Before each Eliteserien game the Vålerenga IF fans in the Ostblokka lead the singing of a song – ‘Vålerenga kjerke’.
The song is an emotive one. It tells the tale of an important religious landmark located in the Oslo neighbourhood of Vålerenga.
Built in a Nordic historicist architectural style, a fire in the autumn of 1979 burned the church to the ground and the building was almost totally destroyed. Only the outer walls of the church, made of stone, were left standing.
Destroyed in the fire were a range of Frescoes and stained glass windows made by the Norwegian craftsman Emanuel Vigeland.
Roofless for years the church was rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1984. New pieces of art were made by another Vigeland artist and the grassy gardens surrounding the church reopened.
Both Saint Hallvard and the Vålerenga kjerke play important symbolic roles in the history of Vålerenga IF.
So also does the neighbourhood from which they were named and where the kirk stands.
Vaalerengens Idrættsforening the sports club have roots in the neighbourhood of Vålerenga. The first football players and supporters came from the many workers who lived in the area that is known for its wooden houses.
In its first seasons of action Vålerenga Fotball competed with the major clubs in Oslo at that time.
Amongst them were two other Oslo club’s Frigg and Lyn Oslo, the latter club of course would become the great rivals of VIF.
Identity wise Lyn Oslo had developed a strong identity with the central Oslo academic and middle classes. And, like the the roots of so many football rivalries, Vålerenga developed a counter culture – a more working class identity.
In 1948 when the main Hovedserien top league was created Valerenga were one of the 16 teams who took part.
The club finished 2nd in the table behind Fredrikstad.
Despite having roots in a neighbourhood in the east, Vålerenga previously used a home stadium in the northern districts of the city for its football fixtures. These included the Bislett Stadium and Ullevaal Stadium – the latter of which they shared with great rivals Lyn Oslo and the Norwegian National team.
A New Church
In autumn 2005 a commission was started to plan work on a new stadium project for the club. A dialogue with the city council was opened and a multi location study began.
Soon new club leadership led the stadium project with the ultimate aim of creating a Vålerenga cultural sports park – Vålerenga kultur og idrettspark. It would be a venue with social benefits that went beyond the stadium’s core business of football matches.
These included an adjoining educational centre.
The foundation stone of the new stadium was laid on 29 July 2015 – the club’s 102nd anniversary.
Construction started once agreement was found and on 1st September 2017 Vålerenga Fotball took over the use permit for the stadium.
One month later Vålerenga and the IT company Intility entered into a ten year agreement on the naming rights to the stadium and it was renamed the Intility Arena.
The area where the new stadium stands Valle Hovin is known for both bandy and speed skating. It’s a residential area located beside the Helsfyr station on the Oslo T-bane metro system.
The word church is derived from Old English cirice, namely a ‘place of assemblage set aside for worship’.
Without a roof over its head for years the Valerenga church was rebuilt. New pieces of art including windows were made for the rebuilt church.
With Lyn Oslo being made bankrupt in 2010, Vålerenga Fotball were the sole football club occupier of the Ullevaal Stadion for many years. But the club were determined to find a new home at which the club’s fans could assemble and have found a new home for the club.
A colourful football mural stands just outside Intility Arena. It is emblazoned with the club name and the words ‘over alt og over alle‘ – above everything and above everyone.
In a place of religious worship god is said to stand in judgement over all and everyone. At the Intility Arena the home fans now have a home that stands in weekly judgement over the XI that play in the famous blue colours.
Each fan sings Vålerenga kjerke with new meaning.
Da høsten var som klarest, en september ettermiddag
Strømmet skjebnen ut små gnister på Vålerenga
Bud gikk ut over byen, til kvinne og til mann
Om at kjerka opp i parken sto i brann
Det var mange som tok veien, som følte de måtte dra
Opp til småhus og stille gater, mellom Galgeberg og Etterstad
Flammen dannset i kvelden, lyste mot åsen bak
Da Vålerenga kjerke, fikk himmel’n sjøl til tak
Så mange minner, og tanker, lever i en menneskekropp
Knytter oss til steder der vi vokste opp
Kjærlighet til ei gate, til et hus og til en gård
Der vi brukte våre aller beste år
Og mange som stod der i parken, var døpt i kjerka engang
Og hadde spasert over gulvet, mens bryllupsklokka klang
Flammen danset i kvelden, lyste mot åsen bak
Da Vålerenga kjerke, fikk himmel’n sjøl til tak
I parken, stod det menn, som hadde spelt fotball siden dem var små
Og siden ble helter for Klanen på Store Stå
Der sto unge, menn og kvinner, som hadde flytte inn i seinere år
For å gi nytt liv til en del av byen vår
Og orgelet spilte aleine, jeg sverger på at det er sant
Og kjerkeklokka ringte, da taket til slutt forsvant
Naken, grå og øde, som en skygge mot åsen bak
Sto Vålerenga kjerke, med himmel’n sjøl til tak
Owner: Vålerenga kultur- og idrettspark AS owned by Vålerenga Fotball
Record Attendance: 17,011 (Vålerenga vs Sarpsborg 08, 10 September 2017)
Playing field Size: 105 by 68 metres (Artifical)
Broke Ground: 2015
Architect: Lille Frøen AS