In a change from recent years, the final stages of the 2023 Greenlandic national championship was held between 10-15 August, not in north-central Greenland, but in the southern town of Qaqortoq, due to local club K-1933 celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. The club, the oldest existing club in the country, actually celebrated its anniversary on 15 June, and it was the first time they had hosted the tournament since 2013.
Also just for a change, unlike many Greenlandic football grounds, Qaqortoq Stadion did not - and does not - offer views of the open sea and icebergs, but it does offer a view of Tasersiaq (a local lake which provides Qaqortoq with its drinking water) and environs, which is also one of Greenlandic football's most under-rated and beautiful vistas.
One of the most picturesque vistas in Greenlandic football, and not an iceberg in sight - Taseriaq lake, seen from Qaqortoq Stadion
Eight teams - hosts K-1933 (naturally enough), last year's champions Nagdlúnguak-48, Nuuk representatives B-67 and IT-79, G-44 from Qeqertarsuaq, Upernavik side UB-83, the northernmost club taking part this year, Sisimiut's SAK and Ittoqqortoormiit AK, from Greenland's easternmost and most isolated settlement of any size - were due to take part in this edition of the finals.
There were problems aplenty before the tournament began. Just over a week before it kicked off, one of the dugouts and part of the technical area in front of it were destroyed in a fire which took the local fire-brigade around an hour to extinguish. Arson appears to have been the most likely cause of the blaze.
Then, during the week before the tournament, four clubs, reigning champions N-48, SAK and Ittoqqortoormiit AK and UB-83, scratched from the tournament. N-48, themselves 75 years young this year, withdrew because the journey they faced to Qaqortoq would have taken a number of days and would have proven to have been prohibitively expensive.
Ittoqqortoormiit AK, having been invited by the KAK (the Greenlandic FA) to take part, also had to decline due to travel issues. The club, which would have been the youngest to take part (it was founded in November 2018), informed the KAK that their travel itinerary would have proved a challenge to complete at the best of times.
They would have had to have taken three flights - from Ittoqqortoormiit to Tasiilaq, Tasiilaq to Reykjavík and from Reykjavík to Narsarsuaq - and then undertake a two-hour (hired) boat-trip to Qaqortoq.
All that with a squad of just twelve players due to a number of squad-members having to withdraw due to their jobs as "catchers" (as described by local newspaper Sermitsiaq), which presumably referred to their jobs in the hunting, fishing or trapping professions.
UB-83 withdrew because they were unable to book flights from Upernavik due to all flights in the period before the tournament being fully booked; many students originally from the town were returning home for the holidays, whilst others - and tourists, presumably - were leaving for Nuuk and further afield. The team were even unable to book berths on local cruise ships.
SAK, meanwhile, were drafted in to replace Ittoqqortoormiit AK, but they also scratched because several of their squad were on a reindeer hunt at the time, and it was unclear as to when they would be returning to Sismiut, let alone being able to organise and undertake a trip to Greenland's deep south.
As a result of all of the late withdrawals, only five clubs were down to take part before Eqaluk-54, from Tasiusaq, down the coast from Qaqortoq, were invited to round the total of participants up to six; they gladly accepted the challenge.
K-1933, hosts of the final stages of the 2023 Greenlandic national championship, who finished in third place
Day one kicked off with IT-79 taking on Nagtoralik-45 in front of a sparse crowd, and although Nagtoralik took a very early lead, the Nuuk side came back to eventually win by three goals to one, with Allan Madsen scoring two of them.
The second game of the day, featuring last year's runners-up and perennial title favourites B-67 and perennial chalengers G-44, lived up to its billing as the match of the day. The northerners took the lead after two minutes, but B-67 soon levelled; the remainder of the game followed a similar pattern, and after ninety minutes, it was G-44 who came out on top by three goals to two, Aputsiaq Andersen scoring the winner direct from a corner on precisely 61 minutes.
Hosts K-1933 took to the pitch to play Eqaluk-54 in the final game of the first day, and they soon took centre-stage, carrying on the theme of the first two matches by scoring in the first couple of minutes. Three up at the break, they soon scored a fourth in the early stages ofcthe second half. Eqaluk held on gamely for most of the rest of the match, but collapsed with injury-time looming and conceded three goals in the last few minutes of normal time and injury-time, before scoring a fine goal themselves with virtually the last kick of the ball.
