November 24 – As footballing miracles go, not many can match the romantic achievement of new Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt who, as some reports put it, have “done a Leicester”.
The tiny team from the Arctic Circle, known in Norway as an ‘elevator club’ because of its record of moving between the top two divisions, won their national title for the first time in their 104-year history last weekend with five matches to spare and an unassailable 18-point lead .
Despite finishing second last season, Bodo, based in an area that traditionally draws tourists to see the Northern Lights – had sold their best players and had the additional burden of European football but have made headlines round the world with their remarkable rise to prominence.
Last season, Bodø/Glimt were averaging around 3,000, with their unique set of fans waving large yellow novelty toothbrushes at games. Because of the Covid pandemic, home crowds were limited to 200 during the current campaign until October, rising to 600 at a stadium some 1,200 kilometres north of the capital Oslo and home to a team whose only other successes were winning the Norwegian Cup in 1975 and 1993.
“I am touched,” coach Kjetil Knutsen told Eurosport after the Norwegian title was clinched. “This is a fantastic group of players, a fantastic team and a fantastic club.”
The turning point in their history was the appointment of Bjorn Mannsverk, a former fighter pilot who served in Afghanistan, as mental coach in 2017. Several of the squad say they would not be where they are now without him.
Until 1971, teams from the north of Norway were not allowed to compete in the top flight. “They thought we were primitives up here,” Bodø/Glimt’s sporting director was quoted as saying.
“We were direct, we spoke our minds, but we were not primitive. They thought that we were only farmers, fishermen. Some still think that we are.”
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