Saturday, 22 June 2013

Falkland squad ready for rare shot at success

Veteran striker Martyn Clarke – the Falkland Island footballer who caused an outcry in the South Atlantic islands by going for trials in Argentina – has been included the British territory’s squad for football tournament at the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda.

In 1996, Clarke was offered a trial at Argentine giants Boca Juniors. While in Buenos Aires, Clarke got to watch Boca play Independiente with Diego Maradona and then went out for a pizza with the World Cup winner.

Clarke was also dragged onto a national TV chat show with Argentinian veterans of the Falklands War and asked to discuss the idea of having two flags on the islands, where more than 900 British and Argentinian solders died during the islands invasion and subsequent recapture by Britain in 1982.  

The Boca Juniors stint never extended past a trial but Clarke subsequently had spells with El Porvenir and Defensore before returning to a tense situation back home. In 2002, he left to settle in Britain.

Despite his departure, Clarke (fifth from left in the back row in the above squad shot from 2005) subsequently played for the Falkland team and scored a penalty in the side’s most famous victory. At the 2005 Island Games in the Shetlands, the South Atlantic side defeated Saarema, an Estonian island whose team include an Estonian international with more than 70 full international caps.

Clarke featured again at the 2009 Island Games in Aland but did not travel to the Isle of Wight for the last Island Games in 2011. His time appeared to be up, particularly as the Falklands were not certain of sending a side to Bermuda until the government stepped in to help cover travelling costs and Clarke is now among a squad of 20 players due to arrive in Hamilton on July 8 for this year’s event.

The Falkland team will be captained by Wayne Clement, who plays as a striker or forward, and be managed by Ian Betts. 

The veteran St Helenian Adam Glanville is not travelling this time but a number of players from previous Falkland appearances overseas will go to Hamilton, including Chilean Rafa Sotomayor and imposing central defender Bill Chater (seen in action below in red for the Falklands against Gotland two years ago in the Ryde suburb of Oakland).

A number of the Falkland players are traveling from the UK, such as Dan Biggs, Josh Clayton and Josh Peck.

With no prospect of any kind of international recognition at football, the game on the islands has suffered from the acceptance of the Falkland Islands Cricket Association as an associate member of the International Cricket Council in 2007.

The Falklkand Islanders first cricket match was only in 2004 but acceptance by the ICC has given the Falkland’s cricketers a level of opportunity that the footballers can only dream of. In 2011, the Falklands played in the inaugural ICC Americas Championship Division Four tournament in Mexico and even beat Costa Rica. Last year the islanders toured the Caribbean, visiting Barbados, Belize and Jamaica - a prospect way beyond the imagination of the islands' footballers.

Founded in 1947, the Falkland Islands Football League once had a five team league operating out of Port Stanley with one side made up purely of players from St Helena, another British territory further north in the South Atlantic.

At the 2011 Island Games, then Falkland manager Richard Franks suggested using the ‘air bridge’ - as the RAF link between Port Stanley and the UK is known locally – to enter a team in an English league. Franks left his position soon after and those plans have failed to materialise.

The decision to stage the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda has decimated the entries for the football tournament. Although hosts Bermuda will be clear favorites, the Falklands will have a chance to win a trophy with the biennial Small Islands trophy being contested with the tiny Norwegian island of Froya in the opening game at the Bermuda Athletics Association on July 14.

An opening victory is essential as, though beating the hosts the following day looks a tall order, if the Falklanders can then win their fixture on July 17 with Greenland - the only other entrants – that would secure a place in the final at the national stadium in Hamilton on July 18.

The Falklanders have won just three matches in four previous Island Games appearances: 4-1 vs Orkney in 2001, 2-1 vs Saarema in 2005 and 3-0 vs Alderney in the Isle of Wight two years ago, a game that Wayne Clements scored in.

Beating the Channel Islanders secured 12th place for the Falklanders in 2011. In Bermuda, Clements is already guaranteed a better placing and the chances of a medal of some hue surely seem possible.

Falkland Islands squad for the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda
IAN BETTS (Manager)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Greenland Island Games squad

Players from Nuuk club B-67 have dominated the places in the Greenland squad for the 2013 Island Games in Bermuda.
The biennial competition is the Greenlanders’ only regular international outing and 18 players will fly out of Denmark after a brief training camp on the plane to Hamilton. Although a handful of Greenlandic players play in Denmark, the only one included in the Island Games squad is Daniel Knudsen of Hirtshals Boldklub.

For some of the players on that plane, the competition represents a rare chance to see the world outside of their Arctic nation.

René Olsen from Nuuk is again one of two coaches to lead the team. He will work with Tekle Ghebrelul, who is also from the capital, and replace Tønnes Berthelsen, who managed the side at the last Island Games in the Isle of Wight.

