Known as ‘Home Ground' in English, NRK's Heimebane is a football drama for people who don't like football.
One of our top tips for those learning Norwegian is to watch as much Norwegian TV as possible. It's a great way to practise your listening skills, master pronunciation and be exposed to new dialects from around Norway.
My latest recommendation is Heimebane. The two seasons are available on NRK.no and the NRK app, with optional Norwegian subtitles.
The show does have an international release as ‘Home Ground' so I assume there is an English dub/text available, but I do not know anything about its international distribution or availability. Sorry!
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A rare football drama
Successful football dramas on the screen are few and far between. Perhaps that's due to the inherent drama within professional sport, as the recent European Super League debacle has shown.
But recently I finally got around to watching a Norwegian TV series that does a decent job of representing the sport on the screen. Best of all? You definitely don't have to be a football fan to enjoy it.
Simply put, Heimebane is a drama series about football coach Helena Mikkelsen’s struggle to make it in the Premier League in Norway. The twist? She manages a men's team, and is the first woman in Europe to do so.
We follow her journey as she moves from a comfortable life in Trondheim working with a leading women's team to take a job in Sunnmøre. The club, Varg IL, is central to the small, tight-knit community.
Much of the action takes place far from the pitch as Mikkelsen navigates new relationships with the players, staff and supporters of Varg IL, and the changing relationship with her teenage daughter.
The cast of Heimebane
When I heard that former Norwegian international footballer John Carew was part of the cast, I assumed he would appear in a cameo role, perhaps as the manager of an opposing team.
But Carew, with only minor acting experience, takes on the role of ageing footballer Michael Ellingsen, the nemesis of Helena Mikkelsen throughout the first season.
Those of you who watched Ragnarok will also recognise some familiar faces! Emma Bones who played Gry plays Helena Mikkelsen's teenage daughter Camilla, while Jonas Strand Gravli who played Laurits pops up in a couple of episodes as a kitchen hand in a local restaurant.
It may also be the first time many of you have seen rising star Axel Bøyum. He became the youngest person to win Best Actor at Gullruten (the Norwegian ‘Emmies') for his performance as young footballer Adrian Austnes.
The setting for Heimebane
Heimebane is set in Ulsteinvik, a small town in Møre og Romsdal. The stadium, Ulsteinvik's Høddvoll Stadion, is real but the club, Varg IL, is fictional. In a nice touch, Ulsteinvik's real club, Hødd, has adopted the fictional club's anthem!
Most of the indoor scenes were shot in Oslo. Filming in the Oslo studio made it possible for the production to have greater control and flexibility over factors such as weather and the time of filming.
Why watch Heimebane?
I've already explained that such shows are great for improving your Norwegian comprehension. In Heimebane, you'll hear plenty of Trøndersk and Sunnmørsk, the dialects from central Norway and Sunnmøre.
But beyond the language, this is a genuinely good show with plenty of realistic drama. Many of the struggles that Helena goes through will seem familiar to those new to Norway!