The History and Success Story of the Faroe Islands Football League
The Faroe Islands Football League is probably not one of much relevance, interest or importance of anyone not-connected with the league, its clubs or any sad football anorak intrigued by any world football competitions that has an extremely understanding wife or partner (or more likely without one!). Other than that it is just another football competition that is given little or zero consideration by any average football fan. . In fact given that the Faroe Islands has a population of 49,267 slightly less than the towns of Barry, Cumbernauld or Staines it is likely that many people have only heard of the Danish self-governing territory due to its international exploits on the football field, where they pull of the odd shock result but are generally perennial whipping boys.
Football has been played in the islands for well over one century. It has not however always been the most popular sport. The first club in the Faroe Islands Tvoroyrar Boltfelag TB, was established in1892 and others soon followed with unofficial championships between the recognised clubs being played, or just friendlies between clubs. This was very often weather and circumstances permitting due to the issues such as the weather.
So it is understandable that with little international success and small interest base that not much is written on the history of the Faroe Islands Football League, which is a shame. It is a competitive, interesting league with an intriguing history which is sustainable, and is both popular in terms of participation and support. Sport is popular on the Faroe Islands as it’s often gives the population activity in this remote land. Of the sports in which the Islanders competing in sports it is a popular pastime having a high percentage of participation.
Officially the Premier League of the Faroe Islands was formed in 1942, which a Second Division starting one year later. At this point I would like to point out that you do not need to visit Specsavers (other opticians are available) and I have not made an error. When football leagues virtually everywhere were suspended or severely reduced, the Faroe Islands Premier League began in earnest. It initially included four clubs, with the number of clubs has steadily increased through the decades. Currently the Football League of the Faroe Islands consists of four men’s adult leagues as well as two women’s Leagues a remarkable infrastructure for a small population.
Two major factors accelerated the Faroe’s love of football during this period. One was the influence of Occupation Valentine a British occupation designed to deny the Faroe Islands to the enemy following the German occupation of Denmark 1940. Operation Valentine had a resounding and long lasting effect on the islands, which included the formation of the Faroese Flag and the building of the first and to this day only airport. Football was no exception and expertise and knowledge that the British Troops brought with them helped build the game and as a result British Football competitions remain popular and early unofficial Faroe Islands internationals sometimes included the Orkney or Shetland Islands as opponents.
The second factor was that the nautical competitive events, pastimes and ways of life were severely restricted during World War II. A monument to the memory of over 200 Faroese fisherman stands in Torshavn’s Municipal Park and Highlights the dangers faced by anyone going to Sea in the North Atlantic. German Submarines, floating mines and even the Luftwaffe provided major restrictions on the population of the Faroe Islands. With the majority of the population land bound for large periods of time, popularity of football as a form of entertainment had a major boost, leading to the formation of official competitive leagues for the first time.
The 1944 competition did have to be cancelled as result of the blockade causing an unusual shortage in footballs, leading to the cancellation of the league. This luckily however was the only blip and since 1945 however it has continued expanding to its current position rising slowly but successfully! The Faroe Islands football premier League in recent times has even come into some money, with the rebranding of the league and various major corporate sponsors in recent years. It was for instance known for sponsorship reasons as Vodafonedeildin between 2009 and 2011 (no prizes for guessing the company involved). Despite this It is likely however whatever the amount of sponsorship that the majority of players from the Premier League downwards through the leagues will always remain semi-professional or amateur. Clubs have made investments in foreign players, especially in recent times. Even players with international caps have graced the Premier League such as Brima Koroma (Sierra Leone international) and Mindaugas Grigalevičius (Lithuanian International). While they may not be household names it is still proof positive of the further progression and continuing viability of when gracing the Premier League Competition, but generally the league will remain semi-professional. It certainly will if the clubs and leagues wish to remain stable, suitable and maintainable.
Further improvements in the league have been made especially in infrastructure. While not universally popular in various places and certainly not the UK, artificial surfaces are generally used throughout the league. Grass football pitches do exist within the Faroe Islands negating the need for their national team tom travel to foreign lands to play a ‘home fixture’ as was the case in their first official international when they played a home match in Sweden and beat Austria 1-0!). Digression aside however, without the introduction of artificial pitches now on place, a regular league on the Faroe Islands would be at the mercy of changeable and dramatic weather conditions as ever within the Faroe Islands, as was the case prior to 1942!
Considering the obstacles of low population, mountainous not-ideal for football pitch landscape and remoteness of the location the Fore Islands Football League System must be considered an overwhelming success. Even though the football will never and cannot expect to match the high standard obtained by the English Premier League, German Bundesliga or Spanish la Liga it is of a competitive nature and fair standard for the size of the territory. It is sustainable, popular in its locality and has a high level of participation. So though it is a far flung outpost if you have the time and inclination to visit the Faroe Islands or are lucky enough to be there on other business, find a couple of hours to visit a Faroe Islands Football League match, it will be well worth your while.