Erling Haaland from a miserable childhood to a global phenomenon

What makes a goal-scoring machine at the age of 19? For Erling Haaland, it can be the gray color of his childhood, the blood of football in his veins and a serious working attitude.
“No one thought Erling Haaland could go this far,” said Gunnar Halle, a close friend of the Haaland family and a professional coach.

The Norwegian striker is now a global football phenomenon. Even in the digital age, where statistics are becoming increasingly popular, few young strikers have broken as many records as Erling Haaland.

A Father’s Nightmare
Erling Braut Haaland was born in Leeds in the summer of 2000. His father, Alf-Inge Haaland, was then a footballer playing in England. Alf-Inge is the mainstay of Leeds United, the sassy club of foggy football in the late 20th century.

A month before Erling was born, his father decided to move to Manchester City for £2.5 million. This is considered a peaceful landing for the Norwegian midfielder in his final period in England, when he is allowed to continue playing in the Premier League for a middle-class club.

However, that hope quickly turned into a nightmare for the Haaland family. In April 2001, during the Manchester derby, midfielder Roy Keane had what has been described as “the deadliest tackle of all time” against Alf-Inge Haaland.

The MU star was then fined £5,000 and banned for 3 matches. In his autobiography, Keane claimed that what he did to Alf-Inge was revenge for the criticism the Norwegian player had told him three years ago.

The FA then stepped in. Roy Keane was banned for another five games and fined £150,000, a record amount at the time. However, the FA’s penalty could not dispel the darkness falling on the Haaland family.

That summer, Mr. Alf-Inge was on the operating table with the hope of continuing to play professional football. However, after 2 years of trying to recover, it all came to an end. The promise of Man City’s 3-year contract quickly fell into smoke, with the clause that the Manchester club could terminate the contract ahead of time if the player’s health was not guaranteed.

Relatives said Haaland’s family was “really devastated after that”. It was like an early tragedy for Erling, who was born with the ball and had a childhood immersed in the vibrant atmosphere on the pitch.

The Haaland family returned to their hometown of Bryne, a small town in Norway with more than 12,000 inhabitants. While Mr. Alf-Inge started a real estate business to earn a living, his young son Erling was encouraged to pursue a career in football.

Erling joined the youth academy of Bryne FK, a club playing in the Norwegian 3rd division. Coach of the youth team Berntsen was quickly impressed with the talent of this “child of the family”.

“The first time I saw Erling was when he was five years old and was practicing with kids older than him,” Berntsen recalls. “He only took two touches to score. As soon as he arrived, he impressed and we had to play him with older teammates.”

Years later, the coaches at Bryne understood they were training a boy with enough potential to become a top star in world football. “That was when Erling was 11 or 12 years old, he was scoring goals continuously since he was a kid. We knew this club was going to be the starting place of a star,” Berntsen said.
The journey to rise and the rejection of the old teacher
Two goals against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League made Erling the first teenager to reach 10 goals in the Champions League. He did this after only 7 appearances in Europe’s most prestigious arena.

The striker born in 2000 believes now is not the time for him to be under pressure at one of the biggest clubs in the world like MU. Besides, the current mess of Man United also makes this striker shy.

What happened next at Manchester United showed Solskjaer’s regret after missing Erling. The Norwegian coach turned to Josua King, also a fellow striker but not as potential. They continued to be rejected after giving the player 15 minutes to think.

In the end, the English club had to borrow a striker playing in China. With Dortmund, they had to pay 20 million euros to the Austrian club to get Erling. The German team seems to have a great bargain.

Feet on the ground
When having to choose a word to describe Erling, Salzburg head coach Marco Rose did not hesitate to use two words “professional”. “He’s always training hard, day in and day out,” Rose said. “What’s more important is that Erling is surrounded by people who help his football career. Family, father, friends, they all understand and help him cope with his moments.”

Haaland almost set a scoring record in every tournament he attended. The Norwegian striker scored nine goals in a match at the Under-20 World Cup last year. He became the third youngest striker to score a hat-trick in the Champions League. He continuously created new milestones in the Bundesliga.

Roman Burki, current teammate at Dortmund, believes that for a young player like Erling, the hardest thing is keeping your feet on the ground after the applause. “I believe he can overcome, because of his professionalism and serious attitude to the profession,” Burki said.

Erling seems to be the type of player that every coach in the world dreams of having in the squad. A guy who grew up with the ball, inherited family traditions, has a good body and a serious working attitude. This summer, Erling turns 20 years old, ahead of him is the sky.


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