Emilie Haavi interview: Walls of sound painted in red, white and blue for Norway forward

This summer’s FIFA World Cup gave Norway forward Emilie Haavi another chance to link up with someone she shares a finely-tuned understanding with, whether they are breaking through an opposition defence, or maybe just making themselves heard away from the noise and tension of game day.

Winners of the tournament back in 1995, Norway headed into the 2015 World Cup off the back of an appearance in the final of the European Championship two years ago. Although many would perhaps not place the Norwegian side right at the summit of international women’s football at present, there is little disputing the high standard of their players, with the country’s top domestic league, the Toppserien, continuing to be recognised and respected within the game.

The national team boasts multiple players with experience of numerous major tournaments and for forward Emilie Haavi, who only turned 23 in June, Canada 2015 was her second World Cup. Even Pellerud’s team had their progress halted at the last 16 phase by England but still provided their share of memorable moments for spectators along the way.

Something which will surely always be a crucial aspect of women’s football is the sense of familiarity people feel towards the players and there are more ways than ever now to get to know about the personalities that take to the field. The Norwegian side is full of character, and a little flash of the team spirit was provided with the ‘selfie’ celebration after Isabell Herlovsen’s goal in the group win over Thailand at the World Cup.

A four-time Toppserien champion, Emilie has been a full international since 2010 and there is a certain midfielder in the squad who has become a close friend as well as a teammate for club and country. This site celebrates the deep and varied connection between football and music, and if Emilie was to ever switch roles and record a song cover, it is her current LSK Kvinner FK counterpart she would want with her, as she describes.

“That would be ‘Bennie and the Jets’ (Elton John) with Lene Mykjåland by my side.”

While still a teenager, Emilie was chosen by Eli Landsem for Norway’s 2011 World Cup squad and she came up with their standout moment of the competition in Germany. In a game filled with chances for both teams, the Norwegians grabbed the only goal against Equatorial Guinea with just six minutes of normal time remaining in Augsburg.

After Leni Larsen Kaurin’s centre from the right wing was palmed away, Emilie was ready to pounce on the edge of the six-yard box, sparking jubilation from her teammates who piled on her to celebrate. At the time playing for Røa IL, she subsequently started Norway’s remaining two group games, against Brazil and Australia, but the group stage was to be as far as they would get in the competition, as two defeats put paid to their hopes of progression.

Nevertheless, that World Cup was Emilie’s first opportunity to perform in front of large crowds on the global stage, with over 26,000 in attendance at VfL Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen-Arena to see their game with Brazil. One of those who started that Equatorial Guinea match in the attacking positions alongside her was Isabell Herlovsen, who displayed her predatory instinct with two strikes in the 4-0 win against Thailand at this summer’s tournament.

The 27-year-old is another of those Emilie has worked with for both the national team and at club level, and the LSK striker stands out for Emilie when it comes to her rhythm off the field.

“Isabell Herlovsen is a really good dancer! I think music is important for every team; we always listen to music before games with both the national team and LSK Kvinner.

“We usually make a list where everyone can pick one song.”

 

Emilie (right) and teammate Cathrine Dekkerhus with their Euro 2013 silver medals. Instagram: @emiliehaavi
Emilie (right) and teammate Cathrine Dekkerhus with their Euro 2013 silver medals. Instagram: @emiliehaavi

 

A prolific goalscorer at Røa, where she won three Toppserien titles and three Norwegian Cups, Emilie moved to LSK in 2013. This was of course also the year in which she helped Norway to reach the final of the European Championship in Sweden, starting the 1-0 victory over eventual winners Germany in the group stage as Ingvild Isaksen struck the goal to send them through to the knockout phase in top spot.

Norway took the silver medal after being narrowly defeated 1-0 by Germany in the final and it had been a breakthrough tournament for Emilie’s attacking teammate Ada Hegerberg. Just 18 at the time, the current Olympique Lyonnais forward featured on here shortly after Euro 2013, while she was with German side Turbine Potsdam.

Emilie, who came on for her in the semi-final win over Denmark, is the latest Norwegian to open the book on her musical side on this site, with an American band currently taking her fancy in the listening stakes.

“Mostly, I listen to the typical ‘top list’ music. Right now, I enjoy listening to different songs from Young Summer.

“Music is very important for me. I always listen to music before games to get in the right mood.”

A former Stabæk youngster, Emilie now has 44 caps and 11 goals for Norway, but let’s turn time back to the 90s for a moment, to an era when it was the likes of Hege Riise and Ann Kristin Aarønes dazzling for the national team. Emilie was growing up back home but who was blasting out of the CD player for her at this time?

“I think my first CD was Spice Girls when I was around six or seven years old.”

Wearing number 20 in Canada, Emilie came on in Norway’s aforementioned win over Thailand and also in the 1-1 draw with Germany, which was the game in which Maren Mjelde curled a delightful close-range free-kick in off the crossbar for one of the very best goals of the tournament. In the second major competition of ’95 World Cup-winning coach Even Pellerud’s second stint leading the team, Emilie also played the entirety of the 3-1 win over the Ivory Coast in Moncton.

