“Daft little ground, silly game, f*** off.”
These were the words used by Sky’s main correspondent Richard Keys in 2008 after a Scotland game in the Faroe Islands – harsh words, and one of the vast amount of leaked videos that would eventually lead to his sacking from the company in 2013. Not only was the ground not taken seriously, but more importantly, the Faroe Islands were seen as pushovers.
But the small island country has shown they can produce. In the years since, the national team has reached as high as 74th in the world, which in turn has built their domestic league up to a level where they can attract players who have played in top flights of other Scandinavian leagues. This summer, despite the improvements the country has made over the past years, will mark a first for the territory: they will have a representative in European competition.
Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag, also known as KÍ, are a club from the small town of Klaksvik – the second biggest town on the island and a place predominantly known for its controversial way of hunting whales. But KÍ Klaksvik, as they are commonly known, have been on a journey this summer to show what the fishing island’s best players can offer.
It all started in the Hungarian capital Budapest, against Hungary’s Ferencváros – a team that has history in the Champions League and produced players who played in the great Hungary team of the 1950s. KÍ beat them 3-0, with all goals coming in the away leg; a magnificent display from Faroese international Árni Frederiksberg put them 2 goals up, with Ivorian Luc Kassi getting the third.
This was a big statement from the small club, and despite it being only the first qualifying round, their next opponents BK Häcken knew not to underestimate them. Häcken won the 2022 edition of the Allsvenskan, and this would make the second time in two knockouts that KÍ would face a champion from a country much more averse to European football.
The tie would be similar to the first knockout round from a week previous; a 0-0 home leg for KÍ, and a victory, this time on penalties, after a much closer game than in Hungary – Häcken scored in extra time to make the game 3-2, but an own goal gave the Faroese side a lifeline of which they took, winning 4-3 on penalties.
Norwegian champions Molde were a step too far, however, even though this time Klaksvik won the home leg, the away leg was much more close fought – only being knocked out to a Martin Linnes goal in the 111th minute. The Champions League would not beckon for the Faroese team.
They couldn’t have gotten this far without a few great players, though. Fans of Southampton might remember Vegard Forren, who never played for the club but was signed from Molde in 2013. A composed and experienced defender, he adds a show of maturity for the back line.
Star man Árni Frederiksen has become an icon in this run to the playoffs, scoring 6 goals in 5 games against opponents much better than in the Deildin, the Faroese Premier League. Midfielder Luc Kassi had been a mainstay for Stabæk in the Norwegian first and second division, and has a touch of class and ability that shows he’s played in a prestigious league such as Norway’s.
And at the end of the qualification journey, KÍ had secured a historic feat: guaranteeing a European spot. They lost against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League playoffs, despite a very close game – only losing 3-2 on aggregate, going behind to a Sheriff goal in the 74th minute. They instead will enter the Europa Conference League, competing against Slovan Bratislava, French giants Lille and Olimpija Ljubljana.
Matchday -1 practice in Tiraspol. pic.twitter.com/Ur6aOCj0SH
— KÍ (@KI_Klaksvik) August 30, 2023
In this group, KÍ have a real chance to compete against Slovan and Olimpija, and get to represent themselves to a French audience in Lille. The chances of advancing aren’t in their favour, but they will be the Conference League’s darlings for the time being.
There was no Champions League fairytale ending for Klaksvik, but a great display against Molde and a close game against Sheriff will have put the Faroe Islands on the map for fans across Europe, who would have never heard of the small fishing nation where over 1 in 10 are registered as either amateur, part-, or full-time footballers in the country. The club has a chance to represent their nation for the first time in one of Europe’s biggest stages – any result out of this unexpected run is a positive one.
Góða eydnu, KÍ, and I hope we haven’t seen the last of you.
By: Jude Short / @Jayesse66
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Laszlo Szirtesi / Getty Images