For the first time since 2019, Norwegian football stadiums could welcome back fans for the traditionally busy 16 May calendar.
As I'm sure all readers know, the 17th of May is a huge deal in Norway. The Norwegian Constitution Day is a national party on the streets. But for football fans, it's the evening before that's highlighted in the calendar.
Ever seen a rearranged match that took place on 16 May proved surprisingly popular, 16 May has seen a full program of matches across the country. Teams with large stadiums often play at home, which helps to boost attendances.
This year, more than 20,000 people attended Trondheim's Lerkendal Stadion to see Rosenborg beat Sandefjord.
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A sold-out stadium in Stavanger welcomed 15,500 to watch Viking keep their lead at the top of Eliteserien with a comprehensive win over Jerv. In Oslo, I was one of 14,357 who watched Vålerenga draw with HamKam.
But it wasn't just the bigger stadiums that saw larger than usual attendances. Ålesund filled their stadium for the visit of local rivals Molde, as did Bodø/Glimt for their northern Norway classic with Tromsø.
Attendances around Norway on 16 May, 2022
These were the attendances reported around Norway for the 16 May schedule. In brackets I've given the attendance for the last game at that stadium for comparison.
Aalesund – Molde 10,778 (5,191)
Bodø/Glimt – Tromsø 7,813 (5,060)
Kristiansund – Strømsgodset 4,002 (3,827)
Lillestrøm – Sarpsborg 9,394 (4,567)
Odd – Haugesund 7,164 (4,893)
Rosenborg – Sandefjord 20,149 (14,327)
Vålerenga – HamKam 14,357 (6,873)
Viking – Jerv 15,500 (10,110)
There was also a big crowd of 16,500 in Bergen for the second tier game between Brann and Sandnes Ulf. Traditionally one of the biggest clubs in Norway, Brann were relegated last year after defeat in the end of season play-off.
Some pictures from around the grounds on 16 May:
Norwegian football's struggle
As with all cultural and sporting events, football clubs were hit hard by the pandemic. For many months, games were played behind closed doors. Even when crowds did return, they were limited to a few hundred, then a few thousand.
There's no doubt that attendances have been down this season in general following the pandemic. Whether it's people uncertain of mixing in big groups or have simply fallen out of the habit of going to football games, I don't know.
Norwegian Football has long struggled for attention against foreign leagues shown live on TV. This is especially true for English football. In fact, most Norwegians will tell you the teams they support with the English team first.
With all that in mind, it was great to see such high attendance figures back in Norwegian stadiums yesterday!