Ground: Sør Arena
Date: 25th July 2009
Match: Start - Stabæk 2-2 (Tippeligaen)
Attendance: 8 620
Pictures: Scroll down!
In 2000 an elite Italian Alpine ranger regiment were on their way to a NATO exercise in Kristiansand, Norway. They safely landed in my home town, Kristianstad. Sweden isn´t even a member of NATO and this true story is probably the most famous mix-up of the two cities. Being from Kristianstad myself I had no troubles in finding my way to Kristiansand and landed shortly after noon. This was actually my first ever trip to Norway and apart from going to two football matches I was also looking forward to meet the groundsman at Sør Arena, Steve. I was picked up at the airport by Steve and he then drove me to his former workplace, the golf club in Kristiansand. When I saw the scenery at the golf course and the many interesting holes, many with water, I was very tempted to borrow some clubs and have a go.
Later in the afternoon we went down to Sør Arena and it was a strange feeling to be walking on the pitch and being one of only two persons inside the ground. Sør Arena, the most southern ground in Tippeligaen, was opened in April 2007 and has an all-seated capacity of 14,300. The home of IK Start is also one of only 8 Tippeligaen grounds in Norway which still has natural grass. There has been a lot of new grounds built in Norway in recent years and most of them have an artificial pitch. If you have experienced a true Scandinavian winter you´ll understand why! After walking around the stands taking pictures I went down to the city centre and did some sightseeing, Steve had to prepare the pitch for the upcoming game. Later that evening we had some drinks with some of his friends, including Lee Robertson who has won the Scottish title with Rangers and later went on to be a legend in Kristiansand whilst playing for IK Start. Lee was a really nice guy who nowdays works on the golf course.
A matchday means a lot of work for a groundsman and we were at the ground around 11.30 (19.45 kick-off). This day I did some fjord sightseeing and the scenery out at see was breath taking. It seemed every Norwegian owns a boat and with so many islands, some not populated, there were plenty of places to visit and if you want some privacy you should be able to get your on island, at least for a few hours. I was back at the ground by 5.30 and as a VIP guest I had free access to the ground. The match was live on TV and NRK sent 85 people to the ground. They all seemed to like standing on the pitch but the groundsman soon chased them away... As the stands filled up it was a bit strange to be able to be pitchside when the players warmed-up and to walk in front of the away fans section. At half-time it was then time for me to step in and do some work. I was one of the chosen ones to replace divots and things were really surreal. Suddenly I was in the middle of the pitch in front of 8,600 people. It was a fun and great experience for me and hopefully I did something useful as well.
Stabæk, with four Swedes in their starting eleven, went 2-0 up in the second half but with two goals in the last 5 minutes Start managed to get an unexpected draw. The atmosphere in the last couple of minutes was great and most home fans went home quite happy. I have been to many matches and grounds but thanks to Steve I got a totally new matchday experience. For this and the two great days I had in Kristiansand I am very grateful and hopefully we will meet up sometime soon again!
Close to the sea
A proud groundsman showing off his work
Beware of the groundsman!
Fans who arrive by boat (note the submarine)
View of play
View of play