Just three years on from their first-ever relegation, KÍ Klaksvík are back at the summit of Faroese football with a homegrown squad and a national hero, Páll Gudlaugsson, at the helm.
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The year 2009 was one of the darkest chapters in KÍ Klaksvík's history as for the first time since their foundation more than a century earlier they were relegated.
With club finances in bad shape, KÍ turned to homegrown players, and at the first attempt they were promoted. Sticking to their youth policy, a strong finish left them fifth on their 1 Deild return in 2011, not that it was easy. "There was a small crisis of confidence," chairman Tummas Lervig said. "Should we dare believe in the concept we had? Because it's so easy to go out and say to someone: 'You are not good enough and we have to do something else.' But then it was simply about sounding out the situation and saying: 'You know what; we will stick to the plan, we believe in this.'"
However, few would still have believed that KÍ would go on and make the quantum leap they have taken this season, where they are second behind EB/Streymur on goal difference at the three-week summer break, having won nine of their last ten games. "We are celebrating our progress so far, but are keeping both feet on the ground," said Hedin á Lakjuni, at 34 the only player above the age of 30 in the squad, and a veteran of KÍ's 1999 double-winning squad. "We will focus on one challenge at a time and the first will be at TB Tvøroyri's new home ground [on 22 July]. We know that it will be difficult, but the progress so far has given our young men confidence, and with humility and hard work, we believe we can win."
Apart from Lakjuni, 28-year-old Hjalgrím Elttør, Hungarian goalkeeper András Gángó and former ÍF Fuglafjørður winger Andy Olsen, the rest of the squad are locals in their early 20s. Their progress is being overseen by Icelandic coach Páll Gudlaugsson – best known as the man that led the Faroe Islands to a famous win against Austria on their competitive debut in 1990 just three days after his 32nd birthday.
Having stepped down as national coach in 1993, Gudlaugsson coached Faroese clubs before returning to Iceland four years later. He later quit football and became a personal trainer, travelling to Bermuda and England, but after a decade away from the game he had a three-year spell with east Iceland club KF Fjardabyggdar before KÍ appointed him.
"I liked it a lot in eastern Iceland and I had a busy schedule," Gudlaugsson said. "But I missed the Faroe Islands and friends I hadn't seen in for a long time. I knew that some jobs were vacant and I let my interest be known. Then this opportunity with KÍ came up."
According to Lervig, when the squad met up in January for pre-season, Gudlaugsson said: "There are some of you who are sitting here tonight that don't know that you will be stars this summer."
Since winning their 17th title in the double year of 1999, KÍ's status as the team with the most Faroese titles – an honour they had held since the early 1950s – has been snatched by HB Tórshavn, who are now up to 21. Last year KÍ finished above HB for the first time in a decade; now they have the chance to end their even longer wait for a national title.