When Aarones and Norway ruled the world
Ann Kristin Aarones won the Golden Boot at Sweden 1995
Goal-getter reminisces about Norway’s 1995 global triumph
Found the net ten times at two World Cup tournaments
As Norway jerseys were laid out pre-match in the dressing room at the 2019 Algarve Cup, memories of the glory days came flooding back for one kit manager.
Ann Kristin Aarones was one of the FIFA Women’s World Cup’s deadliest goalscorers. The Golden Boot winner at Sweden 1995, Aarones’ strikes helped Norway to their maiden title in Scandinavia and four years later finished behind titans Sissi and Sun Wen in the USA 1999 scoring charts.
Aarones, standing in as kit manager for the senior team’s Algarve Cup campaign, is still involved in Norway’s set-up, working as either the team manager or team administrator for the country’s U-23 side. The two-time Women’s World Cup veteran naturally felt at home in Portugal as Norway’s preparations for France 2019 got under way in earnest.
“I wish I was 20 years younger so I could be a player again,” laughed Aarones, an imposing forward back then, speaking to FIFA.com. “But those days are gone.”
Her playing days may be behind her, but memories of lacing up her boots for Norway and helping her country to global glory are still fresh in the forward's mind. After topping a group consisting of England, Nigeria and Canada, Even Pellerud’s side saw off Denmark and USA in the knockouts before beating Germany in the 1995 Final.
1995 Women’s World Cup winner
1995 Golden Boot winner
1993 Women’s Euro winner
1991 Women’s Euro runner-up
1996 Olympic Bronze
“One thing that immediately comes to my mind that year is the semi-final against USA,” said Aarones, reflecting on coming up against a team laden with stars such as Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Carin Jennings. “We won 1-0 and I scored our goal from a corner kick. In the final minutes I think they hit the crossbar three times, so I guess we were a bit lucky we won the game and USA probably felt we stole the gold from them.”
That winner's medal was Norway’s first at global level and marked the peak of the country’s golden period of the 1990s in which they secured numerous podium finishes across the Women’s World Cup, UEFA Women’s EURO and Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.
“It’s not often that Norway wins a World Cup in football, certainly not for the men’s team,” said Aarones. “We started early with women’s football in Norway and we had a very good team in the '90s. It was important for Norwegian women’s football that we won big competitions and it meant a lot for the country to win a gold medal at the World Cup.”
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since Norway’s maiden Women’s World Cup title and the tournament – as well as the women’s game in general - has grown immensely since.
“Luckily, the women’s game has changed a lot,” Aarones, who represented Trondheims-Orn and New York Power at club level, said. “The World Cup was only 12 teams [in 1995] and everything is so much bigger now – more players, more fans and competing teams are a lot better.”
Indeed, one of the many elements of excitement surrounding France 2019 is the depth of talent and plethora of genuine title-challengers descending on the country in June.
Also making their way to the Gallic showdown is Aarones, going to the eighth edition of the tournament wearing the red of Norway as a supporter rather than a player like in 1995 and 1999. She will be accompanied by compatriots including fellow World Cup winner Merete Myklebust and Olympic Gold medal champion Brit Sandaune.
“I’m going as a tourist to watch the first two games in Reims and Nice with friends,” she said. “I don’t know what the goal of the team is at the World Cup but, of course, Norway will want to progress from the group stage.
“Qualification for the Olympics is the top three European teams, so maybe that’s what we should hope for - perhaps the quarter-final or further. It’s going to be tough. There are many good teams.”
With Norway up against hosts France, South Korea and Nigeria, Group A is certainly awash with tantalising talent. And with the presence of Aarones and Co watching on from the stands, the spirit of 1995 will be present as Norway go for global glory once again.