Leirvik and Gota in the Faroe Islands have a combined population of less than 2,000; on the opposite side of Europe, Istanbul's is at least 12.8 million; little wonder that Víkingur chairman Páll Gregersen said "it was absolutely unbelievable", when he realised that his side had been paired with Beşiktaş JK in the draw for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
Víkingur will visit Turkey on 15 July before welcoming Beşiktaş a week later to the Svangaskard Stadium in Toftir, as their own 400-seater Sarpugerdi home in Gota does not meet UEFA requirements. "For the players it must be absolutely fantastic to get to play against such a club," said Gregersen. "[The Beşiktaş representatives] were amazed by how small we are when we discussed what our situation is and that we're not professional and so on, but they looked forward coming to the Faroe Islands to get a bit of a different view of football."
His club were only formed in 2008 when six-time champions GÍ Gøta and LÍF Leirvík, from two villages linked by a 2.2km tunnel through a mountain, merged. Their choice of name was natural; Tróndur í Gøtu, a Viking chief from around 1,000 years ago, lived in the settlement that bears his name and Leirvik is also of Viking origin.
In their first season they finished fifth and then last year, under former national coach Jógvan Martin Olsen, Víkingur came third and lifted the Faroese Cup to earn their shot at the European big time. Olsen's largely local team are bolstered by two foreign talents, Hungarian goalkeeper Géza Turi and Serbian midfielder Nenad Stanković, who joined from B68 Toftir in the winter having been in the Faroe Islands since 2004.
However, it was not been plain sailing this season and Olsen admits he expected to be higher than sixth place, with only four wins from 14 games. "
We have found it a bit difficult winning matches this year; that's no secret," he said. "But we have a much changed team this year compared to last year. We haven't been at the same level we were at last season."
Among those changes was the close-season departure of striker Andreas Lava Olsen, who moved to Denmark to pursue his studies, depriving Víkingur of much of their potency up front. Only this week, Faroese international centre-back Atli Gregersen moved to Scottish side Ross County FC, meaning much will rest on 29-year-old Faroese international midfielder Súni Olsen, who is hoping to bounce back from injury in time to face Beşiktaş.
Meanwhile, Beşiktaş's superior resources are underlined by their recent appointment of Bernd Schuster as coach and signing of Portuguese international winger Ricardo Quaresma, German midfielder Roberto Hilbert and Turkey Under-21 goalkeeper Cenk Gönen. Súni Olsen said: "
I was somewhat astonished [by the draw]. I don't know how the two matches will pan out, but of course we'll treat it as a great experience."
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.