The second day of action began with IT-79 up against B-67 in what many would have considered a prequel to the final, but B-67 took control of this particular Nuuk derby with the mercurial Ari Hermann putting them ahead after just 87 seconds with a brilliant goal, racing into the penalty-area, bamboozling a couple of defenders and deftly beating goalkeeper Malik Mikælsen at his near post.
Mikælsen performed heroics in the first half, denying B-67 on at least three occasions in one-on-one situations alone before being beaten by Rene Eriksen Petersen's crisp shot into the bottom corner in the dying seconds of the first half.
Outclassed in the first half, things quickly got worse for the Students in the second. Mika Jensen Thyssen was shown a straight red card for a last-man foul just outside the box in the 53rd-minute. Ari Hermann did the needful from the resulting free-kick. Fourteen minutes later, Milan Olsen attempted to boot the ball into the ball into the proverbial Row Z from almost on his own goal-line, but instead thrashed it into his own net with the outside of his right foot.
Angutimmarik Kreutzmann tapped in a fifth for B-67 before IT-79 finally got on the scoreboard with a sublime 40-yard chip from Kuluk Ezekiassen, which B-67 keeper Brian Rosing Kleist could only stand and admire as it flew over his head and into the net. Victor Philbert, making his debut at the national championship stage, scored his first goal at that stage for B-67 to compound the Students' misery. It would not be his last.
K-1933's Alex Tillesen's 11th-minute volley was all that separated his side and Nagortalik-45 at the end of a dour first half in their match, but if the first half was a bit stale, the second was anything but. Flent-Frederik Petersen volleyed N-45 level before Nuka Mark Petersen put the hosts back in front two minutes later with a gentle daisycutter which careered into the roof of the net after the N-45 keeper tried and failed to dive and fist the ball away, volleyball-style.
Kuluk Hermansen outran the K-1933 defence and rammed the ball into the bottom corner with just under twenty minutes left to level things up once more. Five minutes later, Nuka Knudsen back-headed the hosts back in front from a free-kick, and that was enough to seal their second win of the tournament and send their fans home happy.
G-44's Niels-Erik Eriksen received all the plaudits after his first-half, five-goal haul against Eqaluk-54, but Inooraq Svendsen scored one of the goals of the tournament, a low piledriver from outside the right-hand angle of the penalty-area in the first ten minutes to get the ball rolling, as it were.
It was just as well the net was there, otherwise the ball would have made a hole in the mountain at the far side of the lake behind the pitch (one of Greenlandic football's most under-rated vistas in the opinion of your correspondent), it was travelling so fast. Mercifully for Eqaluk, no more goals followed in the second half as G-44 took their collective foot off the pedal.
G-44 had to put the pedal to the metal from the start in their next game against an IT-79 side smarting from their heavy defeat against B-67 the previous day. There were no goals in an evenly-contested first half-hour, but the fun started when the ever-reliable Kunuuteeraq Isaksen popped up in the right place at the right time to head G-44 ahead and this was quickly followed by a Lukka Svendsen goal to double their lead.
Gerth Skifte soon pulled a goal back for the Students, however, and Allan Madsen went in where it hurts to bravely head them level early in the second half. Søren Kristiansen scored a brilliant solo goal to put G-44 in front once more before Madsen levelled again. Angutitaq Broberg scored a penalty to edge the northerners in front yet again, and Niels-Erik Eriksen scored from 20 yards out to re-establish their two-goal cushion. Hans-Karl Berthelsen reduced the arrears by whipping in a free-kick from the right touchline which flew over the G-44 keeper's head and into the net, but it wasn't enough to gain IT-79 a share of the spoils.
Bernhart Simonsen was at the end of a neat five-man move to put Eqaluk-54 ahead in their fixture against Nagtoralik-45, and Ian-Inuk Nielsen doubled their lead before half-time. Goals from Kikkik Dahl and Steen Kleist-Møller brought Nagortalik-45 level before the hour mark, and in the last ten minutes, either side of a fine Innunguaq Geronne goal (a lob from 40 yards), Kuluk Hermansen scored twice, finishing off counter-attacks on both occasions as N-45 gained their first win of the tournament.
