Inside Erling Haaland’s hometown as SunSport visits ‘Fridge’ training pitch… and Man City star’s favorite take-away

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THEY are a humble, hard-working and quiet bunch in Bryne.

But when they do get going, everyone has a favorite subject.

Erling Haaland got his start in football with Bryne

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Erling Haaland got his start in football with BryneCredit: Sven Olav Sele – Bryne FK
Haaland spent most of his upbringing in the Norwegian town

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Haaland spent most of his upbringing in the Norwegian townCredit: instagram: @erling.haaland
Haaland feels most at ease in his hometown

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Haaland feels most at ease in his hometownCredit: instagram: @erling.haaland

Erling Braut Haaland, Manchester City’s new £51.4million superstar, looms large over this small corner of south-west Norway.

Indeed, visitors stepping out of the train station are dwarfed by an enormous mural of the Norway striker from his days at Borussia Dortmund, painted on the side of an old dairy.

Haaland is impossible to escape in his hometown.

While he was born in Leeds in 2000, when dad Alf-Inge had just finished his playing days at Elland Road, the family moved back to Bryne when Erling was three.

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A quote from the striker himself sums up the attitude of Bryne and his upbringing better than anyone else can.

He once tweeted: “I was given advice by a farmer a few years back: Let your feet do the talking and everything else will be fine.”

That farmer was his maternal great-uncle, Gabriel Hoyland, whose pig and potato farm the 6ft 5in hitman helps out on when he can make it back home.

The two older members of the family are Bryne FK legends — Hoyland is dubbed Mr Bryne and Alfie is still a regular at home games.

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Haaland joined his local team at just five and made his debut a decade later. By 16 he was gone, signing for Molde in the top flight, but a lasting impression had been left.

Robert Undheim, a winger still playing at Bryne in Norway’s second tier, was the man who Haaland replaced from the bench to make his debut in 2016.

He told SunSport: “Everybody knew he was a childhood star.

“One of the first times I saw him he was just a little kid but he had this quickness and you saw there was something special. He had everything.”

Sondre Norheim, a defender at Bryne who was a few years above Haaland in the local school, said: “I knew that he was always with the age group above him, so that alone makes him stand out.

“He was training with grown adults. He was 15 so he was always lacking a bit physically at that time, as anyone would.

“But you could see in his play that he made up for it with his positioning and ability in front of goal.”

Erling Haaland often visits Bryne

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Erling Haaland often visits BryneCredit: instagram: @erling.haaland
Haaland still visits his local Chinese restaurant, Wen Hua House, and has promised the owner a signed Man City shirt

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Haaland still visits his local Chinese restaurant, Wen Hua House, and has promised the owner a signed Man City shirtCredit: Bryne FK

‘THE FRIDGE’

Despite his father’s success as a player, Haaland’s youth was just like any other aspiring footballer in Bryne.

He would train with the club and then spend every spare hour playing football with friends on the artificial pitch under the dome next to the stadium.

Kids from Bryne are allowed to play for free whenever they like in the dome, which shelters you from the relentless wind in this coastal town but does not necessarily keep you warm.

Bryne chief executive Hans-Oyvind Sagen said: “Erling and his friends called it ‘The Fridge’ — it was colder inside than out.”

“It shields you from the wind but maybe that is why Haaland is so strong — he always had to run into it!”

Those at the club, and Haaland himself, credit “The Fridge” as a crucial part of his development. It was a chance to grow as a player but also enjoy every minute of it.

It just shows the potential. If you do the right things every day and work hard you will get very far

Sondre Norheim

Norheim said: “To think that he started in the same area where hundreds of kids are going every day.

“It just shows the potential. If you do the right things every day and work hard you get very far.”

Haaland was clearly gifted from a young age but it is not long into any conversation about him that hard work comes up.

Norheim has witnessed it first-hand. He recalled: “A few weeks before his debut we had a light workout and then a few guys stayed behind.

Erling asked me if I could give him some passes so he could practice some finishing. I said yes and about 20 or 30 minutes later I said, ‘We’re good now, right?’

“He said, ‘No, no. Let’s do some from this angle now, get some different crosses in’. He just wanted to keep practicing everything, all different angles.”

Norheim spent another hour whipping balls in and watching in awe as Haaland dispatched them with ease.

STANDING OUT

He said: “That is why he is so good. It is no surprise to me that he’s taken the steps he has in his career because he’s always refined everything.”

