Groundhoppers (Director: Eivind Tolås, Norway, 2005): Thank goodness for the internet. While reading about obsessive football (soccer) fans who attempt to visit as many football grounds as possible, I came across the title of this Norwegian documentary. I was able to get in touch with the filmmaker and convince him to send me a copy to review. As far as I know, this film was broadcast on Norwegian television, and played a few film festivals in Europe, but has never been seen in North America. But that’s ok, for the phenomenon of “groundhopping” probably wouldn’t make as much sense here.
Kjell Morten and Bjarte are two middle-aged brothers who spend all of their vacations in England, attending football matches. Their goal is to visit all 92 grounds of the teams that comprise the Football League. This includes the Premiership (20 teams), the Championship (24 teams) and Leagues One and Two (24 teams each), which together comprise the top four tiers of English football. As you can imagine, “groundhoppers” are usually men, usually single, and have a certain amount of time and disposable income at their command.
The two Norwegians have been at it for more than ten years, and are up to sixty-odd stadia visited. Perhaps stadia is too grand a term, for some of the lower league clubs play in some very modest circumstances indeed. Basing themselves in Rotherham, “one of Britain’s poorest cities” according to the film, they’ve adopted the local team, Rotherham United, nicknamed the Millers as their home team away from home.
At home in Bergen, though, it’s all about SK Brann, and one of the film’s most charming moments comes watching the brothers as they witness their team’s triumph in Norway’s own Cup Final.
All in all, this is a light-hearted look at a harmless (if inexplicable to most) obsession. I think if I had the advantages of living in Europe (generous vacation allowances, short distances, cheap transportation, and a wealth of football clubs), I’d be joining the boys in the stands.
I have attended football matches in three different countries, though: Canada, Uruguay, and Slovenia. Just a few hundred more to go…
More on Rotherham United FC (the Millers)
More on SK Brann
Groundtastic, a magazine devoted to football grounds
Football Grounds In Focus, The No.1 Groundhopping website ‘made for travellers by travellers’
Done The Lot – Fans who have visited all 92 English Football League grounds