Born in the small town of Hornefors in northern Sweden, Gunnar Nordahl is one of five brothers, each of whom was a football player. They all played in the amateur club of their hometown, immediately making up almost half the team. In his free time, the brothers helped his father, a hereditary blacksmith. This profession in the Nordale family was passed from father to son for several generations, but Gunnar, the middle brother, first changed the traditions and in 1940, at the age of nineteen, moved to the larger city Degerfors, where he became a firefighter. At the same time, he played at the local Degerfors club. The Second World War did not touch Sweden, true to its neutrality. Therefore, peacefully continued to play football here, when the Nazis occupied neighboring Norway, and neighboring Finland fought on the German side.
Speaking for Degerfors, the firefighter Nordal quickly became his top scorer, receiving the nickname “Bison”. It was well suited to his appearance – Nordahl was distinguished by impressive height and weight and easily made his way through the defensive orders of his rivals, but not at the expense of strength, but thanks to a unique and unexpected technique for handling rivals. However, he perfectly cooperated with partners, skillfully choosing a position in order to get a sharp transfer.
The fame of his extraordinary ability of the goal-leader reached, finally, even to a larger city – Norrköping, where there was no longer an amateur, but a professional football club. In 1943, Gunnar signed the first professional contract in his life, quit his job as a fireman and moved to the Norrköping Club. Here he immediately showed to his partners and fans what he was capable of. After the first season with Nordal in the attack, “Norrköping” became the champion of Sweden and then repeated this success for four more consecutive seasons. In 1945, Nordal scored seven goals in one of the matches – since then no one has surpassed this achievement in the Swedish championships. Just after this match, he was invited to the Swedish national team for the first time.
During these years, in the “Norrköping” efforts of the coach – Hungarian Lajos Chayzler, there was a magnificent troika, which in addition to Gunnar Nordal himself included Gunnar Gren and Nils Lidholm. Nordahl acted on the edge of the attack, Gren and Liedholm a little behind. They had an absolute mutual understanding, it seemed they could find each other on the field with their eyes closed. This trio was so played that the fans began to call it in one word – Gre-No-Lee. Together they began to play in the national team of Sweden, which in 1948 achieved the highest success for that time, having won the XIV Olympic Games held in London. It was the first Olympics since 1936. In the final, the Swedes beat a strong team of Yugoslavia. It is curious that in addition to the shock three of Gre-No-Lee, two elder brothers of Gunnar, Knut and Bertil, also played in the Swedish team at the Olympics. It was Gunnar Nordahl who became the top scorer of the final Olympic tournament, scoring 7 goals, and in general during the years of playing in the Swedish team showed unprecedented results, scoring 44 goals in 33 matches.
It is not surprising that, after the Olympic Games, eminent European clubs began to get accustomed to the outstanding Swedish scorer, as well as to other players of the Swedish team. Wanting to try his hand at a strong Italian championship, in 1949, Gunnar ended up in Milan. At the same time, two of his brothers moved to the Apennine Peninsula: Knut to Roma, and Bertil to Atalanta. But only Gunnar was destined to achieve brilliant successes in Italy.
In January 1949, he spent his first match for Milan. To the end of the season, to the delight of fans, the Swede scored 16 goals. However, the play of the other forwards did not suit the hosts of Milan, and, on the advice of Gunnar Norddal, they outbid Gunnar Gren and Nils Liedholm from Norrköping, and at the same time invited the Swedish club Lajos Chaisler to Milan. From now on, the Gre-No-Lee bundle played together again, thrilling all other Italian clubs.
In the season of 1949–1950, Gunnar Nordahl became the top scorer in Italy, scoring 35 goals – this result remains the unshakable record of the Italian championships. In the spring of 1951, Milan became the champion for the first time in more than four decades, and Nordahl was again the winner in the dispute between scorers, scoring 34 goals this time. In the next four seasons, he was the best sniper three times. He scored 27 goals in the 1954–1955 season, when he was already thirty-four years old.
Some football exploits of Gunnar Nordal are now remembered in Italy as legends. Once in the game with Napoli, the defender grabbed him by the shirt, but Gunnar dragged him almost twenty meters behind him and scored a goal. In the match with Fiorentina in the goalkeeper’s area, three men hung on his shoulders at once, and Nordahl crossed with them – and with the ball! – the goal line. But with its extraordinary strength, the Bison was distinguished by its good disposition and generosity.