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Saturday, September 20, 2014


Football in Greenland is still very much of an unknown quantity to most football fans across the world, apart fom an abortive attempt at obtaining UEFA and FIFA membership in the late 1990s. However, the advent of the internet is slowly changing that, and, since the end of the last millenuim, one native of Denmark has been assisting the Greenland FA - the GBU (Grønlands Boldspil Union) in their attempts to improve standards both on and off the pitch.

Jens Tang Olesen has been assisting the GBU since 1999, firstly as assistant national team manager to Sepp Piontek, and, after Piontek's departure in 2001, he held the top post himself until 2005. Since then, he has busied himself with running football schools on the federation's behalf and assisting in the development of Greenland's coaches at all levels and in all parts of the country.

Pat's Football Blog has been in irregular contact with Jens Tang Olesen over the past few years, with a view to obtaining his thoughts on football in Greenland, but (through no fault of Mr. Olesen's) has been unable to do so - until now. Please find below the results of a quickfire question and answer session with Mr. Olesen.

PFB: I have one big question first of all: will Greenland be sending both men's and women's teams to next year's Island Games in Jersey, and do you intend to go?  

JTO: I think that GBU will send both men's and women's teams to Island Games 2015 in Jersey – but I will not be there, because I have nothing to do with the national teams.

PFB: I would like to know how you became involved with the GBU, and also a little about your background, if you would be willing to share anything. How long ago did you become part of the GBU staff? Were you living in Greenland at the time?  

JTO: I have always lived in Denmark, where I have been football coach/trainer for many years – about 1980 I started as semi-professional coach and from 1986 I was full-time professional coach in different clubs in Denmark. I have been a football-coach instructor for the Danish football federation (DBU) since 1973, where I was instructor at a lot of football-coach courses in Denmark. From about 1995, I was the leader of different Sport/Football schools for youth players in Denmark.

In 1999 I started my job as national football coach in Greenland; this was together with Sepp Piontek – from 2001 I was alone with the national team, but from about 2005 my job inside GBU included Coach-education and we started with GBU – Coca-Cola football schools in Greenland.

PFB: The GBU made an attempt to join both UEFA and FIFA during the late 1990s, but it never really seemed to get anywhere. What happened? (I understand you once spoke at a conference in Copenhagen about the subject.)  

JTO: [The new GBU president] John Thorsen has sent a letter to DBU to ask them about this situation – I think this is a good now, because DBU has got new president of the board and a new director [at the head] of the DBU.

PFB: What do you think about the standard of football in Greenland at the moment? Do you think that it has changed much from when you first became involved with the GBU?  

JTO: The standard is higher than when I started in Greenland, because the players and the clubs are working more seriously today – the biggest challenge is that the football pitches in Greenland [are made of] sand and it is very difficult making football development with bad pitches.

PFB: The GBU, with help from the DBU, has been busy over the past few years with organising courses for referees, coaching and managerial staff, and has been organising events in places such as Qaanaaq. Do you think that the standard of coaching and refereeing has improved in Greenland?  

JTO: Yes –  the standard going up in every way in Greenland. GBU have started to educate their own football coach and referee instructors, so that the language used on the different courses will be Greenlandic.

PFB: Will events such as the children's days which have been held in Qaanaaq [in the far north of Greenland] be held in other isolated places in the near future, like the villages in East Greenland such as Ittoqqortoormiit? 

JTO: GBU has a motto; “GBU will develop Football in the whole of Greenland” – and already in 2009 (perhaps 2010) we have a person from Ittoqqortoormiit [hosting a] GBU – Coca-Cola football school. In 2012, two persons from Ittoqqortoormiit were in Tasiilaq participating in a FIFA football coach course and every year since 2009 they have arranged GBU – Coca-Cola football school.
PFB: What do you think have been the most important developments in Greenlandic football during your time with the GBU? 

JTO: Also in Greenland they know that education is one of the most important things to make development, this is also true for the people inside sport/football in Greenland – TV, Internet and mobile are other things which have been very important, because Greenlanders can get news at the same time as everybody [across] the whole world.

PFB: What are your own plans for the future, both inside and outside the GBU, and how do you see the future for football in Greenland? 

JTO: I am ready to help and work for GBU as long I can – if GBU wanted it. I am now 66 years old, so I take one year at time.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Jens Tang Olesen for his kind assistance and patience; hopefully, there will be more to come!

For those interested in football in Greenland, a resumé of the results from both the regional qualifying tournaments and the finals of the men's GM 2014 will, hopefully, be published here in due course. Contact has been established with the GBU with a view to publishing a comprehensive run-down of both stages of the men's national championship; apologies for the delay.

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