Team Norway head coach Jørgen Benestad-Johansen is leading his team into their first European championship tournament as the Norwegian national team makes final preparations to leave for the IFAF 2019 U19 European Championships being held in Bologna, Italy from July 29 to August 4.
Head coach Jørgen Benestad-Johansen led his team to the bronze medal in last year’s Nordic Championships, a major accomplishment after being away from international competition for almost a decade.
This year, Norway defeated Great Britain to qualify for the European championships and will face Sweden in the first round of action on July 29, a Swedish team that beat them in the Nordic tournament.
American Football International: Tell us briefly about your background in coaching in Norway:
JBJ: I got involved in coaching football around 2001 and had many fun and learning years as HC for Kristiansand Gladiators U19 and Men’s teams. I got involved in National Teams from 2007 and took over the National Team program in 2013.
AFI: You are facing your second major test as head coach of Norway’s national team this year. You surprised many by beating Great Britain. How does it feel going into this tournament?
JBJ: It feels good that our last game was a win, but everything is earned in football, and we are facing the best Nations in Bologna. We can only prepare to our best.
AFI: When will you have your final training camp?
JBJ: We bring our team together for 2 days prior to departing for Bologna on July 26th. We will also use the 2 days prior to opening game to prepare and to get used to the Italian summer temperatures.
AFI: You enter the tournament as the #8 seed facing Sweden who beat you last year in Nordic championships. How much extra incentive does that bring?
JBJ: In our region it is always an incentive to beat our neighbours in sports. In football, Sweden is the team to beat and we developed greatly from them beating us. We can play with them, but on paper, they are the stronger team. In my mind, a perfect situation.
AFI: Norway won bronze at the 2018 Nordic championships which was the first tournament since 2009 for Team Norway. You must feel more confident entering this tournament.
JBJ: Beating Denmark in the Nordic championship after being away for so long is a result of what our players, clubs and talented team of coaches and support staff has accomplished over the last 2-3 years. That that is where we take our confidence from. Our staff has become even better leaders and a unified team, in addition to their already good coaching skills. I think this is where we have our biggest strength, in addition to a very solid group of players.