Monday, 3 June 2013

Greenland get ready to come out of hibernation

One of the world’s most reclusive national teams is preparing to come out of hibernation for their biennial tilt at success.

Greenland’s challenge for the 2013 Island Games football title in Bermuda in July has a greater chance of success than ever with just four teams entering the tournament in Bermuda: the hosts, Greenland (above in red), the British controlled South Atlantic territory of the Falkland Islands and the Norwegian isle of Froya.

The Greenlanders’ pre-game schedule starts with a game in the capital Nuuk on June 29 with a Nuuk XI. Greenland, which finished eleventh at the last Island Games in the Isle of Wight in 2011, then leave the Arctic on July 2 for a training camp in the Danish city of Odense.

Two days after arriving, Greenland will take on a side drawn from the Danmarks serie team and U19 College at Odense Boldklub (OB) before another friendly against Serie 1 side, Odense KFUM.

On July 8, Greenland will play a final game before flying out to Hamilton with a match against Svendborg, home to one of the few Greenlandic players playing overseas: Kazza Zeeb.

On July 9, Greenland leave for Bermuda. The best performance by Greenland’s men’s’ XI is a fourth place finish at the first Island Games football tournament in the Faroe Islands in 1989 but in the Isle of Wight two years ago the Greenlandic ladies side took bronze.

The Island Games football tournament has featured up to 16 sides in recent years but the cost of traveling to Bermuda by a group of islands mainly in Europe has decimated the number of entries. With only four sides playing in Hamilton, Greenland are at least certain of equaling that 1989 performance.

A medal of any shade would be a major fillip for the footballers on the world’s largest island, which – despite 80% of its landmass being covered by ice – does not have a full-size artificial pitch.

Although handball is popular, the Arctic islanders love football but have to play on hard pitches of sand often pitted with stones. The handful of grass pitches are in sparsely populated areas in the south, situated amongst land grazed by sheep.

Although Greenland gained greater self-rule in 2008, Denmark remains in control of foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with a home rule government. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made clear in the past that Greenland needs independence and membership of the United Nations before the Grønlands Boldspil-Union (GBU) can join the world body and access funding for much-needed infrastructure like artificial pitches.

Although the GBU severed ties with the Danish association in 1996, the Danes secured U$D400,000 from FIFA’s Goal programme towards a U$D 500,000 artificial pitch in Qaqortoq (below). 

The pitch is not full size and Qaqortoq only has one club, K-33. The only other artificial pitch is in the capital Nuuk and even smaller.

Greenland’s manager Toennes Berthelsen (pictured on the sidelines of Greenland’s 2011 Island Games fixture with Minorca) is raising funds for another small artificial pitch measuring 20 metres by 40 metres in Maniitsoq.

What the GBU really want is a full-size artificial pitch in a major population centre such as Nuuk, where a quarter of Greenlanders live, to tempt foreign teams to visit. Danish club side Herning toured in the 1970s but the only other visitors have been from the Faroe Islands.

A proposal was put forward in the Greenlandic parliament in 2011 for full-size artificial pitches to be laid in Iluissat, Nuuk and Sisimiut. This came to nothing. The GBU hope that the idea can be revived but for now traveling abroad every two years is the only option for one of the world’s most isolated national teams – isolated that is, in every sense.


Anonymous said...

What is Greenland's situation? Are they trying to improve their infrastructure and join UEFA/CONCACAF? If I remember correctly, their main stadium in Nuuk has dirt pitch so it could be difficult to host any serious games. Greenland handball team played with success im Pan American championship - maybe football federation can sometime join CONCACAF.

P.S. Regards from Poland, keep up the great work :)

Steve Menary said...

Only when Greenland join the UN can anything happen.

I've updated and enlarged the story, hope this helps. Thanks for the kind words

Harry said...

Hi Steve,

Love the blog! Have you thought about setting up a wiki or a full fledged site to possibly catalog the independent teams? I feel that at times Wikipedia doesn't tell the whole story. For example, I was interested in finding out more about the Monaco national team, and you had written a couple of great posts about them. It was slightly hard to find this info, even in Google.

Steve Menary said...

Hi Harry,

With Wikipedia & Monaco, you have to be careful. I've met the team and some of the players that Wikipedia say are eligible are not at all; they simply play for ASM.

Glad you like the site


Harry said...

I think that's even more of a reason to set up a wiki or site. You could post factual information about a given team.

If you have any interest, would you like to discuss collaboration on this? If so, please email me at

Steve Menary said...

Thanks Harry will give it some thought