Football Association of Norway (NFF) president Lise Klaveness reflects on her life in football, which began as a teenager falling in love with the grassroots game and took her to a UEFA Women's EURO final as a player.
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Klaveness became the first female president of the NFF earlier this year, the latest step in a professional career that has seen her work as a lawyer, an assistant judge in Oslo's district court and a special advisor in the National Bank of Norway, as well as being the NFF's director of elite football.
On the pitch, she was an attacker who represented her country more than 70 times, playing in UEFA club and national team finals – a long way from where she started out, growing up an hour north of Bergen in the west of Norway.
At last week's UEFA Grassroots Conference in Madrid, she shared her journey with European football's technical development community.
"I've spent my life in football. It was my first love in life. I started to play a bit late but then I was obsessed, and I've always been in the game ever since," she said.
"My father was just as passionate as me. He's now 72 and still goes to the field with a bag of balls to train. We would play games, just for fun, and created all kinds of competitions between us. Then, I started playing in a very small club, called Kvernbit IL, and we had only one gravel field, no artificial pitches. I was obsessed with learning everything with the ball and, even at the age of 15, slept with the ball in my bed!
'I've spent my life in football. It was my first love in life.'
"I was so into playing, I played with the boys, the girls, with the men – the club was a safe haven when I felt lonely. I escaped into football and have so much to thank the game and the club for. Grassroots is where I found the lifelong passion for football, and it gave me an identity."
Lessons from the game
"To play for the national team was a huge privilege. It meant so much and I every defeat struck me very hard, I would cry after losing games. Nothing compares to losing an important football game. But what football really does to you is that you learn to lose and go back again. To me that has been the most valuable lesson from football. You get resilience and the feeling of how a team can raise you up again when you feel isolated.
"Having a background in football has given me the self-esteem and knowledge that means I can speak with credibility to everyone in the NFF – former players can be real assets if we are patient and willing to learn. UEFA's Career Transition Programme and Master for International Players (MIP) both help players coming to the end of their careers."
"We each have our own challenges and different cultures, but I think it's an obligation for any federation that the grassroots are the fundamental base of everything we do. It's the most important thing we do.
"Grassroots football needs to be taken care of. In Norway, we are very club-centred and accreditation schemes are important for us, to have competent clubs. I also love elite football and it often takes the headlines and it's easy to go in that direction, but grassroots are the most important thing.
'Grassroots football needs to be taken care of'
"UEFA should be thanked for a great effort in this area for many years. It makes the federations stronger and pressures us to prioritise grassroots football."
On equality and female representation within the game
"It's very important to have equality and as the first female president of the NFF, I am very aware that I am on the shoulders of women and men who have fought before us to get there.
"In Norway, we are 60 per cent female on the executive committee of the federation. It's not something I think about every day. We have a culture in the board where gender does not matter – we are colleagues, and I feel I am respected for the work I do. I never think about being a woman within the federation, but this level of equality takes decades and needs pioneers.
"With female coaches, we have a challenge in Norway. To have leaders on the grass is the big next step. We should be satisfied with boards and leadership, but on the grass with referees and coaches we have a long way to go."
Advice for other women looking to reach senior positions within football
"When there is an opportunity, take the risk and you will see there are others who have taken the risk before you. Then it doesn’t feel so dangerous.
"Women have a tendency to be a bit cautious and say no when we have a potential opportunity. Men say yes and women say no. My advice is to say yes and think about the potential problems or your limitations afterwards."