Greenlandic football to go international | Polarjournal
Playing football against a spectacular polar backdrop is especially possible in Greenland, as here in Tasiilaq. Where games used to be played on sand, most now feature artificial turf fields, one of the steps taken to make Greenland’s football more international. Image: Ray Swi-hymn via Wiki Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Football is probably the most popular sport in the world. No matter where, there is always evidence of a ball being kicked with the feet at one or two goals in that location, even in Arctic regions. In Greenland, football is not the main sports event, but it has become increasingly popular in society in recent years. One of the biggest problems that Greenlandic football faces, however, is international recognition. The Greenland Football Association now wants to change this.

The football association in Greenland KAK is planning to join the American-Caribbean CONCACAF association and thus be able to play on an international level in the future. Appropriate clarifications for the application process have already been undertaken and the process has been initiated. This was expressed by the KAK chairman of the application committee, Tønnes Berthelsen, to the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq. The KAK (Kalaallit Arsaattartut Kattuffiat) exists since 1971 and currently represents 39 clubs with about 5,600 members, about 10 percent of the Greenlandic population.

The island’s political status has contributed to the Greenland Football Association’s inability to join UEFA, and thus FIFA, until now. That is why the sport so far remains at the amateur level. (Photo: Dr Michael Wenger)

Greenland is located at an interface between two football associations. On the one hand, the political status of the island as part of the Danish state is a reason to join the European football association UEFA, just as the Faroe Islands are. On the other hand, Greenland’s geographical proximity to North America allows it to join Concacaf, the North and Central American Football Association. UEFA, however, prevents membership on the grounds that Greenland is not recognized by the UN as a sovereign state and the Danish Football Association does not agree to UEFA membership. “It is practically impossible to become a member of the European football association UEFA because we are not backed by the Danish football association DBU,” Berthelsen explained in an interview. “As a result, KAK has decided that we need to take the application process for Concacaf into our own hands.”

In order to be able to solve at least the problems of logistics, the KAK would like to see more investment in the football infrastructure. This includes more artificial turf pitches (like here in Nuuk) and at least one covered stadium for at least 3,000 spectators. Image: Karlblix via Wiki Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

But to join Concacaf, Greenland needs more investment in football infrastructure. Because the specifications of the association are quite high. For example, Greenland must have at least one covered stadium for 3,000 or more spectators. A project proposal for this was already presented in 2017 by the architectural company Bjarke Ingels Group. According to the architects, this is a cultural and commercial complex, which includes a national art gallery and a shopping center, as well as the new covered football stadium, which would meet international standards. In addition, football fields must be at least artificial turf, meet the size standards and infrastructural specifications. Even the routes to the stadium are precisely specified by Concacaf. No more than a half-hour commute from the airport is required by the association.

The road for Greenlandic football to the international stage is rocky, but not impossible. At least the background scenery is very spectacular. (Photo: Dr Michael Wenger)

No easy specifications for Greenland. But Chairman Berthelsen is convinced that Greenland can remove these obstacles. It is important, Berthelsen said, to get help from the U.S. and Canada for the application process. This is because the KAK’s plan is to join the North American sector within Concacaf. This has mainly to do with the fact that Greenland can avoid the stadium problem until its own stadium is completed by allowing the national team to play its games in another country with the necessary infrastructure. In doing so, the KAK is taking its cue from the Faroe Islands, some of which have played their international matches in Sweden, Tønnes Berthelsen explains further in the interview. But there is still a long way to go and within KAK it is assumed that an application can only be submitted in two to three years. In the meantime, football in Greenland will remain a marginal phenomenon, but at least against one of the most dreamlike backdrops imaginable.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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