Sonni Nattestad (27) was a medical check-up from becoming a Jerv player, but says it was his wish to withdraw from the transfer. Coach Arne Sandstø believes it was best for all parties that this happened – and says the stopper’s role in the inflamed Babacar Sarr trial had an impact.
Aftenposten collaborates with VG-sporten. Therefore, as an Aftenposten reader, you also get articles and services created by VG.
The background for the transition chaos – where Jerv on Sunday went from welcoming Sonni Nattestad as the first signing of the year to canceling the contract – has to do with Nattestad’s role as a witness in the trial against former Molde player Babacar Sarr, Jerv coach Arne Sandstø confirms to VG.
Sarr was acquitted in the district court in 2018 for sleep rape, but is still sentenced to pay compensation. The public prosecutor appealed the verdict in the criminal case itself, but it stands on the spot resting in the Court of Appeal as Sarr has not made himself available to carry it out.
Faroese Nattestad – even with a playing history in Molde, among other places – testified in the trial when it was up in the district court, but not when he was summoned to the Court of Appeal.
In an interview with VG, he talks about his experience around the Jerv transition and explains why he did not come to the Court of Appeal as a witness.
– I was not surprised at all. First of all, it was I who withdrew from the agreement. I was expecting to hear something, but this is not something I can do anything about, since it has nothing to do with me. I wanted to travel, but after all, I did not want to go to Norway and be asked a hundred thousand times about that matter. I am only a witness and do not know what has happened, says the clubless national team player.
– How do you think Jerv handled this?
– Ridiculous I have experienced in my life. First, they said they withdrew from the agreement and said they did not know about the episode. Everyone in Norway knew about it. It’s unfortunate that it sounds like I have done something, but I have not done anything – beyond witness. They claim that they have not done the research, but that is total … They have not handled this well, Nattestad answers.
Regarding the appearance as a witness in the trials of Sarr, Nattestad says that he can document what has happened. First State Attorney Ingvild Thorn Nordheim informs VG that Nattestad informed that he would not appear just before the case was to appear in the Court of Appeal for the first time, and that it led to a postponement.
On Sunday, Jerv justified the cancellation of the midfielder’s transfer on the grounds that “the case Nattestad was involved in is not something we as a club can vouch for or be associated with”.
Nattestad points out that he was both at the police station and that he appeared as a witness in the district court. This is how he explains the Court of Appeal case from the winter of 2019:
– I received an e-mail two days before that I had to be in Norway, and I did not live in Norway. I replied that I did not make it, but I replied a little later that I might be able to make it, anyway. Then I was told that it was postponed. So for the third time I got a date, in June or something. I went there, was in the courthouse and asked for the trial. Then I was told that it was postponed again, without having been notified.
– So you went to Norway?
– Yes, I was there in June. They said it was canceled and then they said afterwards that they had written to the wrong e-mail address. So I had not been told about it.
– Is it true that you had different explanations from the police interrogation to the explanation in court?
– No, I do not remember saying anything different. I think I said the same thing twice, but there were some difficulties with my Norwegian. Then I got an interpreter the other day, and then everything was fine. I may have mixed something Norwegian the first day. But I really can not remember anything other than that I said the same thing, Sonni Nattestad maintains.
First State Attorney Ingvild Thorn Nordheim will not go into detail about the communication with Nattestad.
– This is a witness who was aware of the time of the appeal hearing and that the case would be postponed if he did not appear. We received confirmation from both the Faroese authorities and himself that he was not in Norway and would also play a match, Nordheim writes in an e-mail.
She confirms that Nattestad came to Norway on a later occasion and that they took a judicial interrogation of the football player.
– Not good enough
Coach Arne Sandstø will not respond directly to Nattestad’s description that the handling in Jerv was ridiculous.
– I can not say anything but that we did not know enough, and it was not good enough of us. If he thinks it’s ridiculous, we’ll take it. But the weakness with us is that we did not know enough, Sandstø says to VG.
He points out that Øyvind Johannesen in the Jerv board must answer whether it was the club or the player himself who withdrew from the agreement.
– We register what he says and refer to the press release. We see no reason to comment beyond that, Johannesen reports to VG.
Otherwise, Sandstø answers all questions about how Jerv ended up in practice signing to wreck a player during a few New Year’s hours on the second day of the year.
– I can not say anything about that case. It is too big and complex and I know too little about it to comment on it, says the Jerv coach when VG asks what the club means by Nattestad being involved in a case the club does not want to be associated with.
– Is it the trial with Babacar Sarr that is going on?
– Yes. We have been aware that things have happened in Molde. Beyond that, we have known far too little.
– Why did you then end up offering a contract to the player when this is information that was open and has been quite well known in Football Norway?
– It is solely that we have not done a thorough enough check on this case.
– Do you usually check references when you pick up players?
– We usually check everything we have at our disposal. Then it is the case that a transfer to a football club tries to keep as close to the chest as possible. The information we have received in retrospect, we would like to have in the past. We have not been able to achieve it.
Talked about it
– Have you talked to the player yourself about this matter?
– We have spoken to the player on one occasion in a Teams conversation. Where the player talks about how he experienced that case.
– How did he experience that case?
– I can not say anything about that.
– His presentation meant that you did not see it as problematic to move on?
– Considering what we knew there and then, we felt it.
– How far did you get in what can be called the hiring process?
– We have not met him physically. In a way, that is what had remained: Met him physically, received a signature and a visit to the doctor, which is usual.
– Do you have a legal right to cancel the contract?
– We have had a dialogue with the agent. The agent was very understanding when we spoke to him, so it resolved without drama.
– So if you have had some kind of verbal agreement; you do not fear he comes with a lawyer instead of an agent and demands compensation for lost income and makes it a labor law case?
– No. According to the agent, who has had contact with both parties, it has been resolved quite simply and that it was in the best interests of both club and player, says Arne Sandstø.
Expert in sports law, Gunnar-Martin Kjenner, considers that Jerv has acted within the rules of football.
– You do not get the agreement approved by the Football Association until you have a written agreement. If he is entitled to a salary in civil law, I do not know. But he will not be eligible to play without a written agreement, the lawyer states.