K-1933's fans were raucous throughout their game agsinst B-67, to the point that every time their team crossed the half-way line, it sounded less like a crowd at a football match and more like a crowd at a boyband concert. B-67 silenced them on seven occasions, however, with Ari Hermann pulling the strings in midfield.
Four minutes in, Søren Kreutzmann fired them in front with a fierce shot from an acute angle which flew between the goalkeeper's hands and into the roof of the net, before Bentiaraq Ottosen rose to meet a corner-kick and superbly headed the ball into his own net after 18 minutes. Victor Philbert added a third a minute or so later, and scored his second of the game on 40 minutes after the move of the game, which started from the back and involved Hermann and Eriksen Petersen, among others. Kreutzmann got his second of the match just shy of the hour mark, before Angutimmarik Kreutzmann scored a late double to seal not only an impressive win for the title favourites, but their place in the final.
The host team's defence endured another torrid 90 minutes in the first game of day four, when they conceded eight goals to IT-79. Rene Thomsen scored five of them, four of them in the first half, with the first of them - surrounded by three defenders, he somehow managed to curl the ball into the far corner - the best of the bunch. Not to be outdone, Cuno Hammeken scored a scintillating hat-trick for K-1933, each goal better than the last. His second and third goals were virtual carbon-copies of each other; on both occasions, he outfoxed three defenders in an extremely compact space before thrashing the ball into the roof of the net.
G-44's Aputsiaq Andersen and Aqqaluk Heilmann both rattled the crossbar at either end of their team's game against Nagtoralik-45, but Andersen, Søren Kristiansen and Mikkel-Kvist Villemsen all scored to ensure a comfortable margin of victory, and a place in the final, for the team from Qeqertarsuaq at the end of a match in which they never really had to over-extend themselves.
The final game of the day was a case of David versus Goliath, with Eqaluk-54 up against B-67, and, to be frank, David didn't stand a chance. Keeper Rama Nielsen was in the firing line right from the start as Nikki Petersen put B-67 in front after three minutes and Angutimmarik Kreutzmann hit the crossbar moments later, before Viktor Philbert continued his rich vein of form in the tournament with a goal after eight minutes. B-67 went on to score another four goals to lead 6:0 at the break.
Kreutzmann and Philbert went on to score hat-tricks, and substitute Nicolai Nielsen, who came on just after the hour mark, hit five goals - three of which were tap-ins, the other two were shots from outside the box. Two penalties from Niklas Thorleifsen, plus Petersen's goal and one from Jonathan Rosing, completed the scoring. Despite conceding fifteen goals, Eqaluk-54 keeper Rama Nielsen made several good saves and couldn't be blamed for any of the goals. B-67 were just ruthless.
Day five began the same way day four ended, with another heavy, heavy defeat for Eqaluk-54, this time at the hands of IT-79. Ten different players scored for the Students as they racked up an 8:1 lead going into the break before scoring another six without reply in the second half. Rene Thomsen led the way with a hat-trick, while Hans-Karl Berthelsen and Lars Ole Olsen grabbed a brace apiece.
Eqaluk's Ian-Inuk Nielsen had an interesting first-half, to say the least. He scored an own goal in the first five minutes, kneeing Rene Thomsen's cross into his own net, before seeing his penalty saved by Minik Andersen five minutes later and then scoring a fine goal himself just before the break. Team-mate Rama Nielsen had another torrid ninety minutes in goal, but once again saved his team on several occasions.
B-67 were already virtually certain of their place in the final before their last group game against Nagtoralik-45 kicked off, but they were made to work hard during the first half by their resolute opponents before Rene Petersen put them ahead in the forty-second minute after being put through by Victor Philbert, one of the finds of this tournament.
The second half threatened to be just as frustrating for the team in blue, but four goals in a 17-minute spell put paid to the frowns. Nikki Petersen, Karsten Møller Andersen - from the penalty spot after Philbert suffered a low-level assault from N-45 keeper Mika-Peter Hansen - Patrick Oteri Fredriksen and Nicolai Nielsen all got their names on the scoresheet.
On to the final day, and Nagtoralik-45 condemned Eqaluk-54 to the wooden spoon after coming out on top in the fifth-place play-off, winning by the odd goal in five, but E-54's evergreen Kilaasi Ludvigsen rounded things off by scoring one of the goals of the day with moments to go, a superb effort from outside the box which flew into the top corner of Nukaaraq-Pavia Dahl's net.