The team certainly have a liking for expressing their personalities, so given that it is popular throughout football for players to have to sing in front of everyone when they are introduced to the fold, has Emilie ever been put in this situation in her career?

“No, and thank God for that! We don’t have any tradition for that, so I can’t say I remember anyone doing it.”

Despite Solveig Gulbrandsen’s opener, Norway were edged out of the World Cup after a closely-contested 2-1 defeat to England in the last 16 in June, after the Lionesses hit back through Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze. Regardless of what the circumstances and expectations may be surrounding a team, the feeling of exiting the biggest tournament of all is incredibly tough to take and Norway were undoubtedly no different in this regard.

When the rawness of the emotions eased there was the opportunity to reflect on all that had gone into the Norwegians’ campaign. Even though it wasn’t the first time at a major competition for many of the squad, the players were able to reach new audiences around the globe and there were 19,829 at Ottawa’s TD Place for the encounter with England.

With 106,696 (according to stats from UEFA earlier this year) registered female players in Norway – over 17,000 more than in England, for example, despite a population of almost 49 million less – the interest in the game is certainly there all the way from grassroots level. Emilie took some of the bigger picture in as she assessed the emotions felt by the team following their World Cup exit, looking ahead to the chance of another exciting opportunity on a huge platform in Brazil next year.

“Of course we were extremely disappointed after the loss against England, but we are really happy that we got another chance to qualify for the Olympics in 2016. Personally, I think it was really cool to play in front of 20,000 people; that is not an everyday experience in women’s football.”

Aside from some of their play, Norway grabbed the attention over the summer as a mockumentary-style video by Nicolay Ramm went viral. In the feature, goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth, captain Trine Rønning, midfielder Cathrine Dekkerhus and Emilie are shown making light of some of the outdated stereotypes that have surrounded women’s football, ‘admitting’ they are terrible at the game and do not understand the rules.

Emilie, who describes in the video how she accidentally picks the ball up with her hands, struggles to explain the offside rule, and talks about using a peg to take free-kicks off, was pleasantly surprised by just how popular it turned out to be with people in various countries.

“It was really fun to tape the video, but I don’t think that any of us were expecting it to go worldwide as it did. I think that people in Norway are starting to see the quality that we have and they see that we are serious athletes who put a lot of work into it.”

 

 

Now taking part in her eighth Toppserien season, Emilie is helping to lead the Lillestrøm-based LSK’s bid to retain the league and domestic cup. Winning both of these trophies last year meant that she now has four of each, having won three league and three cup titles with Røa.

Against LdB Malmö in October 2013, Emilie scored LSK’s very first UEFA Champions League goal and on July 19th of this year she made her 50th league appearance for the club, notching the only goal to beat Arna-Bjørnar away from home in the process. With an impressive 31 Toppserien goals so far in her time at LSK, the Bærum-born forward is undoubtedly a key player at LSK-Hallen.

In addition to the homegrown contingent of defenders Ingrid Moe Wold, Marit Sandvei and Marita Skammelsrud Lund, midfielders Lene Mykjåland and Anja Sønstevold, Emilie and fellow forward Isabell Herlovsen, LSK were also represented at the World Cup by Dutch captain Mandy van den Berg and her compatriot, midfielder Sherida Spitse. The Toppserien had been on a break for the tournament since May but has now resumed and will run into November.

LSK cemented their position at the top of the table on Saturday (July 25th) with a 3-2 home win over SK Trondheims-Ørn, with Emilie scoring from a free-kick and her trusty sidekick Lene Mykjåland adding two from midfield. While it is one game at a time on the field for Emilie, it is also very much a case of one step at a time off it.

“I like to travel and just hanging with my friends. I don’t know what I will do after my football career.

“Right now, I just enjoy playing football and take life as it comes.”

Of course Emilie now has experience and memories of three major international competitions with the senior national team to her name, as well as domestic league and cup silverware, but what if she was taking her own selection of current or former teammates to a 5-a-side tournament? For this regular final question on here, we are looking for four players to be chosen alongside the interviewee in this fantasy line-up.

Emilie begins her team with the FC Bayern Munich and Finland goalkeeper who enlightened Seattle Reign midfielder Amber Brooks with her music collection, as revealed on here last November by the American. Other than the 29-year-old stopper, Emilie’s line-up is Norwegian throughout!

“Keeper: Tinja-Riikka Korpela – we played together in LSK in 2013 and she is the best keeper I’ve ever played with. Defender: Marit Fiane Grødum – I played with Marit in Røa from 2008 to 2011, and the national team from 2010 to 2013, and we just called her the octopus!

“Midfielder: Lene Mykjåland – Lene was my teammate in Røa from 2008 to 2013 and now we’ve been playing together in LSK since then. She has the best touch in Norway and she always gives me the ball where I want it!

“Forward: Isabell Herlovsen – I have been playing with Isabell in LSK since 2013 and the national team since 2010. Every team needs a goalgetter like Isabell – smart, strong and fast.”

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