I finally got round to visiting the Faroe Islands last week. The missus was away with friends and I had a scout around for flights to somewhere reasonably close. Atlantic Airways flies direct from Edinburgh to Tórshavn on Fridays and Mondays, 1 hour 25 minutes – perfect.
From what I knew about football in the Faroes I thought it would make a good comparison with Lewis and Harris with which I’m very familiar, and which also plays summer football. I have to say that, though it has twice the population, the game in the Faroes is far more professional, far higher in standard, with far more clubs and far better stadiums. All stadiums have a 3G carpet or better. Grass was never a success and in the good old days the pitches were just gravel. For a starting point, check out the encyclopaedic FaroeSoccer website. A more detailed site you will never meet, right down to lower league and women’s football – one for the stattos.
I did a lot of research for just 4 days and 3 nights away, and discovered that the major islands in the group are linked by tunnels or bridges, and apart from some of the outlying islands I could reach everywhere within about an hour from Torshavn. However I decided to spend the first night away up north in Fuglafjørður where there was a game in the Effodeildin (Premiership) against local rivals Víkingur Gøta at 1830. Match day 20 of 27. I managed to arrange a B&B with Katrin Hjelm within walking distance of the stadium.
The airport is actually on the island of Vágar, while Tórshavn is on the adjacent island of Stremnoy.
It was a drizzly morning with low mist when we touched down at Vága airport but the day would improve. I didn’t want to spend long on the island but it would cost DK100 every time I used the tunnel to the ‘mainland’ so after picking up my hire car I made a detour, literally 2km down the road, to the village of Sørvágur, and á Dungasandi, the home of 07Vestur, who play in the first division, 1.Deild.
Lying clear in second place they should be back in the Effodeildin next season. 07 refers to the year of formation and also that the island of Vágar is 7 degrees west. Like many others in Faroe they are a young club as the result of a merger. Shame about the poor weather as I was hoping for a view down the fjord to the magical island of Mykines.
After this I drove east through the 4.9km Vágatunnilin to Stremnoy and onwards to Stremnes where I had a quick photostop at Við Margáir which is the home of another merged club in 1.Deild, EB/Streymur. Along with 07Vestur, they should be promoted at the season’s end barring a total collapse.
Over the bridge and eastwards into the next island, Eysturoy, where my first stop was at the petrol station at Nesvik, where I bought a hot dog in the absence of anything better. Rather than a bun, it was encased in a sort of half-baguette pouch into which the girl squirted a load of mustard, most of which ended up on the tarmac 10 minutes later.
Snapping away at the scenery, I arrived in the pretty wee village of Eiði which, before the merger with Streymur, was the home of EB (Eiðis Bóltfelag). Another idyllic site for a stadium.
After another drive over the moors to the touristy village of Gjógv and more photos, it was time to get a move on and reach Fuglafjørður, but not before a quick detour into Norðragøta where tonight’s opposition, Víkingur Gøta, play at Sarpugerði.
I realised that I had actually seen Víkingur play at Ibrox in a previous incarnation in 1997 as GÍ Gøta, before yet another merger, with Leirvík ÍF.
Finally I got myself along the road and the fish factory town of Fuglafjørður hove into view. From my limited knowledge I reckon it means ‘bird fjord town’.
I quickly located my B&B then got along to the most celebrated bar/restaurant in town, Muntra. Muntra has been run for the past 45 years by a true gent called Poul, who was delighted to show me all his pennants and souvenirs from Scotland’s disastrous 2-2 draw in Toftir in 2002 when the team visited his place.
Poul was happy to recommend Black Sheep, from Föroya Bjór, at DK40 for a 330ml bottle, with my fish and chips, and help me pronounce the name of the town. Hear Poul on YouTube.
Then it was a very steep walk uphill to the stadium, Í Fløtugerði, for the 1830 kick off. I chatted up another friendly gent whom I had met in Muntra and he kindly pronounced this for me 🙂 Hear it on YouTube.
ÍF (Ítróttarfelag Fuglafjarðar) are not regarded as one of the bigger clubs and their only title win was in 1979. Founded in 1946, they were currently in 6th place in the Effodeildin. Opponents Víkingur were in second place and have regularly featured in the Europa League qualifiers although they have never won the Faroese title.
There was a healthy crowd as this was clearly the big event in town that night. Most of the stadium’s 350 seats quickly filled up and a good couple of hundred people crowded around the exterior fence, including young mothers pushing buggies. The street above the ground was busy with people watching but I’m not sure how many actually paid their DK80 (about £9.50. I cursed the Brexiteers as the pound had fallen since I booked the trip). Plenty of free programmes available – a decent effort with 24 pages.
The game had barely started when Sorin Anghel put the visitors ahead. Erling Jacobsen made it 2 from the penalty spot in 17 minutes and the homesters didn’t really look like overturning this.
The Serb, Filip Djordjevic, sealed the win with about 10 minutes left although Dánjal á Lakjuni, who appeared to be the darling of the home crowd, pulled a goal back near the end for 1-3. Another home favourite, the Brazilian Clayton Nascimento, did little better against the Víkingur defence. It was never a dirty game but there were 7 yellows, including two in the first half for ÍF’s Karl Løkin.
I had promised I would go back to Muntra for a quick beer. This time it was the Pilsener which was only(!) DK35 for a 330 ml bottle, and then it was time to hit the hay as it had been an early start for me. It was turning out to be a wonderful trip.