Greenland occupies a special place in our hearts. All that fascinates us about the North Atlantic, from football to culture, through the shows offered by mother nature, are taken to the extreme in this human outpost beyond the Arctic circle. In recent times we commonly hear that Greenland is associated with climate change. For a few days it was at the center of Donald Trump’s thoughts, motivated to make it the 51st American state. The proposal, rejected by the Danish government and turned to the sender, was less weird than it seemed and responded to China’s attempt to make Greenland its outpost in the Arctic race.
In short, this immense island of ice – seven times bigger than Italy and with the same population of the city of Cuneo (approximately 56,000 inhabitants) – reserves thousands of reasons of interest. We leave the economic ones to The Donald and Xi Jinping and dive into the football ones. We do it with an exceptional guest, Finn Meinel, vice-president of the Greenland Football Association, who we have the honor of hosting for the second time on our pages.
Football in Greenland is experiencing a time of great development and constant “confrontation”, if we can call it that, with the severe challenges imposed by nature. It is a metaphor for the particular moment that this wonderful country is experiencing, with a future to be built.
1. Dear Finn, the last time we got in touch was at the end of 2015. A lot of things have changed during these 4 years for Greenlandic football. What satisfied you most and what could be improved?
To answer this question and #6 simultaneously, football in Greenland has undergone a riveting development during the last couple of years primarily due to investments in artificial grass pitches resulting in improved opportunities of development in almost all of the larger Greenlandic cities: Tasiilaq, Nanortalik, Qaqortoq, Narsaq, Paamiut, Nuuk, Sisimiut, Aasiaat, Qeqertarsuaq, Qasigiannguit, Uummannaq and Ilulissat soon to be.
However, it is primarily within the futsal world the real development has happened due to the fact that there is a tradition of exercising indoor sports in this country and the fact that most Greenlandic cities has their own indoor hall. The level of Greenlandic futsal is currently just a notch below the other Nordic nations and Greenland has previously participated in several tournaments with various countries – Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden to name a few.
The fact that our nation did not have any full sized football pitch only a couple of years ago testifies of our incredibly development. However, the vision for our football federation is to be implemented in UEFA and FIFA and for this to become a reality there is a lot of groundwork that has to be done regarding FIFA-requirements and not to forget that we still need a national stadium. The investments in artificial football fields have nevertheless only been a first step towards reaching a critical goal for Greenlandic football and to reach that goal we must continue to develop and work hard.
2. In the meanwhile, we have noticed that you have become vicepresident of Greenlandic football federation. What exactly do you do now, in this new role?
My role as the vice president of the Greenlandic Football Federation (KAK) comes with a big variety of assignments all dealing with organizing football in Greenland. Together with the chairman of the board and the other board members we are responsible of developing Greenlandic football nationally and internationally, also have to represent, maintain and expand the image of Greenlandic football to the outside world.
3. Recently, Greenlandic football federation has changed its name from GBU to KAK. Has it only been a formal passage or it has implicated other news?
The name changing of the Greenlandic football federation has been a part of a larger operation that has taken place in order to improve our ambitions within the federation and the development of Greenlandic football in general. For instance, at youth level football we have recently chosen to change the systems from U-18 to U-17 and U-19 in order to make Greenlandic youth football more applicable to the international standards.
Moreover, a new system has been implemented to our championships to improve the efficiency of the operation and strengthen the competitive level. The system is called ‘final 6’ and is to put it simply a final round taking place in week 17 where the 2 best teams from the northern region, 3 best from the middle region and the winner from the southern region meet and compete. This goes for futsal as well as outdoors football.
To return to your question regarding what could be improved about Greenlandic football we as a football federation in Greenland face a lot of challenges and difficulties in further efficiently developing the sport due to restrictions such as 1 month preparation for the preliminary rounds to the outdoor championships ( not an issue with futsal). In addition to this infrastructural challenges also come as a big challenge for some of the clubs but also for us regarding participation in tournaments, training sessions, talent sessions etc. 4.
4. We often receive messages from fans who wonder when we can see Greenland taking part in an official competition. What is needed in order to let this dream come true? How much time will it take in your opinion?
As I mentioned previously the next step to the implementation of the Greenlandic football federation in UEFA or FIFA, which would be a direct route to official international competitions, is the construction of a national stadium. From this step, the primary prerequisites will most likely have been fulfilled, yet, the build up to an application is a longer process that requires patience. The question whether Greenland will partake in an international competition in the next couple of years is in my opinion still too early to conclude on.
Nevertheless, it is not impossible for foreign viewers or enthusiasts to experience Greenlandic football. More recently the Greenlandic national futsal team participated at the ‘Nordic Cup’ (4th – 8th December 2018) in which we competed with other Nordic nations including Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. In September the Greenlandic national team will participate in a larger futsal tournament taking place in Porec, Croatia, where the opponents will be Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Norway.
5. Playing fields are essential for the development of the Greenlandic football. At which stage is the construction of the Nuuk stadium for the national team? Are there a project and any dates for its construction?
Unfortunately, the construction of a new national stadium is beyond our financial capabilities. The latest news to come from the government was that the financial burden was too heavy to be carried solely by the public Finance Act which means that outside funding is required thus no planned date for the construction.
Before the government ruled out the opportunity the world-famous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels produced a draft for the building. Pictures can be found here.
6. We have read that recently a dozen of covered fields have been built on the whole island. Can you tell us where they are? Is the construction of other fields expected?