A lot of pros are happy to stay late but Erling stood out above even the hardest working.

Norheim said: “There was definitely a difference. For sure he was one of the hardest-working guys.

“I don’t think there is any luck involved in his career path. He has fully deserved it.”

Undheim said: “In training, if we had a competition to hit ten goals first, he’d reach 20 before you got to ten.”

Gunnar Halle, a coach for Norway’s youth sides who played with Haaland’s father Alfie at Leeds, said: “He was training all the time — but maybe not the one who wanted to go to school. He wanted to train instead and play football.

He was a little bit legs and arms all over the place but you could see the potential and the power

Gunnar Halle

“He was a small, tiny guy early on. He had some skills but he was not as powerful as he became.

“He was a little bit legs and arms all over the place but you could see the potential and the power.

“Up to 15 or 16, he was not so big physically, but from 17 he was getting bigger and bigger. He always had the instinct. He always wanted to score.”

He wanted to score more than most, too, once bagging NINE goals in one game against Honduras at an Under-20 World Cup, aged just 18.

Halle said: “He is not happy with scoring three, he is not happy scoring five. That is the way he is.”

While Haaland’s power is now perhaps his most lethal weapon, the years before his growth spurt meant he had to think quickly to outsmart bigger and better players, something key to his development.

Arne Tjaaland, a local PE teacher who volunteers as a coach at Bryne and worked with Haaland from the ages of 13 to 15, revealed: “He really developed his intelligence to score goals. He couldn’t just hit the ball and run past everyone.

‘HE IS CLEVER’

“He played against one of our centre-backs once, who was considered the best in his position in Norway at his age — and Erling out-tricked him and won a penalty.

“He was stronger and faster but Erling tricked him. He is clever. I thought, ‘OK, there is something special here’.”

Halle added: “I think something’s been lying there all the time and he’s been developing everything and obviously, on the physical part, now he’s like a monster.”

His attitude is the one thing that shines through when anyone speaks of Haaland and his family in Bryne — and most here know them well. In the cheap and cheerful local Chinese restaurant, Wen Hua House, Haaland’s signed Borussia Dortmund shirt hangs proudly on the wall.

It is one of his favorite spots when he comes back and the forward last visited here at Christmas during the Bundesliga’s winter break.
He has been coming since his Grandmother — who was the owner’s Norwegian teacher — first brought him as a boy.

Owner Hui Zhu Wang said: “We are very proud, he is very humble.

“He scored in his first match after just a few minutes which made me very excited.

“We’re going to get a new Manchester City shirt in the autumn!”

‘FEET ON THE GROUND’

In fact, a new sky blue shirt is already promised — ready to be delivered by Haaland’s sister, who happens to live with the nephew of the man at the next table.

Almost everyone in this town has a connection to his favorite son. Half of the children here have been taught by the striker’s mum, Gry Marita Braut, who still gives lessons at a local school today despite her son’s wild riches.

One local said: “Everyone here keeps their feet on the ground.

“There is so much excitement around Haaland but they want to keep away from that. He is very reserved when he comes back.”

It is here in Bryne where Erling feels most comfortable.

Undheim said: “He cannot go around people and be left in peace — but the place he can do that is home, Bryne.”

And at home, excitement is building ahead of the new season — and not only because his move to City will land the local club with nearly £1 million in solidarity payments.

Bryne FK are planning to redevelop their one existing stand and build new ones, too — any guesses who they will be named after?

TESTED LOYALTIES

The streets are always quiet here but they will be especially deserted on Saturday as everyone settles in to watch Haaland take his first steps in English football against Liverpool in the Community Shield.

Premier League clashes are huge here — but many will find their loyalties tested.

Undheim said: “You see at pubs, people who are Liverpool fans cheer if Erling scores.

“They say they go for Liverpool and Erling — no matter which team, everyone cheers him.”

Haaland’s next step is the biggest of his career.

It has been a well-plotted path to the top but his roots will always be here and each return home is a reminder of that.

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It is fitting that the only league he has played in and not managed to score a single goal is the second tier back home.

That memory, and Bryne, will always keep his feet firmly grounded.

He made his debut for his local club aged 15

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He made his debut for his local club aged 15Credit: Sven Olav Sele – Bryne FK
The superstar has stayed grounded despite his success

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The superstar has stayed grounded despite his successCredit: instagram: @erling.haaland
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