Bodø/Glimt, the Norwegian minnows catch the cold European elite | Europa Conference League

JHere’s a picture in the lobby of the remarkable Stormen Library, perched on the edge of the harbor in cosmopolitan Bodø, that evokes the Norwegian city’s past. An old family photo shows an elderly couple from Nordland, but what isn’t immediately recognizable is the man’s Sami shoes, traditionally made from reindeer hide to cope with harsh temperatures. less than zero, have been intentionally scribbled and hidden.

Bodø is one of the northernmost cities in the world – it’s 200km north of the Arctic Circle and one of the best places to see the Northern Lights – and although skrei cod fishing is the currency history of the region, it now has a modest football club. turning heads on the European stage with the equivalent of a healthy Ligue 1 budget.

Bodø/Glimt are riding the crest of a wave and travel to Rome on Thursday hoping to advance to the Europa Conference League semi-finals after a 2-1 first leg victory in a thorny tie on their artificial ground.

UEFA are investigating clashes between coaches long after the final whistle, which could lead to the suspension of Bodø head coach Kjetil Knutsen and Roma goalkeeping coach Nuno Santos. but that humility was another remarkable chapter in an extraordinary story. . Bodø are looking for a hat-trick of victories against Roma this season, having beaten them 6-1 earlier in the competition, the heaviest defeat of José Mourinho’s career.

Bodø was barred from playing in Norway’s national top division until 1972, with northern Norwegians more than geographically isolated from society (the nearest large city, Tampere, Finland, is a 15-hour drive away) ; northern Norwegians struggled to book hotels in the south. Bodø won the Norwegian Cup three years later – the members of this team meet almost every morning for coffee – and are linked to the region. These days, Bodø fans bring giant yellow toothbrushes to matches as a response to teasing southern Norwegians about their teeth.

“The only thing I could really compare it to on a European level is maybe some of the beliefs of the Basque region or Catalonia in Spain,” says Gregg Broughton, director of the Bodø academy who sits on the committee. of club management. “We have to remember that and accept it. We have to be really, really brave, out front and proud to be from northern Norway.

The team spent a week of their summer on the picturesque Lofoten Islands, where locals recently partied to celebrate the end of the cod fishing season, playing a few practice matches to further immerse the club in its community. “Living here in northern Norway was very, very difficult and unless you worked hard you wouldn’t have survived here before,” says Broughton.

“It’s one of the roughest seas in the world, so if you didn’t pick the right moment and seize the moment your life was in danger, but if you did , your family will be able to live for the rest of the year. We must have this in our DNA. Cod exports run down the west coast to Bergen, the major trading city where the fish is sent across Europe. Salmon farming is now also very important in northern Norway.

Bodø/Glimt have already beaten Roma twice in Europe this season. Photo: Fabio Rossi/AS Roma/Getty Images

Bodø have won the league for the past two seasons and will enter the Champions League first qualifying round in July. This calendar year started with a victory at Celtic in February and next week they could secure a place in the Norwegian Cup final. Bodø’s most recent accounts detail a record turnover of €18 million, helped by television revenue and player sales; Roma is about 10 times higher. Bodø replaced the key cogs perfectly.

Prolific strikers Philip Zinckernagel, Kasper Junker and Erik Botheim have left in the past 18 months, Zinckernagel for Watford and Ola Solbakken, who made his Norway debut in November, could be next. Academy graduate Mathias Normann, now on loan at Norwich, was their first notable sale to Brighton in 2017, and Patrick Berg, whose father, grandfather and uncles played for Bodø, and Jens Petter Hauge were since moved to Lens and Milan respectively.

Bodø’s wage bill is €5m and their top earners earn about as much as their counterparts at Wigan Athletic or Wycombe Wanderers in the English third tier. “The funny thing about Norway is that everyone’s tax records are released every year so you can see what everyone earns, so there’s no point trying to make fun of anyone in the locker room,” Broughton said. “The budget is tiny, tiny, tiny and that’s what makes the achievement so huge. You’re definitely not going to come here for the money, you’re definitely not going to come here for the weather, but you’re going to come here if you are serious about career development.

Fish much bigger than Bodø could learn a thing or two about their holistic approach. They don’t flip-flop in the face of adversity – they bounced back from relegation just five years ago – and focus on performance, with mental coach Bjørn Mannsverk, a former fighter pilot who served in Afghanistan and Libya. , spokesperson for the players and the staff. “He told the management team, ‘By the way, you might not get the answers you want.’ They said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ He said: “If I make the group of players open up to me, they might say, ‘We have to change head coaches or I don’t want to be a footballer anymore. Are you ready for these answers? It was probably a ‘wow’ moment for us.

Broughton, who earned his UEFA professional license alongside Graham Potter and Nemanja Matic, is part of the club’s England staff, which includes chief medical officer Mike Brown and three physiotherapists. Tom Dent, who started as an Under-16 coach, left last year and is now an assistant at Hamarkameratene, and Dan Leivers, a youth coach, recently left to become Notts County academy manager . For Broughton, who joined Bodø in 2017 and previously coached Ben Chilwell at Rushden & Diamonds, James Justin at Luton Town and Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis at Norwich City, it was a rewarding experience.

“When an agent told me he was looking for an academy director, even though I had traveled a lot in Scandinavia, I didn’t know where Bodø was, so I looked at a map and thought to myself: “Okay, that’s pretty far north. .’ The scenery is absolutely stunning. In five minutes you can be in the desert. This is the only football club I know where you can walk to the airport.

Bodø is a European City of Culture for 2024 and the club plans to build an all-wooden stadium to mark the occasion. The club’s finest hour was against Roma in October, but they could still win on Thursday. “Mourinho had never lost 6-1 in his career,” Broughton said. “He’s the most organized manager in world football… to catch him off guard was unbelievable. It goes back to skrei fishing; when you have the moment, you have to grab it.

Mary I. Bruner