OBOS LIGAEN 2017 ONE TO WATCH: STEFAN AASE

Florø SK are unique in the fact that their squad is mostly comprised of players hailing from the ‘Sogn og Fjordane’ region of Norway with long term manager Terje Rognsø having overseen these footballers’ development since they were aged just 14 or 15.

(Photo: Digitalsports)

One player to have benefited from Rognsø’s guidance is 22 year old midfielder Stefan Aase, who has been with the side on and off since he was a junior. Aase was extremely highly rated as a youngster and earned himself three Norwegian U’17 national team caps and a move to Sogndal by the time he was 17 years old.

The Sogndal move never really worked out for the young player and Aase found himself back on loan with Florø in 2012 just weeks after leaving the side before re-joining permanently in the summer of 2013.

Aase has been a mainstay in the Florø starting XI since re-joining but a strange injury in 2015 stalled his progress somewhat. As a result of excessive sit ups and ab workouts, the player was ruled out for the rest of the season having played just 10 games that year so far. It was a huge blow for the 20 year old who had announced himself as a key player for Florø during their impressive 2013 season which saw the side promoted to the 2.Divisjon for the first time since 2001.

Luckily, the injury did not stall Aase’s 2016 campaign as he played a starring role in the club’s promotion season. The OBOS Ligaen will be a huge step up for the 22 year old but from the admittedly little I have seen of the player this pre-season, he looks like someone who will be well at home in Norway’s second tier.

A particular highlight from Aase’s pre-season came against Tromsdalen in Florø’s final La Manga friendly. Tromsdalen’s defender Tobias Vibe stalled heavily on the ball and Aase pounced on him in an instant before snatching the ball off of the defender and having the composure to finish easily, sending his side 2-0 up. The quick press from attacking midfield and subsequent finish was reminiscent of watching Adam Lallana of Liverpool leading Jurgen Klopp’s high press from a central position.

It was a passage of play that really summed up Aase’s strengths as a footballer. He may not have the burning pace some attacking midfielders posses but his instinct to press and determination to get there as quickly as possible has paid dividend for his team on numerous occasions.

‘I would describe myself as a box to box, energetic midfielder. I like to get forward and contribute in the attacks but also tend to press a lot and do a lot of work off the ball.

In our style of play there is a large emphasis on regaining the ball quickly and I think that is one of my strengths. I am a technical player, who loves to be all around the field.’ Said Aase.

The Florø team clearly have a high opinion of Aase from what I gathered when chatting to both manager Terje Rognsø and teammate Dino Omerovic. It would be fair to say that Aase will play a central part in any successes the team achieves this year.

Terje Rognsø has overseen Aase’s progress since the player was just 14 years old and so knows the player and his strengths well. There is no better man to talk with to assess the midfielder’s potential.

‘Stefan and his brother Peter have been playing regularly in the team since they were 15.

Stefan was the player of the year in the 3.Divisjon for us and was a bit of a child star. Half of the top clubs wanted him and he went to Sogndal after the 2011 season but ended up injured and did not play in the 2012 season.

He had some injury and off the pitch issues so came back to us for the 2013 season. We were promoted to the 2.Divisjon that year and Stefan scored 28 goals from midfield.

As a player he is very hard working and great going both ways on the pitch. For his downsides, he has a lack of speed and sometimes doesn’t make the best choices (on the pitch).’

Stefan Aase in action in 2010 for the Norwegian U’15 national team against Sweden. (Photo: Digitalsport)

Florø and Aase will both be hoping to stay in the OBOS Ligaen this season. It will be a very tough ask for a side with such a low budget but the belief in this club is great and both players and manager will be pulling together to achieve their goal of staying up.

For Aase though, there is unfinished business to attend to in the Eliteserien also after his injury hit stay with Sogndal as a teenager.

‘My future ambition are to play in the Eliteserien again, after a failed attempt (with Sogndal).

I think we (Florø) will surprise the teams in the league and do quite well. We are hoping and working towards obviously beating relegation. Defensively we are quite strong and I think that will be a key for us if we are to do well this year. We are probably the fastest team in the OBOS, a word of warning to the other teams!’

Now 22 and with a lot more experience under his belt both on and off the pitch, Aase will be rearing to go in Norway’s second tier. At this level, he is a player who will stand out compared to the archetypal OBOS Ligaen footballer with his flair on the ball and ability to put defences under pressure with his hard pressing.

Whilst I am sure a handful of Eliteserien sides are already monitoring the Florø man’s progress, it would not surprise me one bit to see him become a clear transfer target for larger sides come the end of the season.

I spoke to Aase’s teammate and friend Dino Omerovic about what the player is like off the pitch;

‘Stefan is a very social person, loves to joke and will always take the initiative to invite people when we want to do something social. His house is open for everybody.

As a person he is my best friend. We like to play cards and FIFA when we have time for that and since there is always something happening in Florø he likes to show off his car around the city!’

After a tough start to life as a footballer it seems now that Stefan Aase is settling into his role in this Florø team and after a full, injury free season under his belt in 2016, 2017 could well see the player emerge as one of the great OBOS Ligaen talents.

Potentially underrated by some observers of the OBOS Ligaen, Aase has impressed enough in pre-season to warrant a little hype. Tracking his progress in Norway’s second tier will be interesting and the player is certainly ‘one to watch’.