Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A notch up and to the West: Norway, slightly stronger football nation than Finland, had her champions as well. The Cup went to Brann (Bergen).
Founded in 1908, Brann was modest club, normally playing in the First Division. So far, they have been champions twice (1961-62 and 1963) and won the Cup three times. The 1960s and the 1970s were really up and down years – strong seasons were followed by mediocrity. The only thing Brann was to really boast about was attendance: they established a record of season average - 15 486 – in 1963. It was not bested before 2003!
Cup winners going berserk in the mud. One has to really appreciate those Bergen fans braving the weather.
The Championship ended with Lillestrom FC first. ‘The Canaries’ ended the 4-year monopoly of Viking (Stavanger).
There is not much to tell about Lillestrom – they were founded in 1917, relatively ‘young’ club by Norwegian standards in the small town of the same name. It was a merger of two earlier clubs, but the new one was hardly a powerhouse. So far, Lillestrom had won a single title, in 1959, and that was all. However, the 1970s were perhaps their best years, eventually crowned with the second title in 1976.
Looks like this was the team of champions – nothing much. Except for Tom Lund.
Arguably the best ever Norwegian player, Lund, born 1950, is forgotten now. In all fairness, he was not widely known during his playing days either, but this was unjust and cruel joke: Tom Lund should have been a big international star. I saw him playing and he was fantastic. So why he remained unknown? The answer is simple – he played only for Lillestrom during his career from 1967 until 1982. A total of 336 matches, scoring 196 goals. He was perhaps the prime reason for the strong decade of the normally ‘also run’ club. His talent was not missed by big foreign clubs, though, and here comes the enigma (at least from today’s point of view): Ajax wanted him to replace departing Cruyff in 1973. Lund refused. He turned down offers from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich as well. Since Lund never explained his reasons, it is still speculated that his fear of flying was the reason. It was big fear indeed – Lund traveled by car or by train for matches abroad, joining his teammates of either Lillestron or the Norwegian national team at the final destination. But the simple fact is he remained loyal to his club and never became international star because of his loyalty. Old times… there were still players preferring simple life to fame and money.
Lund played regularly for Norway – a total of 47 games between 1972 and 1982, scoring 12 goals. And here is in action captaining Norway against Sweden in 1977.
But his biggest contribution was for his club – he elevated Lillestrom to steady force in Norwegian football.
Tom Lund captaining Lillestrom and endearing fans, including myself. Truly lost hero, but one has to admire his loyalty nevertheless. Impossible to imagine a player like him today.