From the first kick of the Norway Cup soccer tournament in Oslo last Sunday – Hydro was there, as we have for the last 10 years. This year, Hydro is sponsoring 54 football players from three different teams related to our operations in Brazil, Jamaica and Slovakia. The positive effects of the sponsorship are clear.
Hydro’s “Norway Cup general,” Jon Arild Larsen, has been head of Hydro’s sponsorship program for the teams that have travelled to Norway to play football every year since 1998.
With 30,000 participants from 50 countries, the Norway Cup is considered the world’s biggest soccer tournament. He says the participants’ stay in Norway is about much more than just the football matches.
“The effect of this program is huge,” says Larsen, who is vice president of Alumina Technical Support in Hydro. He stresses the importance of teaming up with the local communities around the company’s operations. This strengthens relations and helps secure qualified labor in the future.
Much more than soccer
The program, sponsored by Hydro, includes much more than soccer. Around 2,500 students have attended the many lectures given at the local schools near Hydro’s partly owned alumina refinery in Brazil, Alunorte.
Since the start of the soccer team Alunorte Rain Forest, the number of students in the Barcarena region has increased by 19 percent.
“The soccer clubs and the schools cooperate in this project,” says Larsen.
“It is not enough to demonstrate their achievements in the field. They need to show good school performance and behavior in addition to sportsmanship. There are several examples of very good players who have not been selected due to unsatisfactory achievements outside the court.”
For the selected youngsters who have made the grade on each team, it must be overwhelming to experience the wealth we are used to in the West.
”For some of them it is probably a shock to come to Norway, and it could naturally leave a mark on them later,” says Larsen. He adds that the players are followed up after they have returned home.
“This includes support for apprenticeships, and scholarships for further education,” he says.
Since 2001, seven Brazilian football teams under the name Alunorte Rain Forest have participated in Norway Cup supported by Hydro.
From these teams, 10 of the players are now employed in Alunorte, where the need for new and qualified labor is now and will be great in the years to come.
The boys’ team “Essex Valley All Stars Junior,” comes from the area of Hydro’s partly owned bauxite mining and alumina refining operation Alpart, in Jamaica. They are participating this year for the seventh time running. Larsen says this has had positive effects in Jamaica.
“We know that most of the boys from Jamaica and Brazil have done well in life, completed an education, and some even play football on an advanced level,” says Larsen.
The same can be said about the team from nearby Hydro’s partly owned aluminium plant in Slovakia, called Slovalco.
“The reason we started this is the fact that it is not enough to run a business with clever engineers. We need to have the local community with us, and in this connection, Norway Cup is a suitable tool.”
Going for victory
After their arrival, the team enjoyed a few days of sightseeing and training before the competition began. And when the Cup is well over, depending on the achievements of the different teams in the tournament, there are still a few days of adventure in Telemark left.
The participants of course are hoping that their soccer adventure will last as long as possible.
“We have always done well in our division, and the boys are ready to take home a trophy this year,” says Andrew Bent, coach of the Essex Valley All Stars Junior team from Jamaica.
And even if it all doesn’t end in glory and the cup, the young participants have still received a good foundation to build upon … and for long into the future.