Ten of the squad are from B-67, including veteran goalkeeper John Kreutzmann, who started out playing on the pitch for the Greenland side but as the years have advanced turned to goalkeeping, a position he occupied for the Greenlanders on their last appearance two years ago.

1.  John Kreutzmann – Nuuk (B-67)
2.  Loke Svane - Nuuk (B-67)                                            
3.  Kaali L. Mathæussen - Ilulissat (N-48)    
4.  Lars Peter Broberg - Nuuk (B-67)
5.  Nukannguaq Zeeb - Qeqertarsuaq (G-44)
6.  Aputsiaq Birch – Nuuk (B-67)
7.  Sakiu Lundblad - Ilulissat (N-48)                   
8.  John Eldevig - Nuuk (B-67)
9.  Anders H. Petersen – Nuuk (B-67)                          
10. Palu Petersen – Aasiaat (T-41)
11. Frederik Funch – Nuuk (B-67)    
12. Minik Stephensen – Nanortalik (Ek'aluk-54)
13. John-L. Broberg –  Qeqertarsuq (G-44)
14. Gazza  Zeeb - Uummannaq (Malamuk)
15. Maasi Maqe – Nuuk (B-67)
16. Norsaq Mathæussen – Nuuk (B-67)                  
17. Daniel Knudsen - Denmark (Hirtshals Boldklub)
18. Johan Bidstrup Nuuk (B-67-G-44)   
19. Tekle Ghebrelul - Nuuk (Coach)
20. René Olsen - Nuuk (Coach)

Monday, 3 June 2013

Greenland get ready to come out of hibernation

One of the world’s most reclusive national teams is preparing to come out of hibernation for their biennial tilt at success.

Greenland’s challenge for the 2013 Island Games football title in Bermuda in July has a greater chance of success than ever with just four teams entering the tournament in Bermuda: the hosts, Greenland (above in red), the British controlled South Atlantic territory of the Falkland Islands and the Norwegian isle of Froya.

The Greenlanders’ pre-game schedule starts with a game in the capital Nuuk on June 29 with a Nuuk XI. Greenland, which finished eleventh at the last Island Games in the Isle of Wight in 2011, then leave the Arctic on July 2 for a training camp in the Danish city of Odense.

Two days after arriving, Greenland will take on a side drawn from the Danmarks serie team and U19 College at Odense Boldklub (OB) before another friendly against Serie 1 side, Odense KFUM.

On July 8, Greenland will play a final game before flying out to Hamilton with a match against Svendborg, home to one of the few Greenlandic players playing overseas: Kazza Zeeb.

On July 9, Greenland leave for Bermuda. The best performance by Greenland’s men’s’ XI is a fourth place finish at the first Island Games football tournament in the Faroe Islands in 1989 but in the Isle of Wight two years ago the Greenlandic ladies side took bronze.

The Island Games football tournament has featured up to 16 sides in recent years but the cost of traveling to Bermuda by a group of islands mainly in Europe has decimated the number of entries. With only four sides playing in Hamilton, Greenland are at least certain of equaling that 1989 performance.

A medal of any shade would be a major fillip for the footballers on the world’s largest island, which – despite 80% of its landmass being covered by ice – does not have a full-size artificial pitch.

Although handball is popular, the Arctic islanders love football but have to play on hard pitches of sand often pitted with stones. The handful of grass pitches are in sparsely populated areas in the south, situated amongst land grazed by sheep.

Although Greenland gained greater self-rule in 2008, Denmark remains in control of foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with a home rule government. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made clear in the past that Greenland needs independence and membership of the United Nations before the Grønlands Boldspil-Union (GBU) can join the world body and access funding for much-needed infrastructure like artificial pitches.

Although the GBU severed ties with the Danish association in 1996, the Danes secured U$D400,000 from FIFA’s Goal programme towards a U$D 500,000 artificial pitch in Qaqortoq (below). 

The pitch is not full size and Qaqortoq only has one club, K-33. The only other artificial pitch is in the capital Nuuk and even smaller.

Greenland’s manager Toennes Berthelsen (pictured on the sidelines of Greenland’s 2011 Island Games fixture with Minorca) is raising funds for another small artificial pitch measuring 20 metres by 40 metres in Maniitsoq.

What the GBU really want is a full-size artificial pitch in a major population centre such as Nuuk, where a quarter of Greenlanders live, to tempt foreign teams to visit. Danish club side Herning toured in the 1970s but the only other visitors have been from the Faroe Islands.

A proposal was put forward in the Greenlandic parliament in 2011 for full-size artificial pitches to be laid in Iluissat, Nuuk and Sisimiut. This came to nothing. The GBU hope that the idea can be revived but for now traveling abroad every two years is the only option for one of the world’s most isolated national teams – isolated that is, in every sense.