 1883 when Nygaards Bataljon, a traditional marching youth group in Bergen, formed the first football team in the country. Two years later, Norway’s first sports club Idraetsforeningen Odd was formed in the city of Skien. Football was not very popular back then, and public interest was low. As a result, it could not gain much traction in the following years, and no major progress was made.
However, in 1894, Odd Grenland introduced football under its patronage, and presently it is regarded as the oldest football club in the country. Once the sport started becoming popular, there was a need for the introduction of formal rules and regulations for the sport. As a result, football’s official governing body, the Football Association of Norway, was established in 1902, presently known as the Norway Football Federation. As soon as the organisation was formed, it introduced a cup competition.
The NFF became a member of FIFA in 1908, following which Norway played its first international match against Sweden. Despite putting up a good show, the team lost the match 11-3. The country was ready to host its first international football event three years later. The match was held in Oslo, and again, the opponent was Sweden, with Norway losing 4-0.
The Norwegian team took part in the Olympics for the first time in 1912 and hosted its first FIFA Congress in 1914 in Oslo. The same year, a national football league was established. It comprised six teams, with Drafn as the first season’s winner. In 1936, the national football team won a bronze medal in Olympics. The team is remembered as Bronselaget, as it brought a bronze medal home.
Norway Men’s National Football Team
The national football team of Norway, nicknamed Drillos Løvene (The Lions), is currently ranked 41st in FIFA. The national football team was created 139 years ago, and its home stadium is the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo.
The national team has been participating in international soccer since the 1930s after the NFF became affiliated with FIFA. To date, the team has participated thrice in FIFA, in 1934, 1994, and 1998. It also participated once in the UEFA European Championship in 2000.
To date, the national team’s most outstanding performance in FIFA was when it reached the round of 16 in 1938 and 1998. In 1936, the national team won third place at the Olympics when it beat Germany. The team may currently not be one of the best in the world, but in the mid-90s, the team was ranked second in FIFA.
Norway Women’s National Football Team
The women’s national football team is currently ranked 12th in the world. The team’s best ranking to date is 2nd in 2003.
The team was formed in 1978 to participate in the Nordic Championship. Initially, the team lost to its European counterparts, but eventually, it became a force to be reckoned with. The most notable achievement of the Norwegian football team was the team’s win in the 1995 FIFA World Cup final, making it the world champion.
In 1999, the team finished in fourth place in the World Cup. To date, the team has appeared in 11 FIFA World Cup tournaments. The team has also appeared in 12 European Championships and was the champion in 1987 and 1993.
The football league system in Norway
At the domestic level, the football league system in Norway has a pyramid structure. Here are some details for men’s and women’s football leagues.
Men’s football league system In Norway
There are four football divisions in the country. The top league in the country is Eliteserien. It was formed in 1937 as Norgesserien and has been renamed multiple times. Since 2017, it has been referred to as Eliteserien.
Currently, the league comprises 16 teams. Seven of these clubs are from Eastern Norway; five teams are from Western Norway, two are from the north of the Arctic Circle, and one is from Trondelag and Southern Norway.
Top clubs from the Eliteserien have participated in the UEFA European Champions League and the UEFA Europa Conference League. The league’s current champion is Molde, who has won the league title five times. The most successful club in the Eliteserien is Rosenberg, having won 26 times.
The Eliteserien follows a promotion and relegation system with the Norwegian First Division, the country’s second-highest football league, founded in 1948 and comprises 16 teams. The top teams from the league are promoted to the Eliteserien every season, while the bottom teams are relegated to the Second Division, the third-tier league.
The second division is divided into two groups having 14 teams each. There are six groups in the fourth tier, each with 14 teams. The respective regional football associations govern the leagues below the fourth tier through the eighth tier.
Women’s football league system In Norway
The League system for women was first introduced in 1977 at the regional level. These regional leagues continued to operate until the formation of Toppseiren, which is the top women’s football league in Norway. The league was formed in 1984 and currently comprises ten teams.
The Toppserien follows a promotion and relegation system with the First Division, the country’s second-top women’s league. There are four more tiers below the First Division, which are administered by the respective regional football associations.