This year’s football tournament was the biggest yet

By Steve Menary
Two decades after it was first