Norwegian teen Haaland growing in stature
Between July 19 and September 17 last year, Erling notched up four hattricks including one on his Champions League debut, against Genk. He was the third youngest to do that after Raul (1995) and Wayne Rooney (2004).Updated: Feb 20, 2020 11:59 IST
If Martin Odegaard, rebuilding his career away from Real Madrid where he had joined as a teen sensation, boosted Norwegians’ interest in La Liga, Erling Braut Haaland got them to tune into the Austrian league and now, Bundesliga.
Traditionally, English football has been Norway’s thing. In the 1990s a clutch of Norwegians were in the Premiership, the number rising to 22 in 1998-99. Among them was Alf-Inge Haaland, Erling’s father, who joined Nottingham Forest in 1993, played for Leeds United (1997-2000) and Manchester City (2000-03). Under Egil Olsen, Norway had qualified for 1994 and 1998 World Cup and many of those players—known more for tactical discipline and fitness than flair—furthered club careers in England. Erling was born in Leeds on July 21, 2000, to Alf-Inge and Gry Marita, a former national heptathlon champion.
Norwegian Andra Noruega, who tweets as @AndreOstgaard, posted on Wednesday that Erling leapt a massive 1.63m in a standing long jump contest when he was five. Noruega also quoted from an interview Alf-Inge gave to ‘Dagbladet’, one of Norway’s largest newspapers, which said that Erling played handball, athletics and cross-country skiing till he was 14.
Having joined as a six-year-old, Erling was 15 when debuted for the senior team at Bryne Fotbalklubb. Molde, defending champions of Norway’s top league Eliteserien, signed him in 2017. In his first full season Erling scored 16 goals including four in one game. The precocious teen, who scored nine goals in Norway’s 12-0 win against Honduras in the 2019 under-20 World Cup, joined RB Salzburg on a five-year deal on January 1, 2019.
Because of the move, Norwegian newspaper VG brought the rights to show RB Salzburg’s games on its website, according to an article in the website ‘The Athletic’. Between July 19 and September 17 last year, Erling notched up four hattricks including one on his Champions League debut, against Genk. He was the third youngest to do that after Raul (1995) and Wayne Rooney (2004). He had then scored 11 goals in seven games. Erling scored 17 goals in 16 league games for RB Salzburg and debuted for the senior Norway team, against Malta, last September.
The goal rush continues with Erling scoring 10 times in seven Champions League games including Tuesday’s. For Dortmund too, Erling has scored 11 goals in seven appearances so far.
That includes three goals in 23 minutes against Augsburg in the Bundesliga after coming on as a 56th minute substitute. Trailing 1-3 till the 59th minute, Dortmund ran out 5-3 winners. It made Erling the youngest to score three on his Bundesliga debut. Dortmund had not done that since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2013 when Juergen Klopp was in charge. Erling joined Dortmund last month on a four-and-a-half-year deal reportedly on a transfer fee of 20m euros. He ignored interest from Manchester United where his former Molde coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in charge.
In an interview to this newspaper last year, John Arne Riise, Norway’s most capped player at 110 internationals, had said he was glad Erling had taken a “smaller step” by going to Austria. The move to Dortmund would be logical because it has a history of grooming young ones into top players. “I had the feeling that I definitely wanted to transfer to this club, take this path,” Erling said on joining the black-and-yellows. At 1.94m in his socks, the flaxen haired teen has size, strength and speed to be a No. 9 which is how Dortmund coach Lucien Favre is using him. Against PSG, he clocked running 60 metres in just 6.64 seconds, a pace that would have put him in the World Indoor Championship 60m final in 2018. Erling also has a powerful left foot, proof of which came again on Tuesday in the 2-1 win against PSG. And months shy of turning 20 he has shown in spades a striker’s penalty-area instinct.