One of the most famous players in the history women's football, Hege Riise amassed a remarkable collection of honours in a glittering career and was part of sides that emerged victorious in the FIFA Women's World Cup, UEFA European Women's Championship and Olympic Games.
Once described as having "six pairs of eyes", Riise's prodigious ability to read the game, create chances and score goals from midfield were all crucial in an illustrious career which took her to clubs in the United States and Japan, as well as a successful spell with Asker in the Norway.
Born in Lorenskog, on the outskirts of Oslo, Riise was a sports fanatic from a young age, devoting much of her childhood to skiing and handball, among other sporting pursuits, before giving up everything else at the age of 15 to concentrate on her football. Riise reflects: "As a teenager people told me I was very good, but at first I did not have the courage to say to myself: 'I can be a national team player'." Such self-doubt seems difficult to believe in an individual who went on to make 188 appearances for Norway's national side, scoring 58 goals. Not surprisingly, Riise is now forthright about her talent, saying: "The strongest element of my game was seeing situations other players didn't see. I saw runs, but I also felt the game more than others – I had a feeling of where my team-mates would move to."
She began her career with local club Setskog/Holand, and made her national-team debut at the age of 20 in 1990. The following year she helped her country to the final of the inaugural Women's World Cup and Norway proved their pedigree at European level in 1993, defeating Italy in the Women's Championship final. Two years later Norway claimed the World Cup with a 2-0 final victory against Germany 2-0, Riise scoring the first. "We arrived for the tournament in confident mood," she recalls, "everyone was in such good shape. We hardly conceded and just got stronger as the tournament progressed. It was a fun experience from beginning to end."
Following the tournament Riise – who won the Golden Ball as the World Cup's Most Valuable Player – moved to Japan along with compatriot Linda Medalen, joining Nikko Securities. The cultural exchange raised her game to yet another level – the Japanese style helped to improve her co-ordination and technique, qualities she believes are less developed in the European game. As for her own influence, Riise observes: "The Japanese mentality was to play four sideways passes and then go forward towards goal; we taught them that maybe you can do two sideways passes and then go forward!"
After two years in Japan, Riise returned home for a spell with top-flight Asker. Having helped Norway to the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics, Riise was part of the side that claimed gold in Sydney four years later, and moved to America the same year, joining Carolina Courage. She describes this time as "the most fun I ever had with football," and was overwhelmed by the adulation players received in the USA. "We were role models there," she says. "We don't get that kind of following in Norway."
Riise brought the curtain down on her glorious international career in September 2004, acknowledging: "It was a gradual process. Playing for the national side was getting harder and harder and slowly I came to the decision that I wanted to stop." Riise continued to play for Team Strømmen until becoming coach in 2006 and is also involved in the national-team set-up, assisting Jarl Torske with the Under-20 side.
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