The highest football division in the Faroe Islands is called the "Vodafone Division" (Vodafone deildin in Faroese), where Vodafone is the name of the sponsor. 10 clubs are competing for the championship title. The teams play 3 times against each other, which in total gives 27 matches for each. The 2 bottom teams are relegated to the 1st division.
The 10 clubs are (for the 2010 season, in alphabetical order): AB Argir, B36 Tórshavn, B68 Toftir, B71 Sandoy, EB/Streymur, FC Suðuroy, HB Tórshavn, ÍF Fuglafjørður, NSÍ Runavík, Víkingur.
The Cup competition, Løgmanssteypið ("the Prime Minister's Cup") starts in late March and the final is played on the national day "Ólavsøka" on July 29th in Gundadalur Stadium, Tórshavn, the capital (2010 Cup program.)(Note: The 2010 final is postponed to 6 August and moved to Klaksvik because of disagreements between the Tórshavn City Council (who owns the Gundadalur Stadium) and the Football Association).
The players in the Faroese football league are not full-time professionals, but hold normal jobs such as being a carpenter, teacher, policeman, clerk and so on, or they study. However, money has crept into the game more and more during the last few years, and maybe a few of the players can be described as semi-professionals by now.
Quite a few foreigners have played in the Vodafone Division during the last seasons, mostly from East European countries, Serbia especially, but there have also been players from Brazil, Argentina, Denmark, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and other places.
But as the global economic slowdown has also hit Faroese football, players’ wages were lowered considerably in 2009 and the number of foreigners has also decreased.
Video of a 2008 league match between EB/Streymur and HB Tórshavn. Take a look at the awesome move for EB/Streymur’s opening goal at 0:45:
The Faroese Football History
Although football is not the national sport in the Faroe Islands (rowing with old traditional Faroese boats is), it is by far the most popular.
The first club, TB Tvøroyri, was established already in 1892. The next two clubs to be founded were KÍ Klaksvík (in the early years KÍ participated in other sports than football which they didn’t start playing until 1911) and HB Tórshavn, both in 1904 (by the way the same year as FIFA was founded, but that was probably just a coincidence).
In 1905 and 1906 three more clubs were founded, and today there are 22 clubs competing in 4 divisions: The Vodafone Division, 1st division, 2nd division and 3rd division. (Here we only mention men's football. The women also play, but that's another story ;-)
Although football is more than a hundred years old in the Faroe Islands, the first official league championship wasn't played before 1942. KÍ Klaksvík won it.
1944 is the only year since then when there hasn't been competed for the championship. The reason was, amazingly, that there weren't enough (foot)balls in the Faroe Islands that year, they say:-)
The Faroe Islands played their first international match in 1930 against Iceland, which Iceland won 1-0. The Faroes also played 3 games against Shetland that year; drew one and lost the two others.
Faroe Islands join FIFA and UEFA
Up until 1988, when the Faroe Islands were accepted as a member of FIFA, the Faroes almost only played against Shetland and Iceland and on a few occasions against the Orkneys and Greenland. In 1990, the Faroes also became a member of UEFA.
The Faroe Islands played their first FIFA registered match against Iceland in 1988. Iceland won a narrow 1-0 victory.
In April of 1989, the Faroe Islands played a friendly international against Canada which the Faroe Islands surprisingly won 1-0. Goal scorer was Torkil Nielsen (17 months later he would score another goal that became one of the most famous goals in world football ever – more on that story below). This was a very significant result for the Faroe Islands, as Canada had actually participated in the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. So, from earlier having been satisfied with beating other island-communities like Shetland and the Orkneys, the Faroes had now beaten a World Cup team. This was by then the proudest moment of Faroese football.
Faroe Islands beat Austria in first ever qualifier
But it was noting compared with what was to come just 17 months later. The Faroe Islands had decided to take part in the qualifying tournament for the European Championship in Sweden in 1992, and the first match was on 12 September 1990 against Austria, who just 3 months earlier had taken part in the World Cup finals in Italy.
Most people in the Faroe Islands expected a heavy defeat, and anything under 0-10 was seen as an ok result by many. But, the Faroese team surprised the whole world by beating Austria 1-0. – This result has since been regarded as one of THE most surprising results in world football ever! Goal scorer was Torkil Nielsen.
Video of Faroe Islands beating of Austria in 1990 (goal at 1:00):
Although the Faroe Islands were formally the home team, the match was played in Landskrona, Sweden. This was due to the fact that there was no suited grass-pitch in the Faroe Islands at that time. Most teams played on artificial pitches (of which the first came in 1986), but a few still played on sand pitches. Now there are two football stadiums with grass pitches which are used for the internationals, but the league is only played on artificial pitches (except in Hvalba, were lower division club Royn play their matches on real grass).
