Commentator's 'Maggie Thatcher' outburst makes UNESCO list

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12:05 CET+01:00
Norway has selected a football commentator’s ecstatic outpouring of emotion and political one-upmanship as one of the most important cultural documents in the country’s history.

United Nations cultural agency UNESCO and the Norwegian Arts Council jointly presented a list on Wednesday of some 60 archive holdings and historical documents that will represent Norway in UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme, a project designed to safeguard against collective global amnesia.

Alongside such invaluable cultural artefacts as the constitution, original notes to an Edvard Grieg concerto and the manuscript for Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House”, Norway has chosen to submit Bjørge Lillelien’s radio coverage of Norway’s 2-1 win over sizzling hot favourites England in a World Cup qualifier in Oslo in 1981.

Lillelien launched into one of most celebrated pieces of commentary in sporting history after the referee blew the final whistle on a game the Norwegians were widely expected to lose, and lose badly.

Enraptured by the result, Lillelien hailed it as a victory for Norway over everyone from Winston Churchill to Lady Diana, before peppering his Norwegian commentary with some English-language phrases when addressing the UK’s then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“Norway have beaten England 2-1 in football,” he began, before breaking into his famously frenetic rant.

“We’re the best in the world! We’re the best in the world! We’ve beaten England 2-1 in football! It’s absolutely unbelievable! We’ve beaten England! England, birthplace of giants – Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana! We’ve beaten them all!

"Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher, I have a message for you: We have knocked England out of the World Cup in football. Maggie Thatcher, as they say in your language in the boxing bars round Madison Square Garden in New York: Your boys took a hell of a beating!"

Norwegian radio presenter Bjarne Grevsgard was one of the people tasked with selecting candidates for the Norwegian UNESCO list.

“Lillelien’s description of the match conveyed such enthusiasm and patriotism at a major sporting event and it wasn’t especially difficult to select it when putting together the UNESCO list,” he told public broadcaster NRK.

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Despite the unprecedented victory in Oslo, however, England eventually qualified for the 1982 World Cup while the Norwegian team stayed at home. 

Listen to the (slightly edited) version here:

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