You can’t say Faroes than that

Fancy a match report?” Steve Wilson asked me at Dagenham Dan’s wedding recently.  Thinking it would be from your run of the mill European game in Spain, Germany or Italy (nothing wrong with these mind) I of course agreed, but wondered where I could find a home for it.  “Sure.  Where you off to?…”Oh, I am running a marathon in the Faroe Islands and there is THE big derby the next day”.  Steve had me at Faroe Islands, as I am sure he would have in your case.

P1040092The Faroe Islands have been traditional minnows ever since their admission into FIFA in 1988 and UEFA in 1990. Their results would back up this standing, having a record of P152 W18 D15 L119 of their officially recognised fixtures to date (including friendlies), a record not dissimilar to Lewes’s in recent years although I was mildly surprised they had won so many games. However, even the Faroes have had their moments in the headlines for the right reasons – their very first competitive fixture was a Euro 92 qualifier against Austria, which they won 1-0, to the surprise of everybody. Indeed, in the December 1992 FIFA World Rankings, the Faroe Islands peaked inside the top 100 for the only time, attaining a ranking of 94th.

More recently the Faroes have been justifying their minnow status, and at the time of writing sit in 175th in the FIFA Rankings, below such powerhouses as Pakistan, Sao Tome e Principe and Bermuda. The aforementioned victory against Austria, whilst being a home fixture for the Faroe Islands, was actually played in Landskrona, Sweden since there were no suitable pitches on the Islands at the time. Nowadays home fixtures are played at Tórsvøllur, a small 6,000 capacity stadium situated in a sports complex on the edge of the capital city – Tórshavn.

Tórshavn is also the home to two of the ten sides that compete in the highest tier of domestic football on the Islands (the Effodeildin) – Havnar Bóltfelag (HB) and B36 Tórshavn. HB are the most successful domestic side in the Faroes, having won the League title on 21 occasions, whilst B36 have a more modest 9 titles to their name, the most recent coming in the 2011 season. Both sides share the same stadium, Gundadalur, which is a 5,000 capacity, all-weather pitch stadium situated on the same sports complex as the national stadium.

31 August 2013 – HB vs B36 Tórshavn, Gundadalur Stadium
Discovering that the Tórshavn derby was scheduled to be played on the same weekend that I happened to be in the Faroe Islands seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Entry for the biggest domestic fixture on the Faroese football calendar was 80 Krone, which equates to £9 – a bargain compared to the prices charged even at non-league level in England.

P1040088As would be expected, the vast majority of players for both sides are Faroese, however even the Faroe Islands is not remote enough to escape the infiltration of foreign footballers – B36 boasting a Nigerian, a Pole and an Ivorian , whilst HB demonstrate that the Brazilian influence on football is truly inescapable, naming Alex Jose dos Santos in their starting 11.

The crowd, whilst announced as a suspiciously round 1000, were vocal with both sets of supporters having their own drum, helping to create a derby atmosphere whilst still maintaining a friendly ambience, reflected in the fact that the crowd did seem to be family orientated with all ages and both sexes attending. A quirk of the Gundadalur stadium is that both HB and B36 have their own individual stands. Every match is non-segregated, but running down one of the sides of the pitch you can find two small stands, one in each half, each stand decked out in the HB or the B36 colours, with seating to match and identify. Each of these stands also contains a small bar area, which anybody is welcome to use without charge.

The game itself was even. The first half was somewhat scrappy, the inclement weather not aiding beautiful football as the ball skidded off of the all weather surface at every opportunity. B36 took an early lead in the 13th minute when a quick throw in caught the HB defence on the back foot, and a scarcely cleared cross was accurately drilled from the edge of the penalty area on the volley into the bottom corner by Høgni Midjord. One quickly became two, as only two minutes later a HB attack broke down and B36 counter-attacked with pace, the resultant three-on-one swiftly finished with a simple tap-in by Lukasz Cieslewicz. B36 continued to enjoy the better of the first half without further success as the usefulness of the all weather surface in holding up to the constant downpour showed its worth.

Half time also presented an unfamiliar sight, as whilst the substitutes went through their warm-up procedures, anybody else in the crowd was allowed onto the pitch too, resulting in numerous children enjoying a kick-around on the pitch whilst dodging stray balls from the subs.

P1040090The second half was different to the first, and not only in the fact that the downpour finally ceased during half time. HB finally managed to start showing their top of the table class, knocking the ball around well and deservedly getting a goal back in the 57th minute after some good overlapping wing back play (by their resident Brazilian nonetheless) resulted in an accurate low cross, easily converted by Bárður Heinesen. Most of the ground thought that the equaliser had arrived in the 70th minute after a teasing cross was headed home by Heinesen, but whilst the players celebrated, the referee had already acknowledged an offside signal from his assistant. The equaliser wasn’t long in arriving though, as HB’s attacking pressure resulted in a corner only two minutes later. Substitute Christian Mouritsen took it, goalkeeper Trygvi Askham made a complete mess of his attempt to claim it, and the goal was scored directly without any player claiming a touch.

The game opened up a lot more after the equaliser, with both sides pushing forward to try to secure a winner, leaving themselves prone at the back. Askham made amends for his role in the equaliser with a very smart save from Kristin Mouritsen (not to be confused with the scorer of the leveller, Christian Mouritsen), whilst at the other end of the pitch a goalmouth scramble resulted in HB twice clearing off of their goal line, with B36 adamantly appealing to the assistant referee that Adeshina Lawal had had his attempt cleared from behind the line. A case for goal line technology were this the English Premier League as opposed to the Faroese Premier League.

So the match finished 2-2, a fair reflection on the overall nature of the game. It was certainly an entertaining game, with no lack of passion shown by both sets of fans and players, and glimpses of quality in what were difficult playing conditions. Having witnessed a lot of lower division English football, I would probably put the standard of play, given the conditions, on a par with a mid-table Conference match. An enjoyable evening of football in a location that few will have visited.

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