Growing up I always had a secret affinity for the Norwegian national football team. Maybe it had something to do with my Nordic looks or the fact that for a brief period in the mid-90’s they were in fact ranked the World’s second best team.
The real reason for this attraction to the Norwegian national football team was more than likely due to the amount of talented Norwegian footballers playing in the Premier League week in week out.
To demonstrate that fact you only have to go back in time to France 1998 where the Scandinavian sides World Cup squad was littered with Premier League stars. 11 of the players in that team plied their trade in the Premier League and even Stale Solbaken, Veggard Heggem, Jostein Flo, Havard Flo and Vidar Riseth had or would eventually go on to play on our shores meaning 16 of the 22 had connections to the English game.
So where have all the Norwegians gone?
Two years later the number had decreased slightly at Euro 2000 with just nine Premier League representatives but future Premier League stars such as John Carew and John Arne Riise were in the squad so there was still much English connection going on while Vidar Riseth was playing for Celtic in Scotland.
Now however not only are the numbers playing in the Norwegian squad dwindling but currently there are only three Norwegian’s currently playing in England’s top-flight; Brede Hangeland and John Arne Riise are joined by Alexander Tettey of Norwich in the surprisingly low tally (interestingly Riise is the only player born in Norway to play in the Premier League as Hangeland and Tettey were born in Texas and Ghana respectively).
At first glance I figured they had perhaps just been moving elsewhere, with an increase in participation in the Netherlands and the Bundesliga but that doesn’t seem to be the case as only five Norwegians currently play in Germany and just the three in the Eredivisie.
It could be that Norwegian players have become more expensive as a result of the success of players such as Oyvind Leonhardsen, Tore Andre Flo and Eirik Bakke in England as well as the proximity to our shores no longer being of a huge advantage. In this modern world scouting missions can be done far and wide with the utilisation of African, South American and Eastern European talent now much more widespread, in fact the Norwegian league has seen its fair share of impressive youngsters from Africa especially making the grade, for example John Obi Mikel. Not to mention an ability to bring in players from big countries such as Italy, France and Germany as the Premier League reaches its gigantic stature.
It also brings up a chicken and egg argument; whether Norwegian talent is diminishing or that the lack of involvement of Norwegians in the Premier League has had a knock on effect to the national side; who have not qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2000.
It is a shame though to see a dwindling in the numbers of not just Norwegians but Scandinavians as a whole as so many of them have brought us a lot of joy over the years. At the moment there are just five Swedes and two of each from Denmark, Iceland and Finland joining the Norwegian trio on the list.
So why are less Scandinavians playing in the Premier League? Can you name the ones who are? And who are your favourites from the region to play in the Premier League?
Here is my personal favourite…
image: © Magnus D