The History Of Norwegian Pigskin

The struggle to survive in a hostile environment

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American football is a relatively new sport to Norwegians. Almost nobody understands even a fraction of the rules. The federation consists of a mere 1000 members; the hardcore football society. Outside these numbers lies an unknown amount of Norwegians with experience from playing in high school, college etc. who never bothered to bring the sport back with them. Or maybe they simply couldn't find a team, and didn't know how to start one. Well, enough about the current situation, lets take a look back in time.

It all started back in the late fifties, when U.S. Marines and other American service personell in the Oslo area brought the game with them. Curious natives saw them play, and as always with Norwegians, they wanted to know more. The sixties saw the first attempt to organize the sport. With help from the U.S. Marines, two schools in Oslo started playing an annual game against each other. However, there was no football equipment involved. This continued through the seventies, and then came the eighties....

Early 80s football

In the early eighties a third school, Oslo Handelsgymnasium(OHG), wanted to play with the pigskin. And a few years later an American named Henry L. Jones, also known as "Hank", got the idea to start a real team outside the schools. On the 21st of September 1984, Oslo American Football Club was founded. Under the guidance of Hank Jones the Trolls, as they later named themselves, became the strongest team in Norwegian football. They have dominated the sport on the national level until recently, winning most of the championships.
1985 saw the founding of the Norwegian American Football Federation (NAFF, later re-named NoAFF), and '85 was also the first year a national team was fielded. The Norwegians first played Sweden away in Stockholm in January, beating the Swedes 36-0. In September the national team once again traveled to Stockholm, to play in a Nordic tournament. Norway first beat Sweden, 28-6, then met Finland in the championship game and won 6-0.

In 1986 the Oslo Trolls played the first game against an international opponent on the club level. The Trolls ventured to England and conquered the Coventry Bears 18-15. 1986/87 also saw the founding of the Westside Vikings, a team that originated from the OHG school team. The Vikings soon built a strong team which has battled with the Trolls for the bragging rights of Norway ever since. The late eighties was a period with new teams popping up in the Oslo-area by increasing numbers. Teams like the Kolbotn Kodiaks and the Asker Lynx became household names within the Norwegian football scene. The only area outside of Oslo to field teams in this era was Bergen, with the Bulldogs and the Flyers. The Bergen teams later merged and formed Bergen Storm. Some teams came, played ball a couple of years and then vanished, never to be seen again. Very few remembers a team like the Lillestrøm 89ers or the Trondheim Tigers, but they contributed to the evolution in many ways. During the last years of the 80s, some small college teams also visited Norway, beating the crap out of local teams, a tradition that recently has resurfaced.

The mighty Trolls

By the early nineties the sport was starting to get properly organized, with a championship game, a league, membership in the European federation (now known as EFAF) and also a national team. The 90s saw football spread to areas previously unknown to the oval ball. Teams like the Stavanger Oilers (now located in Sandnes), Kristiansand (later: Otra) Raiders, Nidaros Domers and the Fredrikstad Eagles joined in on the fun. Soon more teams followed, as the Larvik Lions, Arendal Wildcats, Sarpsborg AFK, Drammen Scorpions and the Tønsberg Towers (also known under several other names) tried their luck. However, luck doesn't last forever, and many of these teams have folded. By the mid 90s clubs started to get organized enough to start thinking longer than the next season. Teams started junior programs (although there was junior football in a few schools earlier, and flag football in the late 80s) that eventually led to a junior league, and a championship. The Trolls won the first championship, with Vikings taking home the trophy in '96 & '97. 1998 saw the first team outside of Oslo taking a championship, with the Sandnes Oilers bringing home the junior championship trophy to the west coast of Norway. In 1999 the Trolls got back on track with their junior program, convincingly taking the championship back to Oslo, which they also did in 2000.

By 2000, the emphasis on junior programs had clubs setting up not only U-19 teams, but also U-16 and U-13 teams. 2001 saw the first ever Norwegian U-16 league unfold, with 5 teams competing for the title. The Nordstrand Bandits took home the title in front of the Hamar Ruins in a historical season.

Sandnes Oilers Junior 1997

On the senior level the Vikings won three in a row in the early nineties, powered by the running of then World-Leaguer Nicolay Aslaksen. But in 1993 the Trolls came brutally back, winning the championship game 62-19. And from '93 till '97 they were sovereign, winning every single championship. 1998 saw a surprising and pleasant (for the sport) change, with the Vikings, by now known under the name OSI Vikings, narrowly outwitting and outplaying the (by now known as:) Vålerenga Trolls. The Vikings took home more trophies in 1999 and 2000, both times beating up-and-comers Eidsvoll 1814s. The 1814s then proceeded to become the first senior team outside of Oslo to win a national title, taking the trophy in 2001.

Several new teams have entered the scene during the late 90s. Teams like the Hamar Ruins, the Bærum Blue Devils, the Eidsvoll 1814s, the Furuset Panthers and the Kristiansand Gladiators are new boys in the hood. Particularly Eidsvoll has proved to be a good team. They almost beat the Vikings in this 1998's Norwegian championship - semifinal, losing 42-36 in overtime. In 1999 they reached the final, proving a worthy contestant although losing 14-28 to the Vikings. They reached the final again in 2000, losing 20-68 to the Vikes, before winning 24-7 in 2001.

Sadly, several of the teams are already dead or struggling to survive. Old-timers Asker Lynx are history. Larvik, Sarpsborg, Otra, Drammen and Tønsberg have all proved too weak to keep floating.

So what will the future bring ? While 1998 saw a league devastated by teams pulling out short of players, money and heart, 1999 brought a season where most teams stood by their commitments, and where Norwegian football took several steps in the right direction. The 2000 season ended up somewhere in between. Is there light in the end of the tunnel ? We can do nothing but keep on trying...

Champions 1987- 2005 League 1987 - 2005


 

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