Sunday, July 8, 2018

Among thousands at open air party at Kontraskjæret, Oslo, to see England reach World Cup Semi Finals

This World Cup keeps getting better and so does my trip. The second day in Oslo with Jeffrey was spent very much with a football theme. After visiting Ullevaal, Sweden's national stadium, Jeff and me had a rendez-vous with Gry Wetherall, a friend of Guri and Rory O'Brien, friends of ours from Penn, Buckinghamshire and she took us to a massive open air party to watch England beat Sweden to clinch their place in the semi-finals. Later Jeff and I watched Croatia edge Russia out of the tournament on penalties.

The last time I shared a room with Jeffrey was in 2011, in Adelaide when he came over with Paul Chamberlain to watch one of England's rare Test match victories down under. Unlike "Chambo" Jeff isn't a bad snorer so we both slept very well but woke up with 3 star hangovers.

We found a maccers for breakfast and then headed off for my usual mini adventure - to find the national stadium, which in Oslo is called Ullevaal. It's the ground that hosted a game in 1981 that most English football fans born in the 1950s or early 60s will remember very well.

It was in the 1982 World Cup qualification group in September 1981. Norway were struggling at the bottom of the group and England looked well placed to qualify for Spain. But on the day, Norway shocked everyone and beat England 2-1.

 After the match finished, the commentator, Bjørge Lillelien, poured out his emotion in one of the most famous rants ever broadcast.

It included this, most famous part...

"Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana, vi har slått dem alle sammen, vi har slått dem alle sammen! (we have beaten them all, we have beaten them all!).

Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher ... your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!"

England still qualified for that World Cup, despite the defeat.

So, I had to go and see the ground where that took place, right? It was also an excuse to use Oslo's metro system.

The circular line was partly closed so we had to go the long way around.

There' s a dedicated metro station right be the ground, which must have changed a lot since 1981.

It's another very impressive looking stadium that is used commercially all the time as it is filled with stores underneath. Unfortunately, the stadium was closed and no-one was around to let me have look inside. I had to poke my mobile through the gate to get even a glimpse of the inside.

In the football shop at the stadium I was able to buy a nice new England shirt to wear for the Sweden game in the afternoon.

Model of the ground

Norway failed to qualify for this World Cup too. They were drawn in "ze group af dess" (the one with Germany in it - who won all ten of their games including a 6-0 win at home to Norway and a 3-0 win away. Norway did manage a big win themselves, 8-0 at home to San Marino.

After that we got back to the hotel and I changed shirts as we were going to be going to the fan park to watch the quarter final.

The site of the fan park in Oslo is called Kontraskjæret and I was recommended to go there by a Norwegian lady called Gry Wetherall, who I met (for about twenty seconds only, as she was about to leave) at Rory O'Brien's funeral. His wife, Guri, is also Norwegian and they have been great friends since Gry married an Englishman and lived in the UK for a few years. The coincidences don't end with their names, nationalities, marriage partners and where they lived. Tragically, Gry's husband also passed far too young leaving a Norwegian widow and children. Incredible.

Anyway, Gry is a bit of a football fan and her son has been to a few of the games in this world cup. She had been following my adventures on facebook and when she heard I was coming to Oslo she wanted to meet up with us.

So Jeff and me went to Akke Brygge where she had arrived by boat from her town to the south of Oslo.

Gry is a real full-of-life character and we spent a great afternoon together at the fan park. She was quite right that it was the place to watch the game and that we needed to get there early to get a good place.

I was amazed that so many (maybe 5,000) people had packed into this natural shaped arena to watch England v Sweden on the big screen. There was a great party atmosphere that went on all afternoon.

I think it's fair to say that most Norwegians were supporting Sweden, but there was a significant minority backing England too. Of course a lot of Swedes actually live and work in Oslo too and so do a few English people.

Anyway, it all made for some great light hearted banter...

The organisers did a great job in getting the right atmosphere going and I was really impressed that so many joined in with Skinner & Badiel's "Football's Coming Home" song - surely the best football song ever.

England 2 Sweden 0

The game started very cagily with England being almost as cautious as Sweden. But, as Jeffrey predicted, after twenty or so minutes they began probing a bit more aggressively and the half hour mark Harry MacGuire put England in front with a powerful header from a corner.

After that, it all looked quite comfortable for England. In the second half another header from Delli Ali at the back post surely put the game beyond Sweden's reach, although Jordan Pickford did make a great save to keep England in front.

So that was it. England were through to their first World Cup semi final since Italia 90.

After the match there was a lot of magnanimity in defeat from the Swedish fans and I didn't see one incident of trouble even though thousands of football fans had been drinking all day.

Jeff, Gry and I headed back to Akky Brygge where we ate at Jamie Oliver's. It was then time to say goodbye to our temporary Norwegian (oops!) tour guide and find a bar to watch the Croatia v Russia tie.

Croatia 2 Russia 2 (4-3 on penalties)

I wanted Croatia to win, if only to remove the temptation of Putin bribery from the picture for the semi final.

It was a much closer game than I'd anticipated and it ended up going to penalties but Croatia won through in the end sealing their place in the semi finals too.

So next Tuesday, it'll be

France v Belgium

followed by

England v Croatia

on Wednesday.

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