There are clubs whose role in the world of football seems to be to act as a mere footnote in someone else’s history book. A good example are Stromsgodset IF. In England, the Norwegian club are mainly remembered for an 11-0 defeat to Liverpool in 1974 in the first round of the European Cup Winners Cup. Over in Italy however, Stromsgodset mean Diego Forlan and his absence from the Champions League. When the Italians bought Forlan, nobody at the club noticed he had already played in Europe with Atletico Madrid; the opposition? Stromsgodset.
But the time has finally come for Stromsgodset to write their own history, as earlier this month they defeated Haugesund to grab the Tippeligaen title for the first time in 43 years. The Drammen-based club finished one point above giants Rosenborg, who for the first time since the early 1980s have now gone three seasons in a row without winning the league; in 2011, 2012 it was Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Molde who were crowned champions.
Two men stand firmly behind Stromsgodset’s miracle: sporting director Jostein Flo and coach Ronny Deila. Flo has been vital in transforming a club that were close to being bankrupt, as they indeed were in 2006, into one of the most consistent Tippeligaen sides, mainly due to a productive and committed youth policy. Little money, big ideas – this has always seemed to be Flo’s motto. Flo has also called it right in the dugout; when Dag-Eilev Fagermo departed in 2008 to join Odd Grenland, the sporting director wasted no time in promoting 33-year-old Delia, who had been Fagermo’s assistant, to the post of head coach.
A qualified teacher, Deila melds a coaching philosophy based around excellent man-management with an attacking approach based on quick transitions and aggressive pressing. Under Deila, Stromsgodset’s 4-3-3 is in no way less exciting than the more celebrated champions (and richer) Molde, who dominated the previous two seasons in Norway.
Deila’s time at Godset has been a crescendo: eleventh place in 2008 (29 points), twelfth (36 points), seventh (43 points), eighth (45 points), second (58 points, and the lowest average team age in the Tippeligaen at 23.2 years) and finally first (63 points). Moreover, in 2010 Stromsgodset lifted their fifth Norwegian Cup, beating Follo in the final.
One of the two goals in that game was scored by striker Ola Kamara, who played a key role in this year’s title win. The forward, with Sierra Leonian roots, only played at Stromsgodset for the second half of 2013 having returned to the club on loan from Austrian Bundesliga outfit Reid in the summer. His impact was impressive, with 12 goals in 14 games and the title of club top scorer.
Karama is the son of a refugee from Sierra Leone and a Norwegian woman. He was born and grew up in the suburbs of Oslo, but at just one year old was given up by his parents for adoption as they suffered financial difficulties. He spent his childhood living in two different places: from Monday to Friday Kamara was with his foster parents, while at the weekend he went back to his natural parents.
His first steps in professional football were not easy. At the age of just 16 Kamara moved to Stabaek and was included in the first team squad that won the Tippeligaen in 2008. The striker however was a regular bench-warmer with the Baerum side. In 2009, after unsuccessful trials with Reggina and Sandefjord, he signed for Stromsgodset. While Kamara’s career was slowly given a boost, especially after the departure of striker Marcus Pedersen to Holland, his poor financial state (due to the low wage Stromsgodset paid him) forced him to move back in with his mother Kristin, who in the meantime got divorced.
After Kamara ended the 2011 and 2012 seasons with double-digit goal returns he moved as a free agent to Reid, but was immediately loaned out to 1860 Munich for the rest of the 2012/13 season. But the striker’s impact in the 2. Bundesliga was unimpressive and in the summer of 2013 Kamara was back at Stromsgodset, on loan.
On 11th October, Kamara made his international debut for Norway, while four days later – on his birthday – at the Ullevaal Stadium, the striker started for the first time as a regular for national team coach Per-Mathias Hogmo.
Both Kamara and Stromsgodset are now more than a mere footnote in someone else’s history books.