Skála Ítróttarfelag's star rose quickly in the Faroe Islands and fell nearly as fast. However, their 24-year-old coach Eliesar Olsen is hoping they can become a force in local football again as they return to the top division.
Representing the villages of Skala – home to the nation's largest shipyard – and Strendur on the east coast of the island of Esturoy, Skála were anything but a household name when they completed a brisk journey from the third to the top flight in 2002. Houdini-like escapes from relegation in their first two seasons were followed by two great years; they topped the table for the first half of the 2004 campaign only to finish third, then were runners-up in 2005. However, their descent back to the third tier was swift after demotion in 2008.
It was when they rejoined that lowly level in 2010 that the club appointed Olsen – then just 20 – as coach. He promptly won promotion in his first term in charge, and finished the job of restoring Skála to the elite league with another promotion in 2013. However, his targets for 2014 are modest ones. "Just to stay up," he explained. "That's probably the goal of every newly promoted team, and that's certainly our initial objective. Provided we don't have too many injuries and we keep the squad intact, I expect it will be alright."
Skála's recent successes have been down to keeping a core of local players, with 22-year-old midfielder Ólavur Mikkelsen one of the stalwarts. However, he realises that his team-mates will have to raise their game significantly if they are to compete with the islands' best this season. "We have a very young team and many inexperienced men," he conceded. "We hope for the best. Nobody expects anything from us. We have everything to gain."
Reinforcements may help Skála's cause. Midfielder Pætur Dam Jacobsen is back with the side he represented from 2005–08, with the four-times capped international already proving a positive influence. "We feel he is that wiser than the rest of us," said Mikkelsen. "He has been in the game for quite a while. He's also very good at teaching us. That's such a positive." Other pivotal players will be forward Brian Jacobsen, who scored 20 last term, and 20-year-old Jákup Johansen, who notched nine in eight games after joining Skála midway through the 2013 campaign.
A single foreign signing – 26-year-old Russian goalkeeper Mark Ryutin – has given Skála's fight for survival more credibility, but Olsen feels mental strength rather than big-name arrivals are the key. "If you have belief, it doesn't matter whether a player is called Tom, Dick or Harry," he said. "If we can work as a unit, why should we buy a bunch of players from elsewhere?"
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