However, since the victory over Austria in 1990, the ride has been a bit bumpy and the point-harvest hasn't been great for the national team, although there have been some proud moments. The victories have been few and far between. In qualification matches (since the Austria victory), the Faroes have only won against 4 countries: Malta, Luxembourg, San Marino (twice against each) and Lithuania. In the same period, the Faroe Islands have managed 8 draws; twice against Scotland and once against Austria (18 years after the famous win in 1990), as the most noticeable. But maybe the 2-2 draw at home against Slovenia in 2000 should rank even higher than the Scotland and Austria draws, because Slovenia actually qualified for the World Cup in 2002 from that qualifying campaign.
But then there are more losses than we care to count:-) Some have been with a big margin and others have been very narrow. For example in 2003, the Faroes held Germany for 88 minutes, but then the Germans (of course) scored two goals at the death. In the reverse encounter in Germany the year prior, there was only a post-out in the dying minutes denying the Faroes a 2-2 draw. The biggest losses are 8-1 and 7-0 against Yugoslavia, and another 7-0 against Rumania.
In 1992, Faroese clubs took part in European Cup tournaments for the first time. In the Champions League qualifying round KÍ Klaksvík lost 3-1 (home) and 3-0 (away) to Skonto Riga from Latvia, and B36 lost 1-0 away to Avenir Beggen from Luxembourg and drew 1-1 at home in the qualifying round for the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
The following year, HB Tórshavn progressed to the first round of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup having beaten RAF Yelgava from Latvia 3-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round. However, only the first leg of this tie was ever played due to the reason that the Latvian side never showed up in the Faroe Islands for the second leg. Therefore UEFA awarded HB a technical 3-0 victory. The Latvians had won the first leg 1-0 at home in a match HB otherwise dominated and could (and perhaps should) have won. If HB would have won the return leg at home, we'll never know, unfortunately.
But as a whole, there hasn't been too much to celebrate for Faroese clubs in European Cup tournaments. – A handful of home victories and a few draws, but a long list of defeats, especially away from home, where Faroese clubs have found it very difficult to perform. If we include the UEFA Intertoto Cup, the record loss for a Faroese club in European competitions is 10-0! This happened to HB Tórshavn in 1995 away to Tromsø IL from Norway. In 2004, B68 Toftir lost 8-0 to Latvian outfit FK Ventspils in the UEFA Cup, and on the same day, B36 Tórshavn lost 8-1 to another Latvian team, Metalurgs Liepajas, also in the UEFA Cup. In 2002, GÍ Gøta lost 8-0 away to Hajduk Split in the UEFA Cup. These are a few examples of how difficult it has been on away soil.
But in 2005 and 2006, there was finally something to cheer about when B36 Tórshavn progressed in the UEFA Cup and the Champions League. In 2005, B36 progressed to the 2nd qualifying round of the UEFA Cup by beating Icelandic side IBV Vestmannaeyjar 3-2 on aggregate. In the 2nd qualifying round, B36 lost narrowly 4-3 on aggregate to Danish Superliga Club, FC Midtjylland. The following year, in 2006, B36 competed in the Champions League where they beat Birkirkara FC from Malta 5-2 on aggregate and therefore progressed to the second qualifying round where they met Turkish giants Fenerbahce who won 9-0 on aggregate.
Faroese players abroad – professionals
There aren't too many Faroese professional football players around, and those who are, mostly play in the lesser leagues of Europe.
But in April of 2010, the moment which every Faroese football player and fan has dreamed about, finally arose when the then 22-year old goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen made his debut in the English Premier League for Manchester City in a league match against Arsenal. Nielsen replaced the injured Shay Given in the 73rd minute of the match and managed to hold a clean sheet during the remaining 17 minutes + 5 minutes of added time. However, as Nielsen lacked experience from the highest level, City chose to bring in a more experienced goalkeeper to play in the 3 remaining fixtures of the season.
The below image is a screen dump from BBC which documents the historic moment when a football player from the Faroe Islands for the first time ever played in the English Premier League.
Nielsen is still contracted at Manchester City but has been loaned out to Tranmere Rovers in League One from the start of the 2010 season. Nielsen joined City in February of 2009 when he signed a two and a half year contract with the Manchester club who were then managed by Mark Hughes. Nielsen had come from Blackburn whom he had joined in 2007. Manager for Blackburn then was – Mark Hughes! In the summer of 2010 Nielsen's contract was extended by another year so that it runs to the end of the season of 2012.
Prior to Nielsen's feat, striker Todi Jónsson had always been seen a the Faroese player who had come the longest way – and many still rate Jónsson's achievements higher than the limited time of Nielsen in the Premiership.
