Forget the 100 million for a moment

Forget the 100 million for a moment
Forget the 100 million for a moment

Few, if any up here in the north he has forgotten Bjarte. The westerner single-handedly prevented relegation in the 1987 season with a penalty kick for a draw, not to forget the penalty save against Moss in the promotion qualifiers in 1985.

Almost 40 years later, buying and selling players is part of everyday life in all professional clubs. Few stay for many years, and would like to move on after a short time with success where they are. The moment they leave, the vast majority become just a name that was once there, and is eventually forgotten.

Someone shows up in obscure quiz questions, or as a whim from the one football nerd in the group of friends in the pub. To be honest, the vast majority of them are forgotten quite quickly, because others come in and take the limelight. It is both natural and understandable.

Those who are remembered over time are the big stars. Great goalscorers, midfield conductors or defensive stalwarts, faithful toilers with many games played have all created an eternal name for themselves, also in TIL history. Sigurd Rushfeldt, Rune Lange, Bjørn “Bummen” Johansen and Steinar Nilsen are four of them who in the context of Tromsø can be considered unforgettable.

In that message came Wednesday afternoon, that Danish Niklas Vesterlund was sold to Dutch Utrecht, I realized that this 24-year-old is neither a star nor someone who will be forgotten when he leaves.

He belongs to one highly regarded and much loved category. Not only are cult heroes in a football club a highly personal preference, but there is also often something undefined about what causes someone to be ranked in this way. It could be a style of play, a hair tie, an incident on or off the pitch or the person’s speaking ability is in order. The most important thing is often that there is something real about them, which makes you talk about them around the cafe table, but also draws you to the stadium or the TV screen to see them in action.

The biggest stars in a club can become cult heroes, but it is also common for more ordinary players to get such a stamp. Niklas Vesterlund is somewhere in between.

Then colleague Tobias Stein Eilertsen back in May 2021 told me that TIL had submitted a bid of NOK 200,000 for a Danish guy in Trelleborg, cult status was not the first thing I thought of. This was more proof that TIL had no money, and had to make do with a “boy” from Copenhagen, who had not had a turn in his career.

Niklas Vesterlund, as many remember him from the TIL era. In front of the fans after the match, with a megaphone.
Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen / NTB

We had to call Tom Høgli to find out what kind of guy this was, and got an answer from someone who himself has become a cult hero at FC Copenhagen. There they have created a collection of coffee cups with the down-to-earth Norwegian.

When it comes to Vesterlund, he should use the three seasons in TIL to leave an impression that will not be forgotten anytime soon. This is the guy who cheered for tackles both himself and others put in, often at the last minute. More than anyone else, Vesterlund highlighted the mentality of “new TIL”, which should sacrifice everything to prevent the opponent. For those of us who have lived a few years, this reminds us of players like Tore Nilsen and Tor Pedersen, names who are both cult heroes, but were also good footballers.

In this way Vesterlund connected the present with the past, and became an important piece in the upswing we have seen at Alfheim in recent years. He became a crowd favourite, and was never afraid to introduce himself in the press zone.

At the end of a home game in 2022, TIL was chasing a goal to take points, and Vesterlund, closest to the bench, was slapped by head coach Gaute Helstrup. Afterwards, Helstrup explained how this was planned, and how the tactical move that stood there helped to change the match.

Vesterlund on his Page fortunately went off script, and acknowledged that he didn’t read particularly much of what was written there. Incidentally, TIL scored in overtime.

His sporting contributions, besides cheering on tackles, should not be underplayed. This is far from the only reason why he is sold for close to 10 million to the good Dutch elite series. He was often good against the good teams, and I think both Amahl Pellegrino and Fredrik Bjørkan in Glimt are happy that he is gone.

Similarly as I remember Morten Kræmer, Aleksei Jeremenko, Tryggvi Gudmundsson, Kara Mbodji and Sofien Moussa, to name a few, Vesterlund will leave TIL with the same legacy, and not become a forgettable character.

Moussa immediately became a cult figure, when he came to Tromsø in 2016. The Tunisian striker had more yellow cards than goals in his career, and was sold as a striker who should not score that many goals. I would say that this is something special in a city known for big scorers and with a reputation as a striker factory. Most people have such anecdotes about their cult heroes.

TIL has it Just over the last year, Warren Kamanzi, Eric Kitolano, August Mikkelsen, Casper Øyvann, El Hadji Malick Diouf and Vesterlund were sold for NOK 100 million. This is, of course, not 100 million straight for free use, as other clubs and agents must have their share of the cake. Divided transfer sums are common, and are spread over several years. TIL has also increased spending somewhat, and had significant sums to settle from earlier.

But for one For a moment, it is safe to think of Vesterlund on the same list as Bjarte Flem, the greatest cult hero of all time in TIL history. The smoking fisheries student who threw the ball into his own goal, but despite this, and perhaps because of this, became a cult legend in Tromsø.

The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Forget million moment


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