Interview with Bjørn Johnsen: ‘Late bloomer’ wants to finally blossom in The Hague

In the search for a new striker, ADO Den Haag came out with a player known by almost no-one as to be Mike Havenaar’s successor. Bjørn Johnsen is his name. The 25-year-old Norwegian international has already played for a lot of European clubs in his short career, but he now considers it is time to show what he is capable of in The Hague.

Up front, trainer Fons Groenendijk can now call on some “tropical surprises.” For example, Melvyn Lorenzen was born in England, raised in Germany and international for Uganda. Elson Hooi is the hero of Curacao after winning the Caribbean Cup. And the new forward Johnsen was born in New York, grew up in the state of North Carolina, but is Norwegian international. “My mother is American and my father is a Norwegian,” says Johnsen. “With my height (1.95m), It’s was more likely in the United States that I would go to basketball. I did that for a while, but my heart was for football. I used to watch many matches on TV. From the Serie A, the Eredivisie to the Bundesliga. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a great example for me. I was impressed by his game and of course he won so many prizes, which I wanted to do as a professional player.”
In order to achieve this goal, Johnsen was forced to go to Europe, to his country of origin. According to him, in the USA, there was no option. “Even though there are sometimes big names in the American league, there are no real youth divisions at clubs like in Europe, so it’s difficult to develop yourself as a young footballer. so I was advised to leave for Norway. “

That happened in 2010. In Norway, Johnsen would stay for only two years at Valerenga and Tønsberg. But also there was the point that he should not stay too long (Norwegian football is not so high in quality), so Johnsen went on to look further. He decided to travel to Paris with a friend in 2012 where an event took place where many scouts of European clubs were present. The Norwegian arrived in Spain at Antequera and later at Atlético Baleares. All in the lower divisions of Spain, but Johnsen learned a lot. “I did not play many matches, but in training, I got better. In Baleares, Walter Pandiani, for example, was my teammate, playing at Deportivo La Coruña with Roy Makaay, among others.”

Also in Spain, Johnsen did not stay long. He tried his luck in neighboring Portugal, where he showed his class at Atletico CP in the season ’14 / ’15. The New Yorker scored fourteen times in 27 games at the second division club. It brought him to the attention of Benfica, Portugal’s top club. The transfer seemed to be around, but did not work out at the last minute. “That was a big disappointment, but luckily there was another good club: Litex Lovech from Bulgaria. No, I did not think it was a strange country. Litex played in the highest Bulgarian division and even participated in the Europa League. I also had the guarantee of playing time.”

Debut for Norway
Last year, Johnsen moved from Bulgaria to Scotland to defend the colors of Hearts. After a great year in which Johnsen made the necessary goals and assists, he received an invitation to join the Norwegian team in June. The striker made his international debut against the Czech Republic. Johnsen could also have chosen to play for the United States. “But it has never really been the case and I’ve not heard anything from the United States, so the choice was easily made. Norway are not going to qualify for the World Cup. A good generation is coming up with players like Martin Ødegaard and Morten Thorsby of Heerenveen. We have had some lean years, but we are going for a place in the European Championships of 2020.”

First, focus on ADO Den Haag. He must forget about Havenaar, a difficult task. What is his goal for this season? “I have a number of goals in my mind for myself, but I will not share that with anyone else. I hope that people will not only look at my goals. The intention is to stay here longer than with my other clubs, haha. Up to three great years!”

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