Faroe Play – Fulham kick off season 2011-12

Faroe Play - Fulham kick off season 2011-12

It’s 7pm on June 30th, precisely one month after Swansea’s play-off final triumph over Reading heralded the close of the season. Hoards of football fans flow out of Putney Bridge station, some adorned with white shirts, some carrying beers, but all looking distinctly out of season. The reason is simple: Fulham host NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in the first leg of the first qualifying round of the Europa League and the 2011-2012 season is officially underway.

I’m joined by my friend and fellow Gillingham supporter Alex who seems to be the only person in mid-summer wearing a scarf. The scarf, he explains, represents Just Can’t Beat That, a website and collection of non-Swiss supporters who follow FC Luzern. Perhaps Gillingham, FC Luzern and NSI Runavik are the new holy trinity of teams to follow. Or perhaps he’s just naturally attracted to mediocre teams.

We join the away congregation in Craven Cottage’s Johnny Haynes Stand. By congregation, I mean a collective of at most a hundred Runavik fans – of which we, as curious outsiders, are very much the outsiders amidst a welcoming gathering of Faroese.

New Fulham manager Martin Jol’s team selection is clearly risk averse. Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland, Danny Murphy, Damien Duff and Bobby Zamora all feature in an almost comically over-strength side. By contrast, Runavik’s most famous name is Christian Høgni Jacobsen, a player with an amazing strike rate at domestic level and barely a goal to his name internationally.

The gulf in class is evident almost from kick-off. Fulham – who qualified via UEFA’s ‘Respect Fair Play’ route – dominate possession, while Runavik’s limited forays into the opposition half are usually halted by the industrious presence of Dickson Etuhu. The Runavik fans celebrate their few half chances with panache. As the clock ticks to the twenty minute mark and then thirty, Jol must be growing restless. Despite the strength of his starting line-up, there’s not much flair on the bench; Jonathan Greening looks the most likely candidate should he need a substitute to unlock Runavik’s compact formation. But pretty much immediately, Duff puts the finishing touches on a team move to place a shot beyond Runavik’s Hungarian goalkeeper Andras Gango. 1-0.

The Boddington Pleas

At half-time we’re confronted by the surprising sight of a queue to exit the stand. On further investigation, the exit is being blocked by a fan asking a steward where she can buy a beer. Down at the refreshments stand, I ask for a beer. Alex asks for a beer. A man who looks like a Faroese media celebrity asks for a beer. We’re all denied. UEFA, apparently open to any sponsorship that brings some cash in, doesn’t allow the sale of alcohol at Europa League games. The warm cans of Boddingtons behind the counter look appealing for the first and last time.

For the second half, we choose to join the rowdiest row of Runavik supporters. Their chants are mostly variants on what you’d hear at any English ground on any day of the season, the most prominent of which is a repeated N-S-I! The pronunciation of I as ‘Oi!’ provides an edge that’s not quite nihilistic and not quite exotic, yet welcomingly unusual all the same.

Not that there’s much to cheer on the pitch. Fulham repeatedly attempt to breach Runavik’s offside trap and come close almost each time. Gango heroically keeps the score down. His efforts are greeting with their best song: “Gango, Gango, Gango, hey!” followed by a quivering wave of the arms that resembles an octopus’s sprawling tentacles.

But then Simon Davies is fouled in the box and Murphy has little trouble placing the penalty past our new favourite player. 2-0. The response is predictable: “Gango, Gango, Gango, hey!” The NSI fans tell us that they made up the song in the pub last night, being acutely aware that this evening might be a long one for the bald stopper from Győr. Soon enough, Andy Johnson completes the scoring.

From hereon in, the visiting fans opt to make the most of the night and have some fun. They have a peculiar take on goading the opposition. Johnson is mocked with “Andy… Andy…” while Hangeland gets the more creative “Too long!” When Alex yells, “Davies! Did you shag Ryan Giggs too?”, the Runaviks react like it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. Davies doesn’t.

