Norwegian outsider Hareide leads Danes to World Cup

Norwegian coach Åge Hareide, an outsider in footballing terms, has ushered in a period of prosperity for Denmark’s national side.

Norwegian outsider Hareide leads Danes to World Cup
Åge Hareide. Photo: Anders Kjærbye/Ritzau Scanpix

Being a Norwegian was a definite handicap when Hareide was named as the new Denmark coach in 2015.

“In football, Denmark despises Norway, they have never liked Norwegian football,” the Norwegian daily VG explained.

How things have changed in a short few years.

The former coach of Swedish side Malmö took over from predecessor and former Denmark captain Morten Olsen, who had been in charge since 2000, after Denmark failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and European Championships in 2016.

Denmark now head for their fifth World Cup finals in Russia and under the 64-year-old Hareide's leadership, the Red and Whites have not lost an official match since October 2016, their best run in 110 years.

They qualified for Russia with a 5-1 demolition of Ireland in the play-offs.

“He not only conquered Ireland but also Denmark and all the sceptics who wondered why a Norwegian should lead the Danish national team,” VG added.

A former defender with Manchester City and Norwich City in the 1980s, and capped 50 times for his country, Hareide managed the Norwegian national side from 2003 to 2008 and also had club stints with Brøndby in Denmark and Molde in Norway.

He has been described as “an enlightened” boss of an exceptional group that could aspire to the heights reached by the Danish side that won the European Championship in 1992, according to the Danish daily Politiken.

Can Denmark ever repeat the heroics of 1992? Photo: Palle Hedemann/Ritzau Scanpix

Confident in the ability of his squad, led by Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Christian Eriksen, Hareide says his side are afraid of nobody, including Group C rivals France, Australia, and Peru.

“We have nothing to fear,” the former Norwegian international told the French sports daily L'Equipe recently.

“I saw France against Poland and Sweden… it wasn't anything special,” Hareide told Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

The Denmark coach must, though, be grateful for the emergence of Eriksen as a world class playmaking force in the Premier League with Tottenham and for the Danish national team.

Eriksen, a fleet-footed attacking midfielder with exceptional vision and an eye for spectacular long-range goals, smashed an outstanding hattrick in the 5-1 play-off second leg victory over Ireland. He scored 11 goals in 12 matches overall in qualifying.

Denmark open their World Cup campaign against Peru in Saransk on June 16th before a clash with Australia in Samara five days later. They travel to Moscow to face France in their final group match on June 26th.

READ ALSO: Christian Eriksen heads Denmark's World Cup squad


Norway’s football clubs to vote on Qatar World Cup boycott

Will Norwegian football star Erling Braut Haaland stay home or play on what fans have dubbed a "cemetery?" This Sunday, a meeting of Norway's football community will decide whether to boycott next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Norway's football clubs to vote on Qatar World Cup boycott
Norway's forward Erling Haaland (L) and teammates wear jerseys reading "Fair play for migrant workers" before the international friendly football match between Norway and Greece at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga in preperation for the UEFA European Championships, on June 6, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Under pressure from grassroots activists the Norwegian Football Federation(NFF) has decided to hold an extraordinary congress to decide on whether to pass up football’s showpiece event all together.

The games on the pitches in the Middle Eastern emirate will “unfortunately be like playing on a cemetery,” according to Ole Kristian Sandvik, spokesman of the Norwegian Supporters Alliance (NSA), invoking a commonly used metaphor among opponents of Norway’s participation.

Norway, which has not qualified for a major international competition since Euro 2000, is currently fourth in its World Cup qualifying group behind Turkey, the Netherlands and Montenegro. 

So while qualification seems an uphill task, the result of the vote could have an impact on whether Norway and its young star Haaland — one of the rising stars of world football — continue to play qualifying matches. 

The movement calling for a boycott began north of the Arctic Circle when football club Tromso IL spoke out against turning a blind eye to alleged human rights abuses at the end of February.

“We can no longer sit and watch people die in the name of football,” the first division club proclaimed.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup, with campaigners accusing employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare.

“There is no doubt that this World Cup should never have been awarded to Qatar,” Tom Hogli, a former professional footballer turned public relations officer for Tromso IL, told AFP.

“The conditions there are abominable and many have lost their lives,” he added.

In March, a spokesman for the Qatari organisers put the number of deaths on the construction sites at “three” since 2014, with another 35 having died away from their workplaces, challenging the heavy toll reported by some rights groups.

Push from fans
The Tromso call began gathering pace in Norway, where clubs operate under a democratic structure, and under pressure from fans, many teams now say “nei” (no).

According to Sandvik, the fans feel that the deaths on the World Cup sites would have been avoided “if they had not had to build hotels, railways and stadiums”.

Nearly half of Norwegians, 49 percent, now say they are in favour of a boycott, while only 29 percent are against it, according to a poll published by newspaper VG on Wednesday.

The Nordic country’s national squad has already protested conditions in Qatar, but stopped short of calling for a boycott.

Before recent Norway games, Borussia Dortmund superstar Haaland, captain Martin Odegaard and the rest of the team have worn t-shirts with slogans like “Human rights on and off the pitch.”

Other countries, like Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark have also followed suit.

FIFA, on the other hand, argue that awarding the hosting of the World Cup in Qatar has opened the door to social progress.

“We know there is still work to be done, but we need to recognise the significant progress achieved in a very short time,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in May.

‘Few successes’ 
While the executive committee of the NFF have said they regret Qatar being awarded the World Cup, they oppose a boycott.

President Terje Svendsen said he thought it was “not the right tool to improve the human rights situation or the working conditions in Qatar,” when speaking at the federation’s ordinary annual congress in March.

According to the NFF, a boycott could end up costing Norway 205 million Norwegian kroner ($24 million, 20 million euros) in fines and compensation as well as lost revenue.

Feeling the pressure from grassroots campaigns, the NFF referred the matter to an extraordinary congress which on Sunday will bring together the eight members of its executive committee, representatives of 18 districts and of hundreds of professional and amateur clubs.

The discussions will be revolve around the findings of an expert committee which, with the exception of two members representing fans, has also come out against a boycott.

“For a boycott to succeed, you need a critical mass behind it, an opposition that calls for it in the country, the UN to put pressure on the
authorities, the business world, the trade unions and civil society to put pressure on it in the long term,” committee chairman Sven Mollekleiv said in a debate hosted by broadcaster TV2.

“Historically, there are few successes,” he said.

Rather than a boycott, the committee recommended 26 measures to consolidate and further the gains made in Qatar but also to ensure that FIFA doesn’t become complicit in so called “sportswashing” — the polishing of a country’s public image through a major sporting event.

Some initial supporters of a boycott, like Tromso’s Hogli, have since sided with these conclusions, although calls for a complete boycott remain.