Solberg’s diplomatic trick – football

Trump imitation Bergen Solberg Nordic footballFamily picture of the five Nordic prime ministers during the prime ministerial meeting at Cornelius Seafood Restaurant in Bergen. From the left, Sweden's Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Denmark, Erna Solberg, Norway, Finland, Juha Sipilä and Iceland's Prime Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson. Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB scanpix

Solberg’s diplomatic trick – talks about football

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg (Conservatives) travels the world with a football in her luggage. She likes to talk football – or soccer, for those of you who think it’s okay to run around with a bladder in your arms – when she meets powerful world leaders.


“That tool works on older men with a lot of power, and even on some ladies. It is mostly men – with lots of power – who love football, though,” Solberg smiles.

She visits Norway Cup on Wednesday. Solberg takes the opportunity to talk a little about how important football is in international politics.

“It’s a door opener because it makes people laugh, lower their shoulders, talk about their experiences regarding sports and about their football teams. You can then talk about all the difficult things afterwards,” the Prime Minister reveals to NTB.

Sustainability ball

Solberg has brought a football, with the UN’s sustainability goals imprinted, to a number of important meetings in recent years.

“I gave President Xi Jinping a ball when I was there. A little because I know that he is passionate about sports and football. It is part of making it a more relaxed experience. His staff were initially a bit sceptical, but it went just fine,” Solberg explains regarding the football she managed to bring along to the unequivocal People’s Great Hall in Beijing during the state visit to China in 2017.

Left the country – heading straight to a match

The Norwegian Prime Minister is a fan of Real Madrid in Spain and her hometown team Brann. She describes both teams’ efforts as ‘so-so’ of late.

She also noted that other heads of state hold their favourite teams very dear.

“When I was in Ghana this summer, the president had to travel late at night while I was there, as he had other pressing business. It was a bit unclear what he had to attend to, though.”

It turned out that the president is a die-hard Tottenham supporter. He was, quite simply, on his way to the Champions League final against Liverpool in Madrid.

“He had match tickets, and then it would have taken wild horses to hold him back. We co-lead the UN Sustainability Group, but when his football heart started to race, it was all about getting to Madrid – come hell or high water,” Solberg laughs.

She points out that Tottenham did not fare too well that night (Liverpool won 2-0).



China and ski-diplomacy

Norway emerged from a six-year diplomatic ice age with China in 2016. That was triggered when the Nobel Committee chose to award the peace prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

Shortly after the softening of the relationship, Norway was busy training Chinese skiers. This was achieved through a large-scale sports collaboration with the superpower, China.

“It came as a wish from China because they will host the Winter Olympics in 2022. China has a long-term plan to win in as much as possible. I’ve said it’s okay to help them – as long as they don’t win!” Solberg exclaims.

She emphasises three things that are universal, no matter where in the world she travels.

“If you want to talk to others and maybe don’t understand the language, then there is music, dancing and sports, especially football. Football is so universal that it is a language in itself,” the Norwegian Prime Minister concludes.

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