Families in Football: Bjorn Helge and John Arne Riise

Bjorn Helge and John Arne Riise
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Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Families in Football’ series. Over the next few weeks, we take a look at siblings, cousins and even parents and children that have played the beautiful game. Some have played cup finals together while others have been on opposing sides. Today, we look at Bjorn Helge Riise and John Arne Riise.

Families in Football: Bjorn Helge and John Arne Riise

Bjorn Helge Riise

Bjorn is the younger brother of former Liverpool and Fulham defender John Arne Riise and has had an interesting journey in his football career. He played for Norwegian side Aalesund and was seen as a rising star which led to him being linked with a potential move to Manchester City and Cardiff City. However, a move to Wales fell through at the last minute due to problems with his club, a situation that left him questioning whether he wanted to continue playing the beautiful game.

At the time he said: “I almost want to quit football because it’s not fun anymore”.

 

He did carry on though, and in 2003 he joined Standard Liege on a three-year contract following a successful trial period but he found himself frozen out and was loaned out to Brussels. There was an option to buy the player at the end of the loan spell but that was not taken up and Riise returned to his native Norway to sign for Lillestrom in the summer of 2005.

Fulham had a Norwegian contingent in 2009 and Riise joined Brede Hangeland and Erik Nevland at Craven Cottage, signing a three-year deal. He made his debut against FK Vetra in the Europa League as Fulham won the game 3-0 and he was a regular under Roy Hodgson.

However, when new boss Mark Hughes came in, he found minutes hard to come by and decided to leave the club on loan and joined Sheffield United for the remainder of the 2012/13 season, where he scored his first goal in English football against Yorkshire rivals Leeds United in a 2-0 victory. But his performances could not help the Blades survive and they were relegated before he returned to Fulham.

Bjorn Helge went on to play once more for Lillestrom and Aalesund before ending his career at Sogndal and at the end of the 2018 season, he decided to retire from football.

The midfielder was capped 35 times for Norway, scoring once in a 2-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

John Arne Riise

As did his brother, Riise began his career with Norwegian side Aalesund but only remained there for one season before making his name in the French principality of Monaco in 1998. John Arne enjoyed success at Monaco and was a key part of the 1999/00 side that won the Ligue 1 title but when Claude Puel became manager he was no longer in favour and he left the following season to join Liverpool, where he would enjoy more success and feature in one of football’s greatest ever games.

In his first season at Anfield, Riise scored ten goals and his attacking play on the left caused many opponents issues throughout the season. He wasn’t at his best though in the two seasons that followed and there were rumours that he may be on his way out of the club but in 2004 he refound the form that had made him so popular in his first season at the club.

The arrival of Rafael Benitez seemed to galvanise John Arne and he won a Champions League winner medal in the incredible final against AC Milan. Liverpool were dead and buried at halftime but went on to stage a remarkable comeback and win the match on penalties, although Riise did see his spot-kick saved.

When he played in the 5-0 demolition of Luton Town in 2008, Riise made his 50th appearance for Liverpool before leaving for Roma as he found his left-back berth taken by Fabio Aurelio. He signed a four-year deal with the Italian club but would find himself back in the Premier League in 2011 when he joined Fulham. He made his debut for the club on July 21 in a UEFA Europa League tie against Crusaders at Craven Cottage. He stayed until the end of the 2014 season when he left at the end of his contract.

Riise has gone on to have a coaching career and was announced as manager of Avaldsnes in December 2021.

Games Played Together and Against

Bjorn Halge and John Arne Riise played together 42 times in matches involving Norway and Aalesunds.

The brothers also faced each other twice when John Arne was at Roma and his younger brother at Fulham. Bjorn Halge assisted Brede Hangeland in a 1-1 draw but John Arne netted in a 2-1 win for the Italian side, with both games coming in the group stage of the Europa League.

Interesting Facts

John Arne Riise was at the centre of a bizarre incident at his first club regarding the unveiling of a statue that was said not to be of him but looked like him. When Aalesund opened their new stadium in April 2005, businessman Olav Nils Sunde donated a statue to the club, which was erected in front of the stadium. While Sunde denied it, the statue bore a very strong resemblance to Riise.

During his seven seasons at Anfield, John Arne won a total of seven trophies. He also won a league and cup double while at APOEL. The defender is also Norway’s most capped player, having turned out 110 times for Løvene.

Bjorn Helge and John Arne Riise were both at Fulham during the 2011/12 season although they never shared the pitch. John Arne played 42 times in all competitions while his you get brother managed just four appearances.

Before his brother’s arrival at Fulham, Bjorn Helge came runner up in the Europa League, losing 2-1 after extra-time against Atletico Madrid.

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