Dark, cold and wet.
The weather conditions at Rolvsrud Kunstgress are screaming autumn.
On a soaking wet football field in Lørenskog, the 16-year-olds at Skjetten and Skedsmo will settle for the trophy in the prestigious Obos Cup.
During his year as coach for the Skedsmo boys, Kristian Bekkevold Lillebo has taken his players from being a bottom team – completely without self-confidence – to becoming a top team.
In the league game, they had already come in a strong 2nd place.
Now they will fight for their very first trophy.
The last match
It is as far as the ball rolls forward on the quarrelsome surface.
The final starts disastrously, and already after eight minutes of play, the Skedsmo boys end up below.
Six goals, one red card and a couple of hours later, the situation was still turned upside down.
Skedsmo wins 5-2 in bad weather.
And to the well-known tones of Queen’s “We Are The Champions”, it finally dawns on them: The team has taken its very first trophy.
The “guys” and coach Kristian are intoxicated. One year of hard training has finally yielded results.
Life is wonderful.
But two weeks ahead, the unreal message awaits that would turn everything upside down.
The shock message
10. november 2020:
– We were going to a completely normal training, and were told to meet at the clubhouse.
15 year old Jørgen Sveinall is looking for the right words. He takes a breath. Deep.
– There it was just completely … I have never seen or heard the guys so quietly. Nobody said anything, he continues.
Kristian was dead. Just weeks after they won their first trophy together.
The cheerful football coach was only 25 years old. The cause of death is not yet known, but is believed to be due to an epileptic seizure.
In the time that followed, nothing was as it should be. The loss was enormous. For the boys, Kristian was so much more than just a football coach.
He was a friend. A friend. And a role model.
– What Kristian gave us was something none of us had known before from a coach. To be able to talk to the coach about alt. He was someone who was there for us for real, says teammate Johannes Haugerud.
Kristian was happy to send the boys messages on the chat service “Messenger” until late at night.
There they talked together about what they should do to develop on the football field. And to help them become the best version of themselves.
The results on the field did not wait.
– With him we went from losing everything, to winning everything, Johannes explains.
To take back everyday life
The boys were in shock, but the attentive surroundings quickly took action to take back everyday life – and protect the young people.
The club hired a new coach immediately. The Skedsmo boys were to process their grief through their greatest passion – football.
– It was extremely important to get a coach in place quickly. The fact that they could continue as before, I think was one of the most important in the period that followed, says Per Einar Gjelsvik, sports manager at Skedsmo FK.
– It was important that there was no vacuum there. That no doubt was sown about who would lead the team, he continues.
The parents also played an invaluable role in the days after the gloomy message. Shortly after, they directed a memorial service for the boys.
Countless torches lit up the center circle at Skedsmo Stadium. The boys should remember Kristian – at home.
– We brought flowers and candles. It was strong to remember him and everything he had done for us, says Johannes.
– It’s nice to think back on now, but it was damn good to be there. I just wanted to go. It was no fun. But today I am very happy that I did it, Jørgen follows up.
Was picked up in the player bus to Lillestrøm
Sports leader Gjelsvik was strongly moved during the session.
– It was terribly heavy, but at the same time so nice. As a club, you are proud of how those closest to you line up around a team, when things get as difficult as it was then, he says.
“Everyone” knew Kristian. In the time that followed, the local community also lined up for the young group of players.
Three weeks after the death, the team bus to Lillestrøm turned into the parking lot outside Skedsmo Stadium.
The team was picked up and transported to Åråsen. There they saw the canaries beat YMCA Oslo 2-0.
But the fact that the favorite team won was not the most important thing for once.
– It meant so much to clear my mind a little. It was the first time we managed to think of something else, he says.
– It’s cool to see how the local community takes care of its own. When we were in pain, they lined up for us. Did the little extra, says Johannes.
The way forward: – He still strengthens us
Jarle Toften, who himself knew Kristian well, was given the task of leading the boys on.
– For me, it was important to continue what he had started, the new coach explains.
He quickly understood the unity that had been created in the team.
– I met a gang with an adventurous unity – a gang that stood for what they had said, with a coach who really hit them, Toften says.
The time ahead was about honoring Kristian by continuing as before.
– There was a lot of talk about it among us players on social media afterwards. That we should play for him in the future, says Jørgen.
– He still strengthens us. We notice that we want to give that little extra, because we know how much this meant to him, he continues.
Although they have not yet played countless matches as a result of the pandemic, they try every day to live up to the promise.
– Everyone just wants to prove to Kristian that we were – and are – good. And that he helped us become a better version of ourselves, Johannes explains.
– Will never forget him
The strong experience has given the boys a new perspective on life.
– We must not take time together for granted. We did not have a long period with Kristian, but the time we had together was fantastic, and something we will never forget, says Johannes.
– The values he gave us are something we will take with us for the rest of our lives, he continues.
Life is fragile. And more than just football. The comrades have now experienced this.
– They have had a strong experience that is not normal to get at such a young age. A lesson that they will take with them for the rest of their lives, and which means that these guys will probably stay together for a long time to come, says sports leader Gjelsvik.
Now they have become junior players. And when football starts rolling again, they will fight against players one, two and three years older.
Getting to the 1st division in the junior class was Kristian’s big goal. The boys have it ready now.
Until the start of the series, they have the plan ready.
– We will work to get a little better with each passing day. That was what Kristian stood for, the boys say.
The final victory against Skjetten in the Obos Cup was Kristian’s last as head of the Skedsmo boys. A little nice to think about now, the boys thought.
– He got the ending he deserved, says Jørgen.
John nods. And completes the sentence.
– Gold won, for a man worth gold.
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