Faroe Islands – My unusual love affair

As you may have assumed from my last article: yes, I have a passion for Faroese football; and no, I am not Faroese (my name ‘Isaac Roblett’ is a big give away). So, you have every right to question why a man from Southern England has any business writing about The North Atlantic archipelago islands.

My journey to this point started on Friday 9th June 2017, a date which had a defining and profound influence on my life. During the usually dreaded ‘international break’, feeling depressed with various mental health issues, and unfulfilled by the sterile and gluttonous state of English football, I randomly clicked on a stream for a game, in a desperate state of boredom. It was ‘Faroe Islands v Switzerland’ (on the surface a rather dull and ponderous affair for any ordinary fan) but in that single click of the mouse, my world changed from black and white to colour; my depressive and uninspired state instantaneously eased. For me this was akin to the moon-landing, or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

I had a little knowledge of the Faroe Islands beforehand, I knew they were a remote island group, with a tiny population, but this had not prepared me for what I was about to encounter. My eyes were met with the most beautiful stadium, in the most picturesque location, which I later found out was the infamous ‘Tórsvøllur’ stadium. This view was complemented by the thunderous, tumultuous vocals of the imperious ‘Skansin’ (fittingly, Faroese for ‘fort’) supporters, wearing and waving their nation’s flag with such honour and enthusiasm, even when losing.

I was dumbfounded; I could not believe such a microscopic country and team could convey such passion and character. I would soon realise that the Faroe Islands was not any ordinary place. This led me into research, and I was amazed to see that the Faroe Islands had beaten Greece a few years before. I thought to myself: how could a country of 50,000 beat the former European Champions? This must be the biggest sporting shock of all-time? This amazement was heightened when I found discovered the large array of high-quality professional footballers for such a small nation. Various players were also part-timers, with other jobs, playing and thriving against some of Europe’s best, and being ranked within the world’s top 100.

For my sins, I have always been a sucker for an underdog, and this was the greatest underdog story of them all. The witnessing of a group of people coming together, playing with infinite capacity, and far exceeding expectations, was (and always will be) a sight to behold. The contextual undertones of this story were more unique than anything I had witnessed before: a team faced with such adversity yet coming together with more enthusiasm and pride than any nation on the world stage. As well as a laudable atmosphere, there was a community far superior to (and more genuine than) the Premier League, this was truly football at its finest and purest form.

Faroe Islands may have lost 2-0 that day (which considering the two nations is quite impressive), but this did not deter my new-found engrossment. I took my exploration to the next step, and researched the islands from a cultural point of view, to see if I could gain some clarification behind this underdog footballing team.

I was met with images of the most scenic, spectacular views, accompanied by awe-inspiring community and culture. It takes a special person to live and thrive in a remote, rugged terrain, and this is reflected within the ethos and identity of the Faroese people’s endeavours. The fact that such a small population strives for independence, and the heritage of their culture and native language to be kept intact against powerful external sources is nothing short of admirable. This heroic mentality is replicated in the performances of the national football team.

As a life long Charlton Athletic fan, I am use to seeing my side lose their fair share of games, and whilst the Faroe Islands are no different in that respect, no amount of losses will discourage my passion and respect for the nation. I will be there in Malta on the 23rd March for the match, beaming with as much pride as if the country was my own. And the ‘Skansin’ supporters will beam with pride and support in spite of the result, come rain or shine, as this team means so much more than just a football side to them; it is a symbol of their nation’s freedom and spirit. Life comes at you fast, and I never would have thought that in the space of a year, I would have gone from idolising Harry Kane to Hallur Hansson and Jóan Símun Edmundsson.

I found the Faroe Islands in a time of darkness. Through my mental health recovery, and still in my day to day life, I gain solace and empowerment in the bravery and defiance of this self-sufficient Nordic island group’s story, not just in footballing terms and their incredible rise against all odds, but in their culture, ethos and heritage.

Author: Isaac Roblett