Friday, 27 Nov 2020

A Norwegian soccer club wins as never before, while the pandemic distances its fans.

This has been a golden year for the soccer club in Bodo, Norway, a city of 50,000 that sits at the southern end of the Arctic Circle. The club, Bodo/Glimt, stands on the cusp of claiming its first Norwegian championship.

Despite a budget that is just a fraction of some of its rivals’, it has steamrollered the competition. It has won 20 of its 23 games and scored an improbable 76 goals — and counting — in the process. It has a slew of records in its sights.

The team’s rise has captivated not only the city and the region, but the country as a whole. Frode Thomassen, Bodo/Glimt’s chief executive, said recently it had sold merchandise to new fans in every corner of Norway, and across Europe, too. Its games are suddenly a major draw for television networks.

But because of the coronavirus, the club’s golden year has played out in front of nearly empty stands. For much of the season, only 200 fans have been allowed inside Bodo’s low-slung Aspmyra Stadion for each game. Its largest attendance this year has been 600.

Some people have gone to extraordinary lengths just to see the club play.

The best perch is on the rooftop overlooking the stadium. Reaching it is not for the fainthearted: The only access is via an external staircase, and most of the field can be seen only if you sit right on the lip of the building. But still, during most games, a handful of hardy fans are there.

Others have been even more creative. Before one match over the summer, a group of fans hired a cherry-picker, parked it outside the stadium, climbed into its basket, and then extended its hydraulic arm until they could see the field.

The stunt resulted in a fine for the club, but it was accepted with a laconic grin.

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