Why is Norway’s football manager calling for people to vote against the government?

Why is Norway's football manager calling for people to vote against the government?
Norway's manager Stale Solbakken. Photo by Jorge Guererro / AFP
Norway's football manager, Stale Solbakken, has courted controversy by suggesting that people vote for a change in government ahead of the next election. Here's why.

Norway coach Stale Solbakken has caused controversy in the country by calling for people to vote against the government in the upcoming parliamentary elections over the strictness of its coronavirus rules.

Solbakken was angry that the 28,000-capacity Ullevaal Stadion could only be a quarter-full for Norway’s 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

The stadiums capacity was capped due to the Covid rules in Norway having limits on the numbers attending big events, even when the use of a vaccine certificate is in place. 

His team, who visit Latvia on Saturday and host Gibraltar next week, are also in the same qualifying group as Turkey. The nation goes to the polls on September 13.

“Today we played in front of 7,000 spectators who were fantastic but it could have been surreal here today,” he said after the game. “We will play in a ‘cathedral’ in Amsterdam in front of 60,000 people and in a stadium filled to the brim in Istanbul.

“I don’t want to waste time on this subject but it must be said: ‘We can do nothing other than vote in the legislative elections’.”

When asked by a journalist if he was hoping for a change of government, Solbakken said: “That is completely correct.”

The incumbent right-wing government is currently trailing the ‘red-green’ opposition in all opinion polls.

On Thursday, Minister of Health Bent Hoie told newspaper Verdens Gang he was “surprised and disappointed” by Solbakken’s remarks.

The government also announced an increase in the amount of spectators allowed to attend outdoor events, with 10,000 the new limit.

Former Wolves and FC Copenhagen coach Solbakken took charge of the Norwegian national team last December and was immediately fined for breaking quarantine rules.

Norway sit fourth in European qualifying Group G, but only one point behind leaders Turkey.

This isn’t the first time that politics and the national team have overlapped. Earlier this year Norway’s football association held a summit to decide whether it would boycott the 2022 Qatar World Cup over allegations of human rights abuses in the country. 


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