Soccer-Greenland hopes CONCACAF membership will boost national pride

  • Football
  • Wednesday, 29 May 2024

The Greenland Flag is pictured in Nuuk, Greenland, September 5, 2021. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/ File Photo

(Reuters) -Greenland hopes a membership of CONCACAF, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, will boost national pride in the vast and sparsely populated island, the chairman of Greenland's football association said.

The football-crazy Arctic island, a sovereign territory under Denmark but geographically part of the North American continent, said late on Tuesday it had applied for membership of CONCACAF.

The world's biggest island with just 18 football pitches would be the 42nd member of the continental association if approved.

"This is huge for Greenland. It may well be that we will have a hard time in the games, but it's about daring to take on bigger countries and being proud to play for Greenland," national football team manager Morten Rutkjaer told Reuters.

Greenland has 5,500 registered football players, or around 10% of the population, according to Visit Greenland.

With a population of 57,000 people, Greenland would surpass some existing CONCACAF nations in population, including Anguilla and Montserrat.

"Our goal is to build up an organization and then in 8-10 years be able to play with a competitive team. There is still a long way up to nations like the USA and Mexico, but we can dream," said Rutkjaer.

The application comes after Greenland gained international attention in 2019 when former U.S. President Donald Trump offered to buy the island from Denmark.

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953 and remains dependent on annual grants from Denmark. While relations between Greenland and the United States have strengthened in recent years, an independence movement has gained traction.

"National pride has a lot to do with the idea of ​​independence. So being able to play international football matches will mean an awful lot for Greenland," Chairman of Greenland's FA Kenneth Kleist told Reuters.

CONCACAF members already include French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique, which are governed by European states. Unlike UEFA, where members must be recognised by the United Nations, this is not a requirement in CONCACAF, Kleist said.

Outdoor training in Greenland is limited to 3-5 months a year due to the harsh climate.

Plans are in place to build indoor pitches and a strategic collaboration was underway with the Icelandic football union to bolster the programme's international ambitions and to help run home games, said Kleist.

Greenland has never played competitive international football. On Sunday, its national team will play a friendly match against Turkmenistan in Turkey.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, Amy Tennery in New York and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in CopenhagenEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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