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Women's World Cup In Ontario - Pellerud's Norway Embracing Ottawa

By OSA News, 06/06/15, 2:15PM EDT


The OSA continues to take a look at the teams who are in Ontario for the Women's World Cup. 

Today's feature includes a look at Norway and how they're embracing Ontario and some of the faces that will be familiar to Canadians. 

A day from now, Even Pellerud's Norway team will meet Thailand on the field at Lansdowne Stadium in a FIFA Women's World Cup group stage match. Rich with expectations, you would expect Pellerud's Norwegian side to opt for closed-door training in a similar ilk to their businesslike groupmates Germany.

However, the Norwegian team has decided to take the less-conventional route, holding its training session on Friday morning in Ottawa in front of a couple hundred footy fans and enthusiastic youth players, the latter of whom actually performed drills alongside the World Cup squad towards the end of the session.

"I think that all of our practices should be open," explained Norwegian women's football director Heidi Støre, "this is a way to inspire young players to stay in football and achieve their goals and dreams." A former Norway captain and World Cup Champion (1995) herself, Støre was one of the thinkers behind the open training idea. "It is days like this - perfect days - that are how you promote women's football, interacting with youth teams, and it meant a lot to our players."

Norway is to date the only nation based in Ottawa to host an open training session, and the team has established itself as one of the most accessible and friendly in the entire tournament.

"Ottawa has been excellent for us since we got here for pre-camp on Sunday," said Støre. "It's quite a city - the parks, the canals, the rivers - it's very nice, and we love Canada's food and people."

The Grasshoppers were greeted, watched, and finally joined by a number of local youth players, and Norwegian player Ada Hegerberg - a bona fide superstar in the women's game at just 19 years of age - especially enjoyed the final drills of the training session.

"It was lots of fun," grinned Hegerberg, a towering striker who plays her club football for French side Olympique Lyonnais. "I was impressed, some of them had good shots! It was really nice to relax at the end of training, talk to the girls, and see their attitudes as well."

The public was allowed access to players after the training session, and spectator Tyler McDonald was one of many impressed by the attitude and skill of the Norwegian team.

"It's great to see a team take the initiative not only to get more exposure for their own brand, but to grow football in Canada," said McDonald, a college student and passionate footy fan. "It also really opened my eyes to the quality of football these women play - amazing on the touch-and-go - and I can't wait to watch the tournament!"

Norway's ambassador to Canada, Her Excellency Mona Brøthers, summarized her country's goal with the open training session - and the tournament as a whole - very well in a press scrum towards the end of the day.

"(Today's session) demonstrates that a full championship for us has a wider goal than the championship in itself, it's the promotion of girls soccer, and our team really adds up well in this promotion of going into sport and having wonderful opportunities within that sport."

Though Norwegian head coach Even Pellerud admits that his team's chances of winning are, "possible, but not likely," there is a very real possibility that Norway may have already won the legacy portion of the tournament. For every hand high-fived, poster signed, and short conversation exchanged between the Norwegians and the local youth players, a potential future star of the women's game may have been inspired to pursue football. So hats off to you, Norway, for aiming not just for success on the field at Canada 2015, but for truly pushing towards the Greater Goal mission of this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup.

Story and photos by Carlos Verde