Football in the Arctic Circle as Gaute Helstrup and Tromso with use of “Napoleon” are in reach of a League title and new life in Europe

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Tromso IL is again fighting for glory in the top flight of Norwegian football, currently fourth in the table on 51 points, recently securing a strong 4-3 away win vs. 2nd placed Viking. Viking are just one point above, with Bodo Glimt, another North Norwegian club, four points in front, as they are the favourites to win.

But this story is about Tromso IL, with strong traditions and that special game vs. Chelsea in 1997, playing at home, as the snow at the Alfheim Stadium helped them to a remarkable 3-2 win.

The club is a base for almost every other club in Troms and Finnmark, as they are the only full professionals in an area mostly covered with snow and having darkness over a long period of time during the year, but with good facilites build in the city of Tromso, they are able to compete among the best.

They are not only recruiting in their own area, but also having scouts all over Norway and also having players coming in from abroad. Norwegian internationals such as Tore Andre Flo, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Sigurd Rushfelt are just three examples of great talent to have played for the club in the past.

Tromso IL are winners of two league runners-up medals from the seasons 1990 and 2011. Also done well in the Norwegian Cup, winning in 1986, 1996, ending runners-up in 2012.

There are also in the modern past been struggling periods being relegated to level two, last coming back up to the top flight in 2021, ending 12th. Last season a progress were seen as the ending position was 7th, and in this season a new climb looks to be on hopefully ending with a chance of European football.

Tromso IL were last seen in European competition in 2013/14, getting a place in Europa League due to their fair play points. They played in the opening rounds reaching the final play-off round but was defeated by Turkish top team Besiktas.

They have no major budget for transfers, and in real have to sell players to get funding for new and smart deals, bringing young talents from lower league clubs into the set up. To keep the logistic in place at clubs in Norway, there are a lot of changes from season to season, also at Tromso, seeing a total of 13 players coming in and 4 permanent moves out, also sending a grand number of players out on loan. Sales of  €2,5million, using €0,4million on new players, as they then can build their club further with a gain of €2,1million. Vital and crucial money to be able to continue to develop football in the Arctic Circle.

In the centre of this recent success you have the head coach Gaute Helstrup, who has build up a team in around a structure and system that shows how it is possible for a minor club to fight with the more established clubs and of course looking at the model of their closest neighbour Bodø Glimt, in a distance of 532,7 km, an 8 hour drive south.

To explain the way they have developed their way of play, it’s based on possession, but also abilities to counter attack is in place, and of course a great mix of young talent and a few older players with special routine and experience. Their captain, Ruben Yttergaard Jensen returned to Tromso in 2020. The 35 year old midfielder and Norwegian full international with 39 caps, is a crucial figure in the set up, and his will and eagerness is the factor to follow as the former Kaiserslautern and Groningen player sets the standard regarding work and ethics.

Last season major players such as August Mikkelsen, Warren Kamanzi and Erik Kitolani left. They were replaced with players from lower tier clubs, such as Jacob Napoleon Romsaas, Tobias Vonheim Nordby and Yaw Paintsil all taken the level of top flight football in the best way possible.

All games away are only reachable by plane as the rest of the clubs in the top flight are based in far distances from Tromso. Their longest trip is to Stavanger, and their 4-3 win down there this Sunday is a fantastic result to take home. Next game will also be away, facing Molde on the 30th of October, and then playing Stromsgodset at home on the 5th of November.

Their home stadium name was in front of this season changed from Alfheim to Romssa Arena. Romssa meaning Tromso’s stadium in the North Sami language. A big event in itself as it became the first top flight stadium in football to be named in the North Sami language.

The club does not have a major following compared to their standards, only 4000 in avarage at home games. But their fans are passionate, “Isberget” giving “Gutan” the best possible support, hopefully with European football back in town, we will see more people filling the ground to it’s capacity of 6 859 spectators.

The Norwegian top flight is a tight affair at present going into the final period of the season as Tromso IL still are in good reach of medals and European qualification and still dreaming of wgat was looked up on as impossible, winning the league title.






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