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Tuesday, August 9, 2022


A fair number of Greenland-born footballers have moved abroad down the years to study, find work or try and carve out a professional career in Denmark. Famous Greenlandic footballers are not exactly ten a penny, however, and the name Jesper Gronkjær crops up every time someone mentions something about the subject, more often than not in an article on the final stages of the country's football tournament, which will also invariably include the hackneyed "shortest football championship in the world" and/or "the football championship which only lasts a week" one-liners. 

Gronkjær was born in Godthåb (now known as Nuuk, of course) in 1977, where his mother worked as a nurse and his father found work as an electrician and a butcher, but he and his family moved to Denmark after five years in Greenland when he was only three years old, and the former Ajax, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid player, who went on to win 80 caps for Denmark, has never really had any further connection with the land of his birth.

A number of Greenlandic players have made the trip to Denmark in the last twenty-five years or so, most notably Rene Overballe, Niklas Kreutzmann, Aputsiaq Birch and Anton Overballe (the last two of whom should be familiar to anyone who reads PFB). Nowadays, some of the country's best Futsal players, international players Malik Juhl, Federik Funch and Malik Heimarij among them, have found a home for their skills in Denmark.

And, young Asii Kleist Berthelsen has been making waves in Denmark as a member of women's champions Fortuna Hjorring's squad over the past couple of years, and, as a result, has become a regular member of Denmark's under-age squads.

But, perhaps the first Greenlandic-born footballer to play the game abroad was Svend Ringsted, who was the son of Carl Ringsted, one of the Danish colonial administrators in Greenland at the time of his birth. Ringsted, whose story somewhat mirrors that of Gronkjær, was born in Julianehåb (now Qaqortoq) on 30 August 1893. 

Ringsted's father was returning to Denmark on a year's leave in 1896 when the ship he was travelling on, Castors, was lost off Cape Farewell, Greenland's southernmost point, in 1896, and all hands went down with the ship. In all, twenty-six people, twenty-one crew and five passengers, perished. The rest of the family - Carl Ringsted's wife and four children - including three year-old Svend, moved back to Denmark a year later, never to return to Greenland. 

Ringsted left secondary school in 1911, and joined Akademisk Boldklub the same year, and stayed with them until 1923. He won two Danish titles with them in 1919 and 1921 and also represented Denmark on five occasions, making his debut away to Sweden on 20 October 1918 in a 2:1 win.

The defender was also part of the Danish team which travelled to Antwerp to take part in the the 1920 Olympic Games under former Seaton Burn and Newcastle United manager Jack Carr, but did not play as Denmark were elminated in the first round after losing 1:0 against Spain. His fifth and final cap for Denmark came on 12 June 1921, when the Danes drew 1:1 against Holland in Copenhagen.

Ringsted qualified as a mechanical engineer during his time at Akademisk, and, after retiring from football, went on to manage and sit on the board at a number of companies, including that of his son. Svend Ringsted died in Hillerød, near Copenhagen, in 1975, at the edge of 81, and was survived by his wife and two children.

Svend Ringsted's story is not as well-known as that of Jesper Gronkjær, but if the latter can be referenced every time a story on football in Greenland is written, Ringsted's is one which deserves a honourable footnote in the history of both Greenlandic and Danish football. He was surely the first Greenlandic-born footballer to both lift the Danish title and play for Denmark, and not even Jesper Gronkjær can match that.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Much of the above information was gleaned from Wikipedia,,, and

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