Atlantic’s boys – about handball, identity and robustness 

On Thursday at 6.00 p.m. several hundred Faroese will be spectators in the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and tens of thousands on the island kingdom in the middle of the Atlantic will follow the Faroe Islands’ first match at Men’s EHF EURO 2024 with glowing interest. The match against Slovenia is the Faroe Islands’ debut at an international championship for the national A-team, but in recent years, the Faroe Islands, with only 2,500 registered handball players, have participated in several international championships for youth national teams. And often with surprising victories over nations with far more youth players.

Handball – a very popular sport for children and young people in the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands, which consist of 18 islands of volcanic origin between Great Britain, Iceland and Norway, have been part of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1814 with self-government in one of the world’s oldest parliaments: the Lagtinget. The population of the Faroe Islands is a modest 54,000 – the same number as in municipalities such as Hillerød and Fredericia. On most Faroese islands, handball – together with football – is the most popular and sometimes the only leisure activity among children and young people. The popularity of handball in the Faroe Islands means that the relative proportion of children and youth players is almost three times as large as in Denmark. Hondbóltssamband Føroya (HSF), which was founded in 1980, today has independent status with both the European Handball Federation (EHF) and the International Handball Federation (IHF).

The Faroe Islands without independent membership of the IOC

Since the mid-1980s, the Faroe Islands have – unfortunately so far in vain – applied for independent membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has rejected membership for the Faroe Islands for political reasons. The IOC has the same position on independent membership for Greenland. Currently, three Faroese athletes have participated in the Olympics – representing Denmark – the swimmer Pál Joensen (2012) and the two rowers – Katrin Olsen (2012) and Sverri Nielsen (2020). Nor will the Faroe Islands appear as an independent nation at the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The Faroe Islands’ biggest profiles play for top clubs in the Bundesliga

The Faroe Islands’ biggest profile at the upcoming EHF EURO 2024 will probably be Elias Ellefsen Á Skipagötu, who after three very successful seasons at IK Sävehof in Sweden, represents the former German champion team THW Kiel on a 3-year contract. The 21-year-old super talent has found it a bit difficult to adapt to the physical game in the Bundesliga, but the potential of the full-back is unique. Hákun West Av Teigum, who at the age of 16 switched to Skanderborg Handball Elite Academy (SHEA) and achieved great success in three seasons on the league team in Skanderborg Aarhus Handball, is a striking profile. West Av Teigum, who belongs to the age group as Ellefsen, now plays for one of the Bundesliga’s top clubs – Füchse Berlin – where he complements Danish national team legend Hans Lindberg on the right wing.

Many Faroese national team players in Danish clubs

The men’s league in the Faroe Islands consists of 7 clubs, but more and more of the very best players choose – often as youth players – to continue their careers in the best or second best leagues in Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Iceland. There are currently 25 players from the Faroe Islands who are either full-time professionals or combine elite handball with studies or part-time work abroad. Several Faroese national A-team players play in Danish clubs: Goalkeeper Pauli Jacobsen and Rói Berg Hansen in HØJ Elite Handball and Teis Horn Rasmussen and Peter Krogh in Aarhus Handball Club. The Faroe Islands’ international success, both at senior and youth level, has led many agents and several big clubs in the best European leagues to turn their attention to the talents from the 18 smaller islands in the Atlantic.

Robustness and identity are among the most important reasons

According to Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen, who has been head coach of the national team for the past two years, there are several connected reasons for the unique talent development in Faroese handball. Firstly, the players are extremely robust – not least mentally. They were raised in harsh nature and under sometimes extreme weather conditions, which make physical skills on endurance, courage and strength. Secondly, the players – who very often have family relationships with each other – make high demands on themselves and their teammates. The players thus know each other very well, both in success and disappointments. And thirdly, the individual national teams show great intensity and energy – regardless of whether the opponent is Denmark, Sweden, France or Germany and regardless of whether the team is far ahead or behind.

The Faroe Islands – or Denmark II – for the 2028 Olympics or the 2032 Olympics?

Fighting spirit, courage and intensity will also be needed when the Faroe Islands meet some of Europe’s best nations at the Men’s EHF EURO 2024 in Germany in the coming days. The Faroe Islands’ matches in the preliminary round are played in Berlin, where the opponents in that order are Slovenia, Norway and Poland – all nations that are seeded for a higher ranking than the Faroe Islands. The island kingdom in the Atlantic will naturally be “underdogs” in all the matches, which, however, is a role that suits them perfectly. The dream of success at the EHF EURO 2024 or participation at the World Championship 2025 in Croatia, Norway and Denmark is absolutely not unrealistic for the Faroese national team. And perhaps qualification for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles or the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane is also more than just a dream scenario for the proud nation. The question then is whether a possible participation in the Olympics should take place under the name Føroya … or Denmark II. The latter will be a “blame” – both for Denmark and especially for the IOC.


Hondbóltssamband Føroya (HSF) –

Men’s EHF EURO 2024 –