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Wednesday, March 12, 2014


2013 was, in many ways, a dramatic, if not traumatic year for football in Greenland, more so off the field than on it. The year will not be looked on by many involved in the game there as one to remember in an overly fondly way, but it may prove to be a catalyst for change in some respects, and it did have its bright spots.

The 2013 Greenlandic men's national championship was won by Nuuk side B-67 after defeating Qeqertarssuaq's G-44 3:2 in a closely-contested final on 21/8/13, at the end of a week-long tournament held in the southern town of Qaqortoq, but it may turn out to be a tournament which will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

B-67's triumph was marred somewhat by the arrest of two of its squad the day before the final on suspicion of possession of and intent to sell marijuana.

Binge drinking and drug use apparently occurred during the competition, but the true extent of both is unclear. State TV and radio station KNR stated that the country was in "uproar" following the revelations of alcohol and drug abuse during the competition. The two B-67 players arrested were suspended by the club, and expulsion from the club, plus a suspension from all GBU (Grønlands Boldspil Union) competition, looks probable. B-67, shortly after news of the arrests was made public, released a statement to the press in which the following (with apologies for any errors in translation) was included:

"It should be made clear that the club takes a strong stance regarding marijuana and other drugs, and [as a result of the allegations] the club has immediately suspended the two players and expelled them from the squad. If they have been found to have broken the law with regard to marijuana, they will be excluded from the club.

"B-67 Football Club has worked hard on the development of football, in particular focusing on children and young adults, and we are very proud of how far we have come.

"The club has, in addition to a serious approach to training, a number of basic values that we propagate and demand that club members must comply with, such as leading a healthy lifestyle, plus respect for themselves and for others.

"Now the club is allegedly faced with a case that goes against all of its core values, which has left everyone connected with the club very disappointed. 

"B -67 is now considering how we can actively engage in the fight against alcohol and cannabis, which is obviously a big problem in this country."

The two players involved, whose identities were not revealed, were released after questioning by local police in the men's GM play-off competition venue, Qaqortoq. The Deputy Chief Officer of Greenland's police force, Morten Nielsen, was also quoted on the KNR website as saying that no other players or staff were currently helping police with their enquiries. He added that it was "unfortunate that two persons trading in cannabis would lead to unfounded suspicion being placed on the whole team."

The club, meanwhile, suggested that drugs tests become mandatory at next year's national championship, which was something to which the GBU reacted positively, and, subject to costs and assistance from the GIF (Grønlands Idrætsforbund) - Greenland's national athletic association - drug-testing may see the light of day this summer in Nuuk.

Meanwhile, five players from K-64, were accused of indulging in binge drinking sessions during the group stages of the national championship play-offs; the accusations compounded a miserable first appearance at the national finals for the club from Kuummiut in the east of the country, in which the club lost all four matches played. 

The GBU had considered banning K-64 from taking part in next year's national championship; in fact, Lars Lundblad, who was GBU chairman at the time of the 2013 national play-offs, said that K-64's participation "might look more like a party instead of taking part in a championship."

Not only had the GBU threatened to suspend K-64 from the 2014 competition, but it even went as far as to consider suspending automatic qualification for the winners of the East Greenland regional championship forcing all clubs from eastern Greenland to take part in that of West Greenland. 

Unsurprisingly, the proposal inevitably led to an angry reaction from those involved in East Greenland's football scene, including ATA Tasiilaq treasurer Aviaaja Ikila Abelsen, who told the Sermitsiaq newspaper that a decision to cancel the regional East Greenland tournament would be detrimental to football in the region, and perhaps put a stop to clubs from that part of the country taking part in the national championship for years to come.

Such a decision would, of course, have hit clubs in the east of the country financially as well; potentially, it would have meant that any club from there who managed to make it through the West Greenland championship would have to finance two trips outside their own region in a matter of weeks. This time round, it took K-64 several days to make the journey to Qaqortoq, including a three-day stopover in Nuuk.

"We already have a very hard time getting together money for participation in the GM (Greenlandic national championship) ..We do not collect enough money to travel to West Greenland twice with a football team - it's impossible," Ms. Abelsen added.

She also mentioned that it had taken a long time for the east of the country to finally get its own regional championship, and concluded by asking why should other clubs from the region be punished for K-64's mistakes, which was a very valid point.

It could also be argued, however, that K-64 as a whole did not deserve to be punished for the sins of a few; why, then, why would B-67 not then be suspended for the transgressions of two of their players who had been arrested and charged with breaking the law?

In the end, the GBU saw sense, back-tracking from a position which was little more than a knee-jerk reaction to the K-64 controversy, instead issuing the club with a warning about the future conduct of its players. A relieved club chairman and manager, Knud Mathiassen, emphasised that only five of the team were drinking during the tournament.

During the Northern Greenland qualifying tournament earlier in the year, it was discovered that last year's losing finalists, Nagdlúnduak, had fielded an ineligible player, and were stripped of their two victories against G-44 and I-69, both of whom went on to represent the region at the national championships. 

