A few weeks ago, the European Football Championship came to an end. However, not the men’s event, but that of women’s football. And for the first time, the event received great attention worldwide, because the games were broadcast on prime-time television. But enthusiasm is not everywhere. In Greenland, women’s football is fighting for its survival.
Imagine that you want to organize a national football tournament and you have to cancel it afterwards because not enough teams were registered. And the registered teams did not have enough people to play on the usual large field. The particularly sad thing about it was that it was a women’s football tournament, the very sport that had attracted so much attention in the weeks before thanks to worldwide television broadcasts of the Euro championships. That’s what happened last week in Nuuk, Greenland, when only three teams registered for the national championship tournament. The tournament had to be cancelled and the officials and the teams were greatly disappointed.
Only three teams and also not enough players to play on the normal large field, as was the rule until 2018, show how deep women’s football has fallen into crisis within a few years. They have now tried to set up a fourth team for a replacement tournament in Nuuk, but so far without success. “The will to play football is falling. It’s otherwise going quite well with futsal (indoor soccer, editor’s note), which is why many players were disappointed when the national outdoor championships had to be canceled,” explains Aili Pedersen, assistant coach of the Greenland national team in indoor soccer, in an interview with the Sermitsiaq newspaper. And this just at a time when women’s football has finally received greater recognition worldwide.
This year’s European Women’s Championship showed it quite clearly: women’s football is in no way inferior to that of the men. More than 570,000 visitors to the games and over 280 million viewers worldwide on their TV sets speak a clear language. More than 87,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium watched the high-profile final between England and Germany, an absolute record that not even a European Championship match between male teams had ever achieved before. So why is Greenland women’s football struggling with player problems, in a country where around 10 percent of the population actively plays football? “We need a culture change and clubs need to do a better job of promoting women’s teams,” says Aili Pedersen, who plays for women’s team NUK in the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk. She would also like to see more promotion and more cooperation with the clubs and volunteers from the Greenland Football Association. Better and longer-term planning in the championships held in tournament mode in Greenland are a wish, too. A month in advance for preparations are simply too little according to her expertise.
The request to the Greenland Football Association comes at a time when it wants to improve its international standing anyway. The KAK’s plans include doing everything possible to join the North American football association CONCACAF (the equivalent of the European UEFA). This, after trying unsuccessfully to join the UEFA. And CONCACAF also has a women’s championship, so the Greenland women’s national team could get a spot there. So far, the women, like the men, have played in smaller tournaments such as the Island Games (where they finished second in 2013). But more work needs to be done to achieve this, especially in the area of youth development, says Aili Pedersen. “We all have to work together because it can’t go on like this. There is not enough youth development and we see that there is a lack of players.”
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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