For Bayern Munich, Erling Haaland would have been a great replacement up top for Robert Lewandowski. However, instead, he moved to England, specifically to the blue half of Manchester. This week, in a blockbuster Champions League match pitting a former winner against a team who desperately wants to win the title, his former club Borussia Dortmund will take on his current club Manchester City. All eyes will be on Haaland.
The former Dortmund player is one of the world’s new superstars. He is scoring at an outrageous rate in the Premier League and in the Champions League. He has earned the accolade of “superstar”. However, he hails from a country in which who he represents matters. Representing Borussia Dortmund for that matter, an institution in which fans have a collective voice heard loud and clear by management, is very different from representing Manchester City, an institution in which fans have little say,
The protesting Norwegian fans were the fans of SK Brann; they unfurled the following banner when playing against Haaland’s former club, Bryne FK:
Bryne-Brann:— Gjert Moldestad (@gjertm) July 31, 2022
Knallhard melding fra Brann-fansen om sportsvaskingen til brutale regimer.
-Braut spiller for skitne blodpenger! Det finnes kun én Haaland. pic.twitter.com/CPamowINmg
Per Sport Bild, these were the words on the banner:
“Braut plays for dirty blood money. There is only one Haaland.”
Braut, as we know, is Erling Haaland’s middle name. Also, per Sport Bild, the “one Haaland” reference refers to a player in Brann’s side, Markus Haaland.
You might ask why some Norwegians care more that their best player represents Manchester City as opposed to the fact that he represents a behemoth of global football. As Brendan Husebo explained in a series of tweets, Norway has a history of taking a stance on sports-washing and profiting off of the beautiful game.
Norway’s belief that sport is not for profit extends to the point that they hindered their own players and their own footballing association to stand by their stance; until 1991, their players could not be pros.
That amateurism did not prevent Norwegians from being successful though; they won the bronze medal for football in the 1936 Olympics for example. They beat Germany, 0-2, en route to that medal. Jorgen Juve was the captain of that Norwegian side. His words regarding the 1936 Olympics and the 1943 Nazi occupation of Germany are below as is Harald Evensen’s, then the Norwegian FA’s Vice President:
In the next two or three of years, Haaland will surpass Jørgen Juve as Norway's top scorer.— Brendan Husebø (@BrendanHusebo) August 3, 2022
Juve captained the side that beat Germany in Berlin, the only football game Hitler attended.
One great goalscorer will go down for protesting sports-washing campaigns. But the other? pic.twitter.com/0eeLX6O07u
As these quotes clearly demonstrate, Norwegians have a history of tying football to social responsibility; they do not shy away from strong statements when they see injustice.
These statements and this commitment to social responsibility bring us to the owners of Manchester City: the club is owned by City Football Group, 78% of which is owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, which in turn is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.
Per the Guardian, “In its 2017-18 report Amnesty condemned the UAE for unfair trials, lack of freedom of expression, a failure to investigate allegations of torture, discrimination against women and the abuse of migrant workers. City fans knew that the UAE had a dodgy human rights record.”
Lest we forget, City was also owned by Thaksin Shinawatra before being owned by The City Football Group. He came with his own allegations.
By now, discussing City’s ownership is quite pointless, the takeover by City Football Group happened a while back and us football fans must witness their rise to greatness. Even one of our very own, Pep Guardiola, is tied closely with them as their head coach. He seems to like Manchester more anyway, having spent six years there after leaving two clubs of a very different nature in Barcelona and Bayern.
However, this does not mean that entire nations have to sit quietly. Haaland’s criticism by his own people displays clearly that City’s success comes with a gigantic question mark. Dortmund was the right place for a Norwegian footballer. City, while the right place for Haaland, might not be where the Norwegian fans want him.
Even when the chief powers of the game forget, fans do not easily forget. While on Wednesday, City fans will expect their club to set Dortmund aside easily, Dortmund fans will bring a touch of class and tradition to Manchester, along with a timely reminder that the trophy that City most covets was already won by the Black and Yellows in 1997.