In its last year under the name ‘Tippeligaen’, the Norwegian Premier League went exactly as the forefathers of early 90s corporate sponsorship in football would have wanted: the league winners monopolised the concept of three points and won their nineteenth title in the 27 years Norsk Tipping has sponsored the league, the second best team beat the odds to win silver immediately after promotion thanks to near perfect upper management decisions, whilst the teams teetering on economic fatality suffered in the dregs of competition.
But, not even between the lines, the reality showed something different: the ever growing contempt of Rosenborg rose directly relative to just how much they reminded everyone of their quality, Brann are a fallen giant who finally realised overspending on glitz and glamour was their defining sin, and the entire bottom half all ostensibly colluded to manufacture such a tight relegation fight that it could only have been to make each other forget about their own perpetual existential crises.
Yes, selling a league’s soul to the highest bidder didn’t quite work out as well for the NFF as it did for The Greatest League in the World™ by which so many Norwegians are infatuated. The pomp and yellow ticker bars and constant celebration of wealth creation give off these glaring, captivating lights just beyond the emptying oil rigs of the North Sea. But it took holding the light in its own hands for the NFF to realise the idea of ‘Tippeligaen’ was a scam the English are still deluded by and an impossibility for a country so entrenched in Janteloven.
Janteloven, the Law of Jante, is a Danish concept to define the Scandinavian suspicion and antipathy of individuality and any consequential success. It’s a collective self-hatred that acts as the constant reminder that society is first whilst individuals should be lucky and humbled to reap its comforts. It is imperative to keeping Norway part of the Scandinavian Socialist Utopia™ and an antonym of corporate sponsored football.
Introspection is a rarity in Norwegian football, but now that the light seems dull, the country can realise that it fell in love with British football because it represents the freedom of Norwegians’ built-up repressions; Sky Sports-era football illustrates the opportunity of the individual. Individuals score last-minute screamers to beat Greek champions in Europe. Individuals create a cult of personality around themselves to deflect attention away from the players they manage. Individuals report on mid-table loan moves as if transfer deadline day is the last day they live.
Janteloven can be pretty bloody miserable when it’s not making everyone recycle their lemonade bottles, but it should always be remembered if it keeps young Norwegians from thinking they’re Steven Gerrard or Jose Mourinho.
Just in case there are any scouts reading, I can save you a lot of time and say that there isn’t a Steven Gerrard in Eliteserien. And, frankly, Ronny Deila is probably just too nice a guy to have ever been Celtic’s Jose Mourinho. That doesn’t lessen the merits of Mike Jensen scoring from 30 yards for Rosenborg or Deila thriving in a cultural environment where he can demand respect. But it is a friendly reminder that no one’s tuning into Aalesund host Sarpsborg 08 to watch Mos Abdellaoue head in the game’s only goal from a corner, they’re watching for a sense of collective.
Although the rebrand back to a league of its own comes along with a logo suspiciously inspired by the tournament from which it’s trying to depart, Eliteserien – a name which simply indicates a place on a pyramid and not boasting of any riches – represents a perfect opportunity to the sixteen teams involved to return to humility and attainable goals, a chance to admit there’s nothing wrong with being Norwegian.
The team who best exemplify this chance for self-awareness are the abovementioned Brann. Comparisons between their relegation in 2014 and Rangers or Leeds is too hard on Rangers and Leeds. An egomaniac trying to hold two administrative roles at once and a big-name manager who was drafted in after success in wholly different conditions had run the club in to an all time low before getting sacked. The incoming managing director immediately gave up the role of sports director to a trained coach from inside the club and they hired a head coach who grew up a few miles from the stadium. They weren’t planning on winning silver in their first season back, but such is the power of forgoing the sense of individual.
They weren’t supposed to win a medal because Molde, Strømsgodset, Vålerenga and Viking were all able to spend their Norsk Tipping money on square pegs falling straight through enlarging round holes in their team. Each failed to even make European football and each will start next season with different managers than they did in 2016. They will at least be thankful that the failures of overzealousness didn’t cost them a place in the first year of the Eliteserien era.
The change in name and branding for the league likely won’t make any difference to the attendance numbers of the sixteen teams in the top flight. Football fans will still be watching Liverpool play Chelsea on a Sunday. But at least we might see clubs from Stavanger to Sarpsborg to Tromsø stop pretending to be English and remember that they’re Norwegian.