Looking livelier than he has in years, Duff runs into space on the left-wing in anticipation of a pass. Desperately calling for it, he makes an otherworldly high-pitched yelp that sounds like a pterodactyl being tortured. For the remainder of the game he’s mercilessly targeted with furious squawks and a particularly compelling impersonation of Duffman from The Simpsons. If only Duffman had been present at half-time…

“Number fifteen: insurance,” says the closest Runavik fan of their midfielder Helgi Petersen. “I’m insurance!” exclaims Alex, although the anticipated high-five doesn’t quite materialise. Given that Runavik’s population is around the 4000 mark, it’s hardly surprising that most people in attendance seem to know someone involved in the game. It is, however, something of a novelty to discover that substitute Andrias Liknargotu’s sister is in our row. We give his brief cameo the most rousing reception that our small contingent can muster.

As the game ebbs away, Fulham almost net a fourth but debutant Lauri Dalla Valle fires over from just a few yards out. “Miss of the season!” hollers a still energetic Runavik fan. It might well be, but the unwanted accolade has ten full months in which to be beaten.

, , , ,

11 Responses to “Faroe Play – Fulham kick off season 2011-12”

  1. Sigurjón Einarsson
    July 2, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Ah…this is brilliant! Fair play to you guys! The substitute Andrias á Líknargøtu made his debut for the 1st team…and aaaall the way back to the Faroes we heard him (Andrias) banter about that he made his debut against Fulham at Craven Cottage! hehe…

    And the banter chant towards Brede Hangeland was “Fleksnes” – the most famous norwegian comedian …or maybe not… they look quite alike 😉

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av1zC0QIO8Q&NR=1

    • Ben
      July 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Ha, I Hangeland has his eyes, nose and jaw, if not quite his figure! Good call. But I swear one of guys shouted “too long!” at him in English. I thought I could save that myself for this season, but by the time it starts I would’ve forgotten…

      Great news for Andrias – so you flew back with him?

      And you must’ve be stood right near us? We joined these guys for the second half:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2010109/Fulham-3-NSI-Runavik-0-A-cruise-Jols-men-39-day-rest.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

      • Sigurjón Einarsson
        July 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

        Yeah…”Too long” was also there they say 😉

        Yeah, we flew back with the players and Andrias was in a cheerful mood all the way back hehe…”I won a header against Hangeland”, he said.

        I stood just beside you during second half…I thought about asking you guys why you supported us, but was too busy concentrading on the match 😉

        But well done and a lovely article…we love it! It´s mint for us! 🙂

      • Sigurjón Einarsson
        July 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

        Is it okey with you guys if I repost this article on a faroese football webside?

        It´s a webpage, where I sometimes write a sort of blog. This article would be perfect for this weeks blog. I will tell all the necessary info where it´s from 🙂

        http://www.sparka.fo

        • Ben
          July 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

          Fine by me if Jonathan F doesn’t mind.

          • Jonathan F
            July 8, 2011 at 5:35 am #

            If Ben is happy with it then sure why not? A link back to us would be good though.

            And if you want to tell us all about the second leg in a follow up piece on JF, do let us know! 😉

  2. Ben
    July 4, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    We just like underdogs. Did you take any good photos?

    • Sigurjón Einarsson
      July 6, 2011 at 8:40 am #

      No, I didn´t take many photos unfortunataly, but I know others did. They promised to put some on the official NSÍ Runavík homepage: nsi.fo but haven´t done so yet…

  3. Jonathan F
    July 6, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    Wonderful stuff Ben, and on behalf of the site I am personally honoured to have a Runavik fan who was on the plane with the players here on Just Football. Welcome Sigurjon! Are you confident for the second leg? 🙂

    • Sigurjón Einarsson
      July 6, 2011 at 8:55 am #

      Ben is a top man! 🙂 hehe…it´s great to have a page like Just Football, so I thank you! For the second leg I just wanna a honest performance from our lads at NSÍ Runavík, like they put in on Craven Cottage. We´ll probably loose but if we got an early goal and got the crowd going, then you never know… ;-p

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Europa League: Fulham versus NSI Runavik « Ben Hopkins - July 5, 2011

    […] recently ran on the excellent Just Football […]