Eqaluk were always going to be up against it, a local side drafted in at short notice, and results unfortunately did not go their way at all. They suffered heavy defeats in most of their games, but they never, ever gave up and kept trying to play good football. N-45 - who ended up using four players as goalkeepers during the tournament - played better than their results suggested, and gave B-67 and IT-79 a good run for their money, although they didn't really get going against G-44. Both teams gave good accounts of themselves in their own ways and will hopefully be back gracing Greenlandic football's top table in the not too distant future.
Hosts K-1933 were looking to earn a place on the podium for the first time in fifteen years when they took on IT-79 in the third-place final. K-1933, five times winners of the GM, hadn't won a title since 2003, and hadn't finished on the podium since they lost to B-67 in the 2008 final.
The Students, on the other hand, winners for the one and only time five years ago, had finished in the top three at every final tournament since they came third in 2014, and yet another third-place finish looked a distinct possibility when Marco Lynge put them in front early on with a header from a corner, but Hans-Karl Berthelsen missed a golden chance to extend their lead when he slipped just as he was about to shoot from the six-yard line, his tame shot saved by home keeper Arne Simonsen. K-1933's Alain Vetterlain was denied by Malik Mikælsen when keeper kept his point-blank effort out after 50 minutes, but team-mate Alex Tellesen beat Mikælsen seconds later with a deft chip from the edge of the area to level things up.
A five-man move from the back from the home side culminated with Allan Vetterlain pushing the ball to one side of Leik Mørch Eskildsen on the right, sprinting past him on the other before threading the ball between goalkeeper Mikælsen and defender Pauli Thomsen to Tellesen, who had toddled into the left-hand side of the penalty-area, and he stroked the ball into the net to put K-1933 in front with 23 minutes left. IT-79 huffed but eventually ran out of puff as the hosts ran the clock down any which way they could to finish on the podium for the first time in fifteen years to spark off wild celebrations amongst the home support.
And it was a deserved third place for K-1933, who, apart from during early defeats to B-67 and IT-79, had played pretty well, with Alain Vetterlain and Alex Tellesen spurring them on on the pitch, and a raucous support doing likewise off it. IT-79's run of podium finishes came to an end, and despite Hans-Karl Berthelsen, now approaching veteran status, playing as well as he has done in the last few years, the team as a whole was somewhat below par and at times looked defensively frail.
B-67 were strong favourites going into the final against G-44, and were looking to avenge their 3:2 defeat against them on the opening day of the tournament. It was a pretty staid opening first half-hour, punctuated only by G-44 keeper Peter Berthelsen admirably dealing with shots from Søren Kreutzmann and Rene Eriksen Petersen. Everything changed on the half-hour, however, when Nicolai Nielsen bundled the ball over the line from close range to put B-67 in front.
Six minutes later, they moved further in front, qnd it was a result of Ari Hermann once again doing, well, Ari Hermann things. His 36th-minute free-kick on the right was only scrambled clear until a few yards outside the box, and Hermann, who had cut inside from the right, ran on to the loose ball, struck it on the run with his left foot and curled a beauty in to the top corner.
He as good as put the game beyond doubt four minutes later, when he finished off a six-man move initiated by keeper Brian Rosing Kleist (and involving excellent work from Eriksen Petersen) by putting the ball through Berthelsen's legs and into the net from twelve yards. Berthelsen responded by sportingly giving Hermann a congratulatory pat on the back.
Any lingering hopes the team from up north had of staging a comeback were well and truly dashed three minutes after the restart. Ilasiannguaq Martinsen received a pass from team-mate Aqqa Lynge and went to pass the ball across the defence but failed to notice the backtracking Nicolai Nielsen, who intercepted, turned and lifted the ball over keeper Berthelsen and into the back of the net from fully thirty-five yards.
In the fifty-eighth minute, Karsten Møllen Andersen powerfully headed Søren Kreutzmann's gently-floated cross from the left past Berthelsen to make it 5:0 for the title favourites, who had totally dominated since taking the lead on the half-hour mark. B-67 had two good chances in the remaining half-hour to further embellish their lead, but Victor Philbert and, in injury-time, Søren Kreutzmann spurned them, narrowly missing the target on both occasions.
