Football is the most popular sport in the Faroe Islands by a distance. Sporting facilities are dotted around the islands – situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Scotland and Iceland – and the number of men's and women's football matches comfortably outstrips those of any other sport.
The media's coverage of football is also intense. A ten-team Faroe Islands premier division, the Effodeildin, flourishes despite a total population of just 50,000. The top-flight players are all non-professional, though in recent years compensation and reimbursement of expenses has increased. It is also becoming more commonplace for players to transfer between clubs.
The game has certainly come a long way in the Faroe Islands since the first club, Tvoroyrar Boltfelag TB, was established in 1892. Clubs initially played friendlies in an unofficial championship, with home and away matches, depending on the state of the weather and of the generally uneven sand pitches. Indeed, it took 50 years for a national championship to be officially launched in 1942, three years after the formation of the Faroe Islands Sports Association (ISF).
Cup competitions followed in 1955 before the ISF's duties were taken over by the newly formed Faroe Islands Football Association (FSF – Fótbóltssamband Føroya) on 13 January 1979. The FSF's remit has included planning and organising national tournaments, as well as ensuring improved training conditions for coaches, officials and referees. The introduction of artificial turf from 1986 onwards is seen by many as the FSF's single most effective move, as it considerably raised the game's popularity as a participation sport. Today all important matches are played on synthetic grass.
The Faroe Islands became a member of FIFA on 2 July 1988 and joined UEFA on 18 April 1990. Before gaining international recognition, the Faroese national team played occasional matches against representative sides from Shetland, Orkney and Iceland. The team began taking part in UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup qualifiers from 1990, and Faroese clubs have also been involved in the UEFA Cup from 1992 and subsequently the qualifying stages of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Furthermore, a number of foreign coaches have been hired to lead the national side, the latest being Denmark's EURO '92-winning captain Lars Olsen.
International membership has also encouraged a steady rise in standards both on and off the pitch – where administration is key. In the 1990s the country's first two grass-pitch stadiums were built, which ultimately enabled more and more Faroese players to try their luck abroad, primarily in Denmark, Iceland and Norway. Yet, to many local fans, the development of youth football is just as important as the top end of the national game. Competitions are run for young players across six separate age groups throughout the islands to make sure the future remains bright.
Clear evidence of the development of the Faroese game was shown with the qualification of the men's U17 team for the European championship finals in Croatia in 2017 - the first-ever time that any national team from the Faroe Islands had qualified for a final tournament, and proving that the path chosen by the association has been the right one. In addition, the women's national team came successfully through the preliminary round in the qualifying competition for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.
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