Playing football for fun is popular in Norway as it is across Europe and the world. We meet one Oslo club who actively recruits international residents.
At the end of September, a 3-2 victory over Oldenborg 2 gave Bislett FK a long-awaited promotion. The amateur club based in Oslo is unique among Norwegian football clubs as it bases its identity in Oslo’s international community.
Grass-roots teams are an important part of football in Norway, both at the youth and adult level. Bislett FK had been on my radar for many years but I had never got around to getting in touch.
That was until I saw a celebratory tweet about their recent promotion. Following a quick conversation, I was able to meet two of the guys a few days later in Oslo to hear the full story.
Read more: Playing Football for Fun in Norway
Club co-founder and Liverpool fan David Walshe played 250 games for Bislett FK but is not actively involved anymore. Of course, he still has a lot to tell about the club’s ethos and history. St. Patrick’s Athletic fan Ross Richardson joined the club in 2017 and now has joint responsibility for managing the first team.
Congratulations on promotion! Tell us about the season.
RR: We’ve been playing at the 8th level of Norwegian football this season. We’ve been performing well for a few years now but due to Covid and some reorganisation of the leagues we haven’t won a promotion since 2018. This year we have, and we scored our 1000th ever league goal to do so.
The best moment was actually in the OBOS Cup, when we beat a 4th division team and narrowly missed out against a 5th division team in the next round.
Is the focus on fun or football?
RR: We have two adult teams. We train on Wednesday nights typically with up to 30 people where we try to balance having fun and enjoying the game with improving our players individually and as a team. One of our Argentinian players is an experienced coach so he helps out with training.
On the pitch we try to play with three or four basic principles but give the guys a lot of freedom. We do have a lot of good players who choose to play for us over clubs at a higher level because of the atmosphere we create.
The first team is quite competitive but we have a social atmosphere across the whole club. About half-an-hour before the game we try to focus and get a bit more serious. Some players enjoy that competitive aspect, but we always go to the pub after the game. That’s called the third half, and it’s a long-time tradition!
Who plays for the club?
RR: Right now we have 16 different nationalities across 46 club members, including a lot of Norwegians. Typically Norwegians that are not from Oslo that enjoy playing for us as they share that experience of moving to the city.
Our coaches are from Germany, Ireland and Argentina, while our players are a mix from across Europe, South America, the US and Africa. We have a lot of Argentinians, right now there are 10.
English is the dominant language but you’re just as likely to hear Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish or Estonian spoken at our training sessions or on match days.
How did the club start?
DW: I used to work with Mamut, a software company which was eventually bought by Visma. At the time, there was a lot of international recruitment going on.
I was training with a third division team but didn’t know anyone. Together with my co-founder Chris Worsfold, we recognised we had plenty of talented characters to play football with. We started arranging friendly matches with other organisations, which ultimately led us to deciding to enter the Norwegian league.
At the time, many players were here because they had Norwegian girlfriends and then found work in Oslo. There was also one Dutch guy who moved here simply for the mountains!
How did you grow the club?
DW: There have been a lot of challenges as a club, firstly to stay alive and then to grow sustainably. As an international club there are always challenges with people moving on to another country or moving back home, so we have always needed to look for new players.
In the first year we got promoted and had a squad of just 17 people. Everyone had their name on their shirt and washed their own kit. Once we expanded, we suddenly had enough players for two teams. At one point, we had two new people getting in touch every week.
We didn’t want to let anyone down in terms of not giving them football. At one point, we actually split the best players to ensure a strong enough spine between the two teams, but that didn’t work out very well. Now we aim for the first team to be challenging for promotion each year, with the second team at the forefront of introducing newer players, as well as giving everyone that sense of community with what the club is about.
At one point in the club’s history we’ve had two seven-a-side teams and even kids teams.
Why is the club called Bislett FK?
DW: We originally had planned to be called International Oslo, which would get shortened to Inter Oslo. But when NFF called about the registration they said we had to base it on a geographic area. I had to make a decision on the phone.
At the time, I lived in Bislett, with Bislett Stadion right across the street, with everyone being connected via our office based at Pilestredet 75c in Bislett.
The stadium is a national icon and hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics, so I made the decision right there and asked if Bislett was taken. It wasn’t, and we’ve been known as Bislett Fotball Klubb ever since.
The international aspect is represented in the club crest, where we have a football that’s actually the globe symbol. We also include the Norwegian flag, as a special reminder that we are proud to be a Norwegian club.
Are you ready for life in the 7th division?
RR: When you look at the results we’ve got this year, I think we are well set to compete and challenge for promotion again. We have (at the time of the interview) won 13 out of 15 league games and beaten a team from the fourth division in the Cup. I think we have been ready for promotion for a few years now.
Are you looking for new players?
RR: if you’re looking to play football at a decent level in Oslo and you’re looking for something more than football where you can make friends and meet other international people, then I think we are the only club in Oslo that can offer that.
Anyone interested in joining Bislett FK or simply finding out a bit more about the club can email Ross at [email protected]