In the end, the missed chances didn't matter as B-67 had completed their revenge mission on their northern opponents for their opening-day defeat in emphatic style, pretty much in keeping with their performance throughout the rest of the tournament, which saw them eventually bulldozing their opponets into submission. Some might say that the quality of the opposition was sonewhat diminished by the absence of teams such as Nagdlúnguaq-48, but, as the hackneyed old social media one-liner goes, you can only beat what's in front you.
One man who was understandably very happy with how things turned out was B-67 captain Patrick Oteri Frederiksen, who told PFB that he enjoyed the tournament, and that even the venue was "beautiful with amazing surroundings." He was also very positive about B-67's performance as well as his own, but he did have just one regret.
"It was just a shame that one of the best teams in Greenland [Nagdlúnguak-48] couldn't come..I think we showed really good class and team spirit throughout the tournament, even though we lost our first game in a very close and even game.
"Our goal from the beginning was to get gold, so I was confident about my play. I knew my abilities and that my team-mates trusted me. So, overall I am glad that we took home the gold and also [happy about] the individual awards players got - many of us were on the Team of the Year."
Kenneth Kleist, B-67 chairman and now the newly-elected KAK chairman, agreed with Frederiksen's thoughts, including those on N-48's absence, saying that "it wasn't optimal for anyone," and said that the championship felt a little incomplete without those teams which were part of the original line-up but had to scratch.
He added that "B-67 was the best team and deservedly won the championship. [They] started the championship against G-44 and, although they were heavy favourites, they lost 3:2. It was a big surprise.
"After this first scare, it was with more focus and dedication that B-67 [got through to] the final against the very same G-44. This was a very one-sided match, which B-67 deservedly won against [a young team] from Qeqertarsuaq. B-67 had a lot of new, young players and quite a few national team players, so they had a super team and were probably impossible to beat [to the title] in 2023."
It was impossible to argue with the assessments of both men; G-44 caught B-67 cold on the opening day of the tournament, but the perpetual favourites roared back and swept everyone aside to deservedly claim their fourteenth championship.
As ever, they had a strong spine from Brian Rosing Kleist in goal through defenders such as Patrick Oteri Frederiksen, Rene Eriksen Petersen, and Søren Kreutzmann in midfield, to Nicolai Nielsen and one of the finds of GM2023, Victor Philbert, up front. Not forgetting Ari Hermann, who was in spellbinding form. G-44 will still be smarting from their heavy defeat in the final, their heaviest since they lost the 2010 final 5:0 to..B-67, but their young, ebullient side played aawell throughout the tournament.
Goalkeeper Peter Berthelsen impressed, as did old-stagers such as Kunuuteeraq Isaksen and Inooraq Svendsen, and young guns like Nuka Abia Broberg (who started the final), Kelvin Jessen and 16 year-old Norsaq Olvik all played their part. They formed part of what was a rather youthful squad; only Svendsen and Ilasiannnguaq Martinsen were 30 or older.
Nine of the squad were 20 or under at the time of the tournament, and this augurs well for the future, especially if the squad can stay together. They were, as ever, followed by a group of faithful supporters; although smaller in number than at previous tournaments, they still brought a splash of colour to proceedings.
And, there was also a little piece of history made at the tournament. Qaqortoq native Tove-Katrine Egede Motzfeldt became the first woman to be part of a tournament list of match-officials when she was selected for this year's tournament, and she was the first to be part of the panel of a final when she was employed as fourth official behind referee Jens Gerner and linesmen Aputsiaq Larsen and Hans-Erik Enoksen.
Although B-67 and Nagdlúnguaq-48 will be the favourites to lift the title next year, G-44 will be a team to watch out for, when, due to their celebrating their 80th anniversary, they will be hosting the tournament, which will take place from 12-18 August at their picturesque Qeqertarsuaq Stadion, something which will delight football-loving iceberg-watchers everywhere.
Sadly, the women's final tournament didn't take place this year, apparently due to the KAK being too tardy in planning not only it, but also the ladies under-15 and under-18 championships. Next year's edition is slated to be held in Nuuk - where it should have been held this year - between 29 July and 4 August. Just don't expect any icebergs, though.