Although Norway’s top football team, the Oslo Vikings, has been holding limited workouts, this week marks more of a return to normal.
Vikings head coach Derek Mann is pretty happy about it:
“It feels very good to be back on the field with the players. Juniors and seniors. It’s been a great change of pace to get back on the field. With so many uncertainties early on, its been very nice to put the pads back on and play some football again.”
Teams have been able to get through “skeleton” practices but this week, rules have eased to allow something more akin to regular football practices, albeit with social distancing.
For Mann, who has been coaching the Oslo Vikings since 2016, first as offensive coordinator and since 2017 as head coach, getting back on the field is a welcome relief but precautions are still uppermost in his mind.
“We have to be extremely vigilant. Kids aged 20 and under are allowed to have full contact practices as of June 1st in Norway. Adults are allowed to be in equipment now but with no contact. We are allowed to use hand shields and blocking sleds and throwing footballs. They have to be sanitized before and after training. We also have all our guys wear gloves in practice”
After an almost three month hiatus from field practices, it would be surprising if the players were more than a little rusty, but according to Mann it wasn’t so bad.
” Everyone has been a little bit rusty. That was expected with what has been going on though. Our guys have been trying to stay in shape and work out on their own.”
The Norwegian American Football Federation was the first federation to officially move their season to the fall. Normally the men’s football season in Norway starts in April and ends in late June. Like the rest of Europe, the Norwegian youth and U19 seasons are played in both summer and fall.
Still, full football practices are a ways away although groups have been expanded. Social distancing is the primary rule for the time being.
“We were able to have five people in workouts before but then the regulations changed and went to 10 people workouts. Now new regulations have us on the field in groups of 20. We are able to everything at a junior level. At the senior level we can do everything but human to human contact and still keep 1 metre distance.”
Norway has set a timetable for lifting the various coronavirus restrictions but widespread testing has been ruled out. Most travel restrictions remain in place and could last until August 20. The Norwegian government was one of the first to act swiftly in introducing a strict lockdown in early March. In recent weeks, those restrictions have slowly begun to be eased.
However, several of the youth and adults have not returned after the corona crisis.
– There may be personal reasons why people do not come. One worked with children who have MS, another had a sick child. It may be financial reasons or one has been laid off. So we’re not pushing on people who aren’t coming, says Derek.
For Derek Mann and the Oslo Vikings however, this is a huge step in the right direction.
“We have been able to do quite a lot since the start of June. That is when regulations really started to ease up and trend in the right direction for us.”
Photos: Olav Helland