NSÍ Runavík could scarcely have asked for a trickier start to their UEFA Europa League campaign. Tasked with overcoming 2010 runners-up Fulham FC, one of three Respect Fair Play winners entering at the opening stage, the Faroese outfit have their work cut out as they travel to Craven Cottage for Thursday's first leg. UEFA.com introduces the club.
Among four early frontrunners in the ten-team Faroese First Division this season, NSÍ's most recent away fixture brought a 6-4 victory at 07 Vestur. That ended a run of three league games without a win – two draws and a defeat – but knowing where the goal is has been a constant. Averaging three goals a game they are the league's most prolific side, with May's 9-0 win against Vestur a particular highlight. Klæmint Olsen is individual top scorer with nine goals.
Nes Sóknar Ítróttarfelag, NSÍ Runavík, or just plain NSÍ, were founded in 1957 but did not grace the First Division until 1976. They suffered a yo-yo existence between the first and second tiers until 1997, though since then they have established themselves as top-flight ever-presents.
NSÍ won domestic cups in 1986 and 2002 but their finest hour came in 2007, marking their 50th anniversary with their one and only league title. Their most notable result on the continent came the following year when they defeated Georgia's FC Dinamo Tbilisi 1-0 in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round tie. They had, however, lost the opening instalment 3-0.
Based in Runavik, a shipping town of under 4,000 inhabitants, NSÍ's squad is – like all Faroese sides – made up of part-time players who also hold down regular jobs, from a teacher to a trainee telephone salesman. While the team is comprised predominantly of locals, Hungarian goalkeeper András Gángó, Ghanian midfielder Abdul Razak Ismail and Mamuka Toronjadze from Georgia also ply their trade with the club.
NSÍ's home ground – Vid Løkin – has artificial grass and a terrace of 500 seats, attracting an average gate of 300-400. With the ground not up to UEFA club competition specifications, however, the club will stage their UEFA Europa League matches at the nearby Svangaskard Stadium in Toftir.
Pauli Poulsen, assistant coach when NSÍ won their 2007 crown, is now at the helm, and is all too aware of the magnitude of the occasion that awaits against Fulham. "Of course the players will be thinking about this, because it is by far the biggest match many have experienced," he said.
On the Fulham tie
NSÍ chairwoman Ragnhild Knudsen: "I am absolutely ecstatic. This was a great and fun draw for the club."
Star player and captain, Christian Høgni Jacobsen: "There is a big difference between the Faroese First Division and the Premier League. If we are to win, they have to have an incredibly bad day while we must hit our peak."
Did you know?
Former goalkeeper Jens Martin Knudsen, famed for donning a bobble hat during games, retired in 2007 but has filled in on the bench five times this season at the tender age of 44.
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