Greenland fights for the right to play international football matches


By Jens Brinch
Knowlede bank: The Football Association of Greenland challenged the FIFA-monopoly on international matches when it organised a friendly against Tibet. The Greenlanders want to be able to play international games without being forced to depend on the Danish Football Association.

Greenland is in many ways isolated and want to present itself as more than a part of the Danish Commonwealth.

Until 1979 Greenland was a part of the Denmark a colony with limited autonomy. In 1979 the Home Rule System was introduced meaning that all internal affairs were to be settled by the Home Rule Parliament and Government. Foreign policy, legal affairs and currency policy was still to be decided from Denmark.

Since 1979 Greenland has tried to develop more autonomy and ways to be accepted as a nation equal to other nations. One of the ways is through sport.

The Greenlandic Federations of Taekwon-do, badminton, handball, volleyball, biathlon and table-tennis have gained full membership of the International Federations but the two largest federations, ski and soccer, are still denied membership of the international federations.

To understand the position of Greenlandic Football and the background for our relation to play against Tibet, some facts about our relation to FIFA: In 1998 Greenland applied for membership in FIFA and was friendly met by the administration of FIFA. We just wanted to be allowed to play friendly matches not to play in the World Cup!

As you might know FIFA has a monopoly of football and it is not allowed for FIFA members to play matches against non-members. FIFA proposed us to apply for allowance to play international matches through the Danish F.A. but sports in Greenland are independent and it would not be in accordance with the (sport)political situation to establish dependency on Danish organisations

In the fall of 2000 the administration of FIFA was very optimistic as to finding a lex Groenlandica allowing us to have a restricted membership, giving us the possibility of playing international matches. But the football politicians in the last moment took this proposal of the agenda and never gave us an answer explaining their reasons.

Not having the right to play against FIFA members we were looking for ways to break the monopoly of FIFA. One of the ways were to play against Tibet. So this match was a way of showing that is was still possible to establish international matches outside FIFA-regulations.

The game we played against Tibet gave us the possibility to expose the sport-political situation. The media showed a huge interest because of the macro-political implications but did not show much interest in discussing the FIFA monopoly.

One week after the Tibet-match we played against the Sami Team witnessed by a few hundred spectators and a few reporters from Greenland and Lapland. No story to tell?

The Football Association of Greenland
The Football Association of Greenland was founded in 1971. The first football club in Greenland was founded in 1933. The first Greenlandic Championships in football was held in 1958.

Until 1996 the Football Association of Greenland was affiliated to the Danish Football Association. As a consequence of Greenlands growing independence and autonomy the Sports Confederation of Greenland and the Danish Sports Confederation agreed on separating 1st of January 1996.

The Danish Sport Confederation supports Greenlandic sportsfederations in achieving membership of international sports organisations.

Co-operation with The Football Association of Denmark
There have always been a very friendly connection between Danish and Greenlandic football. The Danish Football Association has assisted especially in the education of coaches, leaders and referees.

In the "Summerschool of Football" held in four regions of Greenland every year we are assisted by instructors from Denmark. We are expecting that the friendly co-operation will continue in this period of transition.

International participation
Every second year the national mens team participates in the football-tournament of the Island Games. Since 1999 Sepp Piontek is the national coach.

National teams of junior-players (male and female) participates in Arctic Winter Games (futsal) held every second year.

The FA of Greenland are convinced that further development of football in Greenland depends on possibilities for international experiences.

Competition system
National Championships are carried out every year in five groups : open male, open female, junior male, mixed boys/girls, and "small town mens teams".

Due to the geographical conditions, the infrastructure of Greenland and the very high travel expenses it is necessary to arrange the championships and qualification-tournaments as regional or national meetings. It is not possible to set up an ordinary tournament.


  • The Football Association of Greenland : 76 affiliated local clubs, with 4000 members, of which 2200 are below 18.

  • The Football Association is the greatest of the eight federations affiliated to the Sports Confederation of Greenland. The Sports Confederation of Greenland has app. 13000 members.

  • There are app. 50 active referees in Greenland. The education and training of referees is done by the Referees Club in co-operation with the organisation of Danish referees.

The Board is the governing body of the Football Association. The nine members of the board are elected by the biannual General Assembly.

At the moment the only employee is the international secretary. The FA of Greenland is based on voluntary work and idealism.

In every town and village you will find a football ground but the conditions for green grass is very poor in the Arctic area. Outdoor football is played 3-5 month a year depending on the geographical site.

During winter a lot of indoor soccer is played in the many Gymnasiums.

Sports infrastructure
The umbrella organisation of the Greenlandic sports is The Sports Confederation of Greenland. The affiliated federations: football, handball, badminton, skiing, Taekwon-do, table tennis, volleyball and kayak.

Of these the federations of handball, badminton, taekwon-do, table tennis and volleyball are full members of their respective International Federations.

All sportsorganisations in Greenland are non-governmental organisations, primarily financed through lottery pools.

Sports in Greenland are based upon the ideas of amateurism and voluntarism.

Facts about Greenland

  • Greenland is the largest island in the world (2,175 mio. sq. km) with a population of 55000. The population is mainly Inuit. A strong European presence on the West Cost has resulted in a truly multicultural society.

  • The official language is Greenlandic and in general the population is well educated.

  • Modern technology and a developed infrastructure has helped Greenland to become a modern society despite of its harsh natural environment.

  • The Greenland Home Rule Parliament has the policymaking power in internal affairs. Greenland and the Faroe Islands creates a "Commonwealth" with Denmark.

  • The Greenlandic sports federations have the full support from the Danish Sport Confederation and the Danish Government in its endeavours to seek affiliation to international sports federations.

  • People who have been living in Greenland for two years are considered to be "residents".  As to participation in sports at national level the federations have regulations according to the rules of the international federation to which they are affiliated.

The future of football in Greenland
Despite the harsh conditions in the Arctics there is a huge interest in football and it is our purpose to create possibilities for Greenlanders to take part in the game of football.

We would like to play more football in Greenland as well as outside. The Football Association of Greenland is trying to find the best way of getting affiliated to international football. We simply want to have the opportunity to arrange and take part in international matches.

In football as well as in other sports we must find our place in the international sports federations. We are not going for big events but simply want to develop football to the benefit of the youth of our country. Participating in international football is our possibility to use football for making friends outside Greenland.

Agreement with UEFA/FIFA
During the last four years we tried to get some kind of affiliation to FIFA. But FIFA seems not to be interested. They want us to apply for international matches through the Danish F.A. We do not want to do that as we regard sport as a part of the Home Rule system, not depending on Denmark.

The purpose of an agreement between UEFA / FIFA and the Football Association of Greenland is to get to the right to play international friendship matches. Furthermore we would like to use a friendly co-operation with UEFA / FIFA to develop the level of football in Greenland.

We do realise that Greenland in the nearer future not will be able to comply with the conditions for full membership of UEFA / FIFA. We do hope that it will be possible to set up an agreement of co-operation that allows us to be a part of the international world of football.

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