x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Putting Faroes on the map

I yearn to don the Faroe Islands scarf and witness a match at Svangaskard, the tight and impossibly remote Toftir pitch lurking beneath the series of hardened villages.

A football match at Nordragota, Eysturoy, Faroe Islands. Although the Faroese did not shake up Euro 2012 qualifying with the 2-0 victory against Estonia on Tuesday, it certainly struck a chord with our columnist. Courtesy of Photolibrary.com
A football match at Nordragota, Eysturoy, Faroe Islands. Although the Faroese did not shake up Euro 2012 qualifying with the 2-0 victory against Estonia on Tuesday, it certainly struck a chord with our columnist. Courtesy of Photolibrary.com

The Nordic island group gained a new fan in this American with victory against Estonia in Euro 2012 qualifying

Faroe Islands 2, Estonia 0

 

Well now, just look at that vision sitting right up there. Not one iota of ill will toward Estonia, but did you ever see anything prettier?

That score line from Euro 2012 qualifying emanated last week from Toftir on the inner edge of the island of Eysturoy in the eastern Faroe Islands, and we should just take a moment here to thank all the reporters and witnesses who helped it emanate. What excellent emanating.

After all, sometimes uncertainty can emerge from such an extreme corner, as with one tourism website claiming Toftir has 832 people while another official website goes with 823. Such a curious discrepancy, which could mean nine people moved away - maybe one hour to join the 19,000-and-change in the metropolis of Torshavn - or that nine people died, or that nine people were born, and for cheeriness, let's go with that one.

What does give certainty, though, is two-nil, and that within the 23-year certified history of the national football team of the Danish province up there somewhere in the Norwegian Sea between Norway and Iceland, this marked the first win in European Championship qualifying in 16 years, and the first win in qualifying for big things since the 2-1 conquest of Lithuania in World Cup qualifying in September 2009.

As the should-have-been football commentator Epicurus put it, "The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it."

Glory be.

Back in 2009, the reigning Faroe Islands manager, Brian Kerr, who managed Republic of Ireland from 2003 to 2005, supplied to The Irish Times a quotation almost insuperable in the grand history of managerial quotations. Speaking of his squad, he said:

"We have four carpenters, at least six full-time students - one of them had to fly to Copenhagen and back for an exam this week - two policemen, one accountant, one fella works in a sports shop, two teachers, Andreas works in a bowling alley and he's doing a bit of carpentry as well. Simun is full-time in Iceland, Suni works in a fish factory, I think Frodi's a builder, Jakup is a teacher, but he's on the town council as well ... That's kind of the run of it. The pool is quite limited, there's no one at Milan we've missed out on. The Granny Rule isn't much help either; the Faroese haven't been huge at emigration."

Yeah, you can almost hear Fabio Capello speaking likewise, while picturing John Terry pitching in with the council or Frank Lampard helping out some devoted fan with his taxes.

Now, I have never been to the Faroe Islands. Nobody I know has ever been to the Faroe Islands unless somebody went and forgot to tell me. And beyond that, as far as I know, nobody who knows anybody that I know has ever been to the Faroe Islands.

But while milestones such as Tuesday night turn up, I yearn to don the Faroe Islands scarf and witness a match at Svangaskard, the tight and impossibly remote Toftir pitch lurking beneath the series of hardened villages and down by the foreboding water. Maybe I'll even learn a Faroese chant or two.

Kerr told The Irish Times that about 2,000 people turned up on Tuesday night, not bad at all for a nation of only 48,000 people and lightly challenged census takers. Joining them sometime would rank among the most extreme football experiences on the planet - with all indications being that, yes, it is on the planet - for these people hold a wisdom shared by so few. They know in their resilient bones that the deeper the thirst, the richer the flavour of the water.

So you could both revel in their mirth and envy them their experience from Tuesday night, when Frodi Benjaminsen (perhaps a builder) scored a 43rd-minute penalty, and Arnbjorn Hansen swept in a rebound off a saved penalty kick four minutes later, and revenge did come for the downer from 10 months prior when Estonia overtook Faroe Islands in Tallinn with two goals in extra time.

Svangaskard deepened its globally secret mystique, with the Faroese having won twice and drawn once when playing for Kerr in that perilous nook, and with Kerr being arguably the greatest manager on earth.

It did not jar the Group C standings particularly, but it did help me choose my match for my daydream Toftir debut. That would be coming on September 2, when the 6,000-capacity Svangaskard will welcome, well, Italy. As we glom-on Faroe Islands supporters might like to say, Oh, to be on Eysturoy that night.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae