English football is almost as a religion i Norway and it has been like that for decades. When I was a young boy I remember watching teams like Forest, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday, Liverpool and Leeds, among others, battle it out on my grandfathers old TV.
It was great and it was exciting but more important: it gave me a hobby for life and a lifelong interest. And that is just not me! Just to make a comparison before I move on: we love to play online in Norway, for instance on InstaCasino.com, but the popularity of playing online doesn’t even come close to the popularity of English football – and that does really say a lot!
How it all began
The popularity of English football really made it’s mark in Norway when we got the possibility to watch live matches on TV on NRK (the national broadcaster) in 1969. The particular match that was sent every Saturday was referred to as ‘tippekampen’, or in English something like the ‘bet match’, and was broadcasted during the long winter pause in the Norwegian football league.
English football was now accessible in a new way, even in the most rural parts of the country, and after a while it grew into something cool – especially among children and young people.
During the 70’s one could see a steady growth in the press coverage of English football and in sales of football magazines. Really eager supporters even turned to BBC Radio and used it as an important source to follow English football.
Finding your club
All together this lead to a semiotic system where the support of English teams started playing a central role in schoolyards, at work, on playgrounds and at home.
Life was not always easy for those that got passionately involved in the destiny of a certain team! Boys as well as men were associated with the teams they followed, and maliciously reminded about the clubs lack of luck by friends and fans of other clubs – just like a locally based rivalry. Rather than creating a foundation of togetherness in supporting the same club, English football have had a individualizing effect among friends.
During the 70’s and 80’s several supporter clubs of English teams popped up in Norway, and first out of the blocks was Manchester City in 1974. Supporter clubs for the bigger teams (at that time), such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Leeds, were all founded between 1977 and 1982. In 1985 the Supporter union for British Football (SBF) was founded. This is an organization that gathers all supporter clubs for British, and mostly English, clubs. SBF has kind of a service role for the supporter clubs and organizes social events and meeting.
Visiting the stadium
These days, lots of Norwegians are taking the journey over to England to watch their favourite club play at home. These trips often turns into somewhat of a dreamy and sacred experience for the supporter, and a feeling of finally finding the holy grail. The first visit ever is almost like a pilgrimage, and there is no difference between a Manchester United supporter and a Derby supporter. Both will have the experience of ‘coming home’ and it is really an interesting phenomenon.
As a conclusion one can say that many anglophile football supporters have been initiated into a long distance relationship to a club, often as a result of an abstract and random choice – partly depending on media coverage.
On a superficial level one can imagine that the phenomenon can to be linked to general debates about diaspora identities, but when it comes to the emotional connection that Norwegians have to English football clubs we rarely find imaginations of a ‘lost land’ or a genetic affiliation that often seem so important for the development of diaspora identities.
In recent times the more abstract and imaginary relationship to an English club has been developed through specific exploration and expeditions to the English football universe.
A ‘long distance supporter’ will often see his club as a dreamy object, and when given the chance the supporter will take the opportunity to physically explore the environment of the club.
Anyway; the long distance supporter from Norway will experience the connection to a specific club as irreplaceable and life long – in a way that is similar to the norms and values that is found in local club communities.