The GBU had requested that the squad-lists for each team taking part in the championships be submitted in June; they were submitted in July, and the GBU still regarded them as being valid, though claimed that the player in question had been a Nagdlúnduak club member for less than the required 30-day period, something disputed by the club. All of the controversies ensured that Greenlandic football had to take a good look at itself; it did, and it eventually did so in a sensible manner.

Drug use is on the increase in Greenland, and the GBU decision to at least look at the possibility of introducing dope-tests as future championships is a step in the right direction in tacking the issue. With regard to the alcohol issue, Greenland is probably no worse than anywhere else; however, the local Inuit population does, generally, have a very low level of tolerance when it comes to alcohol, and the rather conservative sectors of the population still frown upon its consumption.

On a more positive note, the 2013 national championship play-offs were the first to see live coverage on the state television station KNR of every single match in the tournament, an impressive feat for the station and which was surely something unprecedented amongst countries of a similar size anywhere in the world. Plans are afoot to repeat the experiment later this year when the national play-off will be held in Nuuk.

The GBU also busied themselves with refereeing and coaching courses in various parts of Greenland, and also held what the association's education and project manager Jens Tang Olesen called a "FIFA Football Festival" in the country's northernmost town, Qaanaaq.

The men's and women's national teams took part in the 2013 NatWest Island Games, which were held in Bermuda in July and both teams finished runners-up in their respective competitions behind the host nation. The women's team, although soundly beaten by Bermuda in the group stage, twice defeated the team from the Norwegian island of Hitra to set up a final against Bermuda on 18/7/14. The hosts prevailed, but only by 5:4 on penalties after a scoreless 90 minutes.

The men, meanwhile, lost out to an 88th minute penalty in the final against the host nation, a decision that looked anything but clear-cut. They had lost 3:0 to Bermuda in the group stage, but followed that up with two resounding victories: 12:0 against Frøya, from Norway, and 9:0 against the Falkland Islands; apart from taking home the silver medal, Greenland also had the consolation of being the tournament's most prolific goal-scorer, scoring 21 goals against Bermuda's 20.

There was to be more sad news for Greenlandic football as illness, plus a heavy workload, caused Lundblad to step down as GBU chairman in mid-November; the events that took place during the national championship must also have taken their toll. Lundblad, himself a player of some repute during the 1970s and 1980s, not to mention one of the country's top managers, was at the helm of the GBU for several years, was replaced by John Thorsen at the beginning of 2014; the new man will have a pair of big shoes to fill.

The end of November saw the Faroe Islands Futsal team visit Greenland for a quick-fire series of games over three days against Greenland's A and B-teams; it was a landmark for the GBU's indoor football specialists as the matches marked Greenland's first-ever official Futsal matches against foreign opposition.

The historic first match took place in front of a sparse crowd at the Inussivik Sports Hall in Nuuk on 29/11/13, with the Faroes running out 8:6 winners against the Greenland B team in a game of two 20-minute halves. The squads were as follows:

GREENLAND: 1 John KREUTZMANN; 2 Katu MADSEN; 3 Jenseeraq ADOLFSEN; 5 Jens Peter DAHL; 9 Pavia MØLGARD; 10 Maasi MAQE; 13 Inooraq SVENDSEN; 14 Nukappiaraq D THORLEIFSEN; 16 Palu PETERSEN


The Faroe Islands went in at the break 1:0 up, but the fun and games came in the second-half, with Greenland taking a 2:1 lead early on, before the visitors found themselves 8:3 up with just three minutes left. Greenland then scored three times in just over a minute, but were unable to complete a sensational comeback.

The second instalment of the Faroes' tour, played against the Greenland's A team in front of a considerably larger crowd at the same venue a day later, saw the Faroes 2:1 ahead at half-time, though the second half saw several goals and a historic result: Greenland scored 5 without reply to win by 6 goals to 2 and, in the full Futsal national side's first match, record their first win against international opposition.

GREENLAND: 1 John KREUTZMANN; 4 Jákob MÚLLER; 6 John Ludvig BROBERG; 7 Frederik FUNCH; 8 Johan BIDSTRUP; 10 Maasi MAQE; 11 Gazza ZEEB; 12 Arne HANSEN; 15 Markus JENSEN; 17 Norsaq L MATTHÆUSSEN

FAROE ISLANDS: 1 Halgrim G HANSEN; 2 Alex Jose DOS SANTOS; 3 Hanus JACOBSEN; 4 Jakub S OLSEN; 5

Greenland's A team made it a double against their Faroese counterparts on 1/12/13 with a 5:3 win, to ensure that 2013, a year that gave those connected with football in Greenland much to contemplate, ended on a positive note. 
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Much of the information contained above came from local websites and; the remainder came from this blog's own archives.

More detailed reports on both the men's and women's national championships are to be found elsewhere on this blog.