Football indoors? Been there, done that. The Veltins Arena, Parken, The Amsterdam ArenA and the Millennium Stadium are probably the biggest and best known owners of retractable roofs allowing games to be played indoors but can you name Europe’s first (and only) indoor stadium? Go on, give up you wont get it but sometime soon it is possible that you may be tuning in to see one of the big English four play in it. Built at a cost of over €60million in 2008, the Telenor Arena just outside Oslo is home to current Norwegian champions Stabæk IF, and consequently hosting their qualifying games for this seasons Champions League. Their first tie, and consequently the first Champions League game played in an indoor arena was to be played in late July against Albania champions KF Tirana.
Stabæk have been a regular fixture in the top division for most of the past decade. However it has been in the past five seasons that they have really made their mark on the domestic game. Promoted as champions in 2005 they finished the following season in 5th place thanks in part of the prolific Daniel Nannskog who was scoring goals for fun. In 2007 they exceeded all expectations and finished runners up in the league as well as reaching the Norwegian Cup semi-finals, losing out to Brann and Lillestrom respectively.
The club came back stronger last season and won the league with a few games to spare from another surprise package Fredrikstad, recording a record 14-0 away win to Vestfossen in the process They also went one stage further in the cup, reaching the final but eventually lost in the final to Valerenga 4-1. But the championship in their last season in the Nadderud stadion did mean that the club would have a shot at making the Group Stages of the newly revamped Champions League. And that first game would be against KF Tirana, champions of Albania. A one all draw in the Albania capital set this one up nicely for a big atmosphere and a place in the 3rd round against the winner of the tie “back home” between FCK and Mogren.
Stabæk IF 4 KF Tirana 0 – Champions League 2nd Round 2nd Leg – Telenor Arena – Tuesday 21st July
No surprises to say that public transport ran better in Oslo than Sweden, and so when the bus said it was due at 6.55pm and it would take 14 minutes it was true to word and I was deposited by the side of a big grey slug on the old Oslo airport site, now home to the impressive Telenor Arena. After a few handshakes from the officials including a long standing reader of this blog I was ushered to the press gallery and my first view of the stadium.
Weird was the first word that came to mind. Then surreal, fake and finally blooming hell. It took a bit of getting used to, but with the music pumping out as clear as day it was impressive. The crowd slowly came in to the stadium as they were watering the plastic grass (why??), and because of the acoustics only a handful could make a decent noise.
A very nice chap called Lars had sorted out my accreditation and whilst I was searching for him to say hello I bumped into an elderly English chap. He seemed familiar but I could not place him. Curiosity got the better of me and so I waited until he exited the Gents (never a good time to ask someone if you recognise them whilst standing at a urinal) and it turned out it was none other than ex-referee George Courtney who was the official UEFA match delegate . George was one of my favourite referees apart from one decision that every West Ham fan remembers. In the 1980 FA Cup Final with minutes to go, 17 year old Paul Allen nutmegs Pat Rice and charges through the Arsenal defence, with just Pat Jennings to beat. In one of the most cynical moments in the final’s history Willie Young tripped him up, denying him a clear scoring opportunity and a challenge that essentially created the Professional Foul law. George sympathised with me and said that the letter of the law then stated he could only book him. Boo hiss I said, but wished him well.
And then it was time….the Champions League anthem started and the teams emerged. The stadium was about a third full, which was disappointing but the noise was incredible. I would say that when (if?) the stadium is ever full the noise would require the fans to wear earplugs. The home fans co-ordinated bouncing in the first few minutes was a joy to watch.
After a quiet first ten minutes where neither side made any clear openings, the home team took the lead when a free kick was not cleared and centre back Pontus Segerstrom pounced on a loose ball and it was in the back of the net before you could say Trippenligean. One became two 90 seconds later as a hopeful shot on the edge of the box from Hauger hits the lucky Segerstrom on the heal and spins into the net. With this luck the defender needed to subtitute himself straight away and go and buy a Euromillions ticket! For the rest of the half it was all Stabæk and they were unlucky not to add a third when Nannskog was ruled offside after he had put the ball in the net. The home fans continued their vocal support as the half wound down and it seemed odds on that Stabæk would be making the hour flight south next week to Copenhagen (with FCK being 6-0 up from the first leg).
The third came after a number of false dawns in the 44th minute as Nannskog broke down the right, crossed low and Fredrik Berglund slotted the ball home. So job done at half time, with the Albanians who had threatened so little now requiring three goals to go through. And what a way to get the second period underway with a rousing Norwegian version of Land of Hope and Glory pumped out at maximum volume. It really should have been four soon after halftime as Berglund went clean through but pulled his shot wide. They only had to wait a few more minutes though as from a corner Pontus (you never see a Pontus and then like a bus two come along at once) Farnerud smashed in a volley from the edge of the box.
With fifteen minutes to go it was game over as in a fit of madness Tirana’s Laurent Mohellebi, on as a substitute for just ten minutes was dismissed for lashing out at Keller who himself was booked for giving him a nasty stare back. The last few minutes were played at a leisurely pace and a four nil win in the end was a fair reflection on the quality gap of the teams. So with one tie to go the Norwegians could start to dream of one or two of the big boys coming to visit them in their indoor paradise. It will certainly take some getting used to!
About the Telenor Arena
Telenor Arena is a multi-use indoor stadium located at Fornebu in the municipality of Bærum, a few miles outside Oslo in Norway. It is the home stadium of current Norwegian champions Stabæk IF.
In June 2008, the telecommunications company Telenor acquired the naming rights to the stadium in a deal lasting until 2018. Prior to this, the stadium was known informally as Fornebu Arena, and while still in the concept stages as Blue Dream Arena. It is also referred to by supporters as Hangar’n (the hangar in English), as the stadium resembles a hangar and is located on the premises of the former main airport of Oslo.
It is a single-tiered bowl attached to a seven-storey building on one side containing retail space, restaurants and bars for the premium-priced seats, executive boxes, and offices. As originally planned, the stadium was to have a retractable roof, but due to the high costs involved it was decided that there would instead be a fixed roof covering both the stands and the pitch. For football matches and other sporting events the total capacity is approximately 15,600, whereas for concerts it will be up to 23,000.
The first match played at the stadium was a pre-season friendly between Stabæk and IFK Göteborg on 24 January 2009, which ended in a goalless draw. This was followed by a sold-out AC/DC concert on 18 February, the first concert on the European leg of the their Black Ice World Tour. Trond Olsen of Rosenborg became the first player to score a goal at Telenor Arena as Rosenborg defeated Stabæk 1–0 in another pre-season friendly, on 27 February. The stadium was officially opened on 8 March 2009 with a “Charity Shield”-style match between league champions Stabæk and cup champions Vålerenga, which ended in a 3–1 win for Stabæk.The arena will be the venue for the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2010.
How to get to the Telenor Arena
The easiest public transport option is to catch one of the “Blue Buses” that run from oustide the National Theatre in the city centre every 10 minutes or so on line 31 or 31E if you like to do it in an express way!. Tickets cost 40NKR and buses run on the 4 (04,14 etc). Journey time is 21 minutes for the 31 and 14 minutes for the 31E. You can get a train to Lyskar station from Oslo and then a local bus but it is easier with the buis journey all the way. Buses wait on the far side of the stadium after the game.
How to get a ticket for the Telenor Arena
Attendances haven’t exactly been high at the new stadium so it is still possible to buy tickets on the gate. Ticket prices range from 170NOK to 325NOK depending on where you sit. the lower price will get you a seat in the end with the home supporters. Tickets can be purchased online, and printed out as pdf’s from http://www.billettservice.no.