The quiet, residential Oslo suburb of Baerum is home to a self-contained community of young professionals – and, by the grey transport hub of Bekkestua, a gritty football club: Stabaek.
But Stabaek, Norwegian champions in 2008 and third-placed finishers in 2015, have been in place far longer than their upwardly mobile neighbours of today.
On the club badge, a bygone rendering of Stabaek’s foundation date of March 16 1912 sits above the name of ‘Stabaek’, an archaic variation of Stabekk, an equally well-off community in Baerum.
For decades there was little to report about the local football club, formed at Løkkeveien 6 near Stabekk station. In the late 1960s, De blaa (‘The Blues’) almost made the top flight. In 1970, they reached the quarter-final of the Norwegian Cup, only to lose 4-2 to eventual winners Strømgodset.
Stabaek earned more headlines for the annus horribilis of 1984 when they collected more red cards (21) than league points (five) and sank as low as the fifth flight.
1990 was Year Zero for Stabaek. After another mediocre season and another dark Norwegian winter setting in, a group of ambitious supporters gathered at Parkveien, near today’s Telenor Arena, to plan out the club’s path to glory. Calling the plan ‘Ullevaal ‘95’ – Ullevaal being Norway’s national stadium – the group set its sights on Stabaek reaching the cup final five years hence.
The Blues, in fact, did better than that. Though it wouldn’t be 1998 until Stabaek made it to the Ullevaal, beating then utterly dominant Rosenborg Trondheim 3-1 after extra-time, it was in 1995 that the Baerum side completed the journey from fourth to top flight.
Hero of 1998 was Icelandic international forward Helgi Sigurdsson, whose grabbed a brace against Rosenborg. The other goal was scored by Thomas Finstad, more known for his many years at Stabaek’s nearest rivals, Baerum SK.
The Blues subsequently gave a reasonable account of themselves in Europe, beating Deportivo La Coruña, soon to win the Spanish title, 1-0 at home and losing 2-0 in Galicia. Three years later, the Blues beat Linfield 4-0 in the UEFA Cup and only went out to Anderlecht on away goals after a 1-0 win at the Parc Astrid.
Stabaek stepped up a gear with the arrival of Jan Jönsson as coach. A stalwart midfielder for 15 years at Halmstad, Jönsson played under Scot Stuart Baxter, who took the Swede to Japan as player/assistant coach at Hiroshima and Kobe. With this experience under his belt, Jönsson came to Stabaek as head coach in 2005, immediately got them promoted back to the Eliteserien then led them to a first, and so far only, Norwegian title in 2008.
Top scorer that year was Daniel Nannskog, whose career had taken off under Jönsson at the manager’s previous club of Landskrona. Providing the assists and occasional goals was another Swede and Landskrona old boy, Johan Andersson. Icelandic forward Veigar Páll Gunnarsson made up a prolific trio – Stabaek beat Rennes 2-1 in the home leg of a UEFA Cup tie that same year.
But among these impressive statistics – 58 goals for in 2008, Nannskog top league scorer with 16 – one stands out: average gate 5,785, one of the lowest in the Eliteserien.
Hoping to repeat the domestic and European success of Rosenborg Trondheim, ambitious Stabaek had outgrown their long-term base of the Nadderud stadion, a modest, municipal, multi-sport ground of 6,550 capacity near Bekkestua. For the 2009 campaign, the club moved to the Telenor Arena, built at a cost of €65 million near the Baerum seafront in Fornebu.
Stabaek had reached too far. Beset by transport problems, the Telenor Arena became more concert venue (Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Eurovision Song Contest) than football ground. The club was threatened with expulsion during contractual wranglings with the venue owner. In 2012, with some €2.5 million lost in 2009 alone, Stabaek returned to Bekkestua, their tail between their legs.
With Jönsson lured by Rosenborg and Nannskog’s career finished through injury, Stabaek even dropped out of the top flight for a brief season.
Back in 2014, the Blues revived under former US national coach Bob Bradley. In 2015, with compatriot midfielder Cole Grossman and nearly a goal a game coming from later Hull striker, Norwegian-Ivorian Adama Diomandé, Bradley led Stabaek to third place and Europa League qualification.
Now under former Dundee United midfielder Billy McKinlay, former assistant coach to David Moyes at Real Sociedad, Stabaek are looking to string together a European run despite poor form in the league.
Opened in 1961, the Nadderud stadion in Bekkestua has all the traits of a functional sports ground run by the municipality. Even the main stand, opened in 1996, feels dated. Back then, Stabaek were still relative minnows in the Norwegian game – a 3,000-seater grandstand must have seemed ambitious for a club that had barely graced the top division.
Then came the move to the Telenor Arena, near financial collapse, and the return to the modest Nadderud, running track and all.
With Stabaek now clawing their way back up, attracting average attendances at under 4,000, present stadium capacity of 7,000 is adequate.
The best seats are in the Main Stand, Hovedtribune, divided into Upper (Øvre) and Lower (Nedre) tiers. Opposite, the open stand is divided into the home Stabaektribunen, sectors 300-306, and the three sectors for away fans, Bortesupportere, Nos.307-309, accessed through Inngang E.
From Oslo Central Station (Oslo S), take light-blue line 2 (direction Kolsås) of the T-bane Metro to Bekkestua, 12 stops away/25min away. Trains run every 15min. Zone 1 day tickets are valid.
At Bekkestua, climb the steps to the right, head for the taxi rank and bus concourse, then past the Coop Mega store and roundabout. Carry on up Gamle Ringensvei as it veers right for 5min and the stadium is on your right – allow 10-15min altogether.
Nadderud stadion also has its own bus stop, on route Nos.143 from Oslo busterminal, a journey of 45min, evening services limited.
Tickets are available at the main gate on Gamle Ringensvei, Nkr300/Nkr280 for the Main Stand, Hovedtribune, Upper (Øvre) and Lower (Nedre) tiers. It’s Nkr230 in the uncovered Stabaektribunen. There are reduced prices for children and students of Nkr180 and Nkr130 in the Hoved Nedre and Stabaektribunen respectively.
Online, prices are generally around Nkr100 cheaper.
The Stabaekbutikken by the Main Stand operates Thursdays (10am-7pm), Saturdays (10am-3pm) match days, with Blues souvenirs also sold at the Anton Sport (Baerumsveien 206) near Bekkestua station.
In a morass of bakery/cafés and wine bars, the wonderful Onkel Blaa is a rare find indeed. A real bar with football as its focus, ‘Uncle Blue’ is tucked behind the Coop Mega supermarket, next to Aria Food, in a shopping precinct close to Bekkestua station. With tables outside and surprisingly large inside, Onkel Blaa is decked out in US sport, Stabaek and early Olympic memorabilia – the programme from 1908 is probably worth more than the bar itself. Note also the Stabaek line-ups and scarves. With TVs behind the bar and over the pool table, local Ringnes beer on draught and DJs decks for after-dark sounds, Onkel Blaa opens from 3pm to past midnight, and later at weekends.
There’s no bar at or by the ground, only kiosks selling hot dogs (Nkr30), coffee and soft drinks.