Jónsson played in the Danish Superliga for many years where he won 3 championship titles with FC Copenhagen as well as the Cup title on one occasion. Jónsson also became the all time top scorer for FC Copenhagen and the most scoring foreigner in the Danish Superliga before he joined Norwegian club Start Kristiansand in 2005, where he played to the end of the 2006 season and then retired. However, he had already retired from the national team in 2001 (he made a short comeback in 2005, playing a couple of matches). In 45 matches for the Faroe Islands, Jónsson scored 9 goals, which was the scoring record for the national team until Rógvi Jacobsen broke it in 2007 when he scored his 10th goal for the Faroe Islands in a 3-1 loss away to World Champions Italy.
Also goalkeeper Jákup Mikkelsen, who retired from the national team in 2009, has played in the Danish Superliga where he helped Herfølge win the Danish title in 2000. He later played for Molde in Norway for 2 seasons and had a short spell with Partick Thistle in the Scottish Premier League before he returned home to the Faroes in 2004 (In Norway and Scotland he spent most of the time on the bench).
Julian Johnson, who retired from the national team in 2006, played for 4 years in Norway, and also had a short spell with Hull in the English 3rd division in 1993. He also played in Iceland, where he won the Icelandic Cup with Akranes in 2003.
Several other players have played in Iceland, but really, it's questionable how much better the Icelandic league is than the Faroese. – Maybe a fraction, but that's all.
A handful of other players have played in the Danish top division, but have found it difficult to become regular 1st team players. Many players have also played – and still play – in the Danish 1st division.
Although Gunnar Nielsen became the first Faroese football player to play in the English Premier League, a few youngsters had had trainee contracts with some of the clubs in the Premier League.
Ingi Højsted had a trainee contract with Arsenal, but he was back in the Faroes with B36 Tórshavn in 2005. But at the end of the season he signed a contract with Birmingham, who then were in the Premier League, but he never appeared for the first team in the league, however. He rejoined B36 in 2006, but has been battling injuries almost since.
Jóhan Troest Davidsen signed a trainee contract with Everton in 2004, but he returned to the Faroes in 2006 and now plays for NSÍ Runavík.
In 2005 Christian R. Mouritsen signed a trainee contract with Manchester City. He returned to HB Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands in 2008 and currently plays for B36 Tórshavn.
In February 2010, 18 year old B68 forward/attacking midfielder Jóan Símun Edmundsson joined Newcastle United, who then played in the English Championship, for the rest of the season with an option for a longer deal. As Newcastle have now been promoted to the Premier League, it will be interesting to se what role Edmundsson will have at the Tyneside club in the future. So far he has been playing for the reserves and has scored several goals and created them for others.
Conclusion: Why you should be interested in Faroese football!
Because it is the most exciting league in Europe! – Yes, I can prove that :-)
Let's compare some of the leagues in Europe with the Faroese League in a 20 year period from 1981 to 2000:
In that period, no less than 11 different clubs won the national championship in the Faroe Islands. Not many leagues can compete with that. They're just too easy to predict. In Portugal for example, only 3 clubs have managed to win the title in that same period. That's no fun! In Scotland and Holland, only 4 clubs divided those 20 titles between them. Yawn! In Germany and Spain, that number was 6. Nothing to get excited about! In Belgium it was 7. France, Italy and England come closest, where the titles have been won by 8 different clubs in the 20 year period from 1981-2000.
However, after the year 2000, it looked like the two big Tórshavn clubs, HB and B36, were taking a stronghold on the championship by winning 6 titles in a row from 2001 to 2006 (HB 4 and B36 2). But that monopoly was broken in 2007 when NSÍ Runavík won their maiden title, and in 2008 EB/Streymur accomplished the same feat.
That means that no less than 6 different clubs have won the Faroese title during the 10 years from 1999 to 2008, and the Faroese league still remains as sound and competitive as always.
Granted, maybe you'll see better football in the England, Spain and Italy, but it is a bit boring when only 2 or 3 clubs ever win the title. So, when it comes to variation and unpredictability, those high profile leagues cannot compete with the Faroese football league.
And hereby I have proven that the Faroese football league is the most exciting league in Europe:-)
So, yes, you should definitely still follow Faroese football! Choose one of the clubs below as your favourite and be sure to visit www.SoccerAndEquipment.com on a regular basis to get the latest news and results from the Faroese football league.
Note: Ravnur FC (the newest club, founded in 2008) exist on paper, but have still not participated in any competition).
SÍ Sørvágur and SÍF Sandavágur are previous independent clubs that now play in the adult divisions under the unified name of 07 Vestur, but both clubs participate independently in the youth divisions with their original names.