(Check question 1)
7. Greenlandic football attracts the attention of a lot of fans. Every time we publish an article about Greenland, it gets thousands of visualizations from all over the world. Finding information about the greenlandish championship is not that easy. Are you studying in order to make it easier to follow the Championship from other countries?
I am thrilled to hear about the interest people seems to have in our nation. Most of the Greenlandic and Danish media that cover Greenland do not publish in English, which naturally makes it harder for the outside world to observe our tournaments.
8. Shortly, what can you tell us about the 2019 Championship. Who were the most fearsome rivals for the former champions of B67?
The national club championship 2019 was held at the beginning of August in Sisimiut and consisted of 6 teams (the new system ‘final 6’ as previously mentioned.) Before this, preliminary rounds were taking place to decide who had to participate at the final 6 round.
The previous champions B-67 were beat in the semi-finals by Nagdlunguak’ from Ilulissat who later went all the way and won the final against G-44 from Qeqertarsuaq. For this reason it might be safe to say that Nagdlunguak’ is still B-67 biggest competitor. Regarding rivalry B-67 has during recent time developed a fierce rivalry with the local team IT-79.
9) Tell us about the best and worst moment of this year championship… for example, we’ve read about B-67 difficulties to join Sisimiut and that only 4 teams have participated to the female championship.
It is true that B-67 had difficulties arriving at the championship in time for the opening ceremony and opening games, which caused some rescheduling of games and other plans. In Greenland, we have a lot of respect for the nature and weather, as we unfortunately cannot control the weather. The arctic conditions has always been one of the major challenges we as a nation has had to face in the process of developing a greater football nation.
However, despite the slight delay the rest of the tournament was well and smoothly executed without further obstacles. As I told earlier, Nagdlunguak’ came out on top of this year’s Final 6, which I believe is evidence of how Greenlandic football has developed over the last couple of years. B-67 and teams from Nuuk has been overly dominant for a long period now, and it is therefore pleasing to see football clubs from other cities stepping up to a new level of football.
It should be noted that the team from B-67 this year consisted of mainly one U17 player and U19-players together with some senior players. Many of the starting players from last year’s team were unable to participate this year for a variety of reasons. We only had 6 players available from last years 19 players. Important players that we missed where amongst other Ari Hermann, Niklas Thorleifsen, Norsaq Lund Mathæussen, John Ludvig Broberg, Christian Knudsen, Loke Svane and Peter Knudsen.
10. In an old article of ours, we talked about Ummannaq and FC Malamuk. From our research, we have discovered that it is the soccer team that plays more north in the world for a handful of degrees: 70.6766 against Hammerfest’s 70.6634 which hosts the Hammerfest FK, which plays in the third Norwegian division. They won the title in 2004 and was runner up in 2014. Although they often dominates the northern group of qualifiers, they have not participated in the championship for a couple of years. Why? And what are the societies of the most remote areas of Greenland?
The lack of participation from FC Malamuk is primarily due to the infrastructural challenges we as a nation face.
11. Finn, you’re a hiking enthusiast. What are the most fascinating places that you would recommend visiting to those who choose Greenland as a travel destination?
Here in Greenland we are so lucky that we find the most beautiful nature spots almost in our own back yards. If it is possible to get on a boat I can recommend a trip away from the city, out to the fjord, where you can find some astonishing landscapes. If you find yourself in Nuuk and hiking is a priority I can recommend a hiking trip around Quasussuaq which is for everyone no matter the fitness level. On this trip you can experience a beautiful view of the fjords and the mountainside.
If you are a little bit more adventurous you might want to climb Ukkusissaq (750 m tall) which will provide you with a wonderful view of the city Nuuk. The areas in South Greenland have a special beauty and very scenic landscape. Sisimiut boast an exciting backcountry for the outdoor enthusiast both summer and winter. It goes without saying that Ilulissat with its world famous icefiord is worthwhile a visit, as well as the majestic fiord of Ummannaq.
12. Greenland is often cited when it comes to climate change. Are these changes perceived in Greenland? And how do you live them?
The climate changes will in a rising degree have an influence on all aspects of our society and nature. Especially the wildlife has as you might know started to experience the consequences of these changes. The continuing climate changes and melting of sea ice will to a larger extent create difficulties for people to practice traditional means such as dogsledding which has been used as transport. For this reason, hunters no longer have the same amount of time and the same areal space as they used to. The minimization of dog sledding would for some mean a loss of our national culture and traditional lifestyle.
13. Climate change, autonomy from Denmark, the small centers of Greenland that are slowly depopulated while the big centers like Nuuk, Sisimiut and Ilulissat grow from year to year. How do you see your country from here to the next few years?
As Greenland and the Greenlandic society rapidly have underwent, a modernization over the last century I believe our nation has become more likely to follow global trends including urbanization. Some also speculate about the effects of climate change saying that we in the future might see people move from different parts of the earth due to rising water levels. This will probably have an impact on the traditional Greenlandic culture and lifestyle due to our relatively small population.
In the short term, the amount of permissions issued for mining has been rising which potentially could see the Greenlandic economy to a boom resulting in job creation and attraction of foreign direct investments. Despite all the negativity surrounding the prosperities in the climate discourse, the rising temperatures might also benefit the Greenlandic economy and especially the agricultural sector as the growing season probably will be lengthened. No matter the outcome, I firmly believe we will see some changes in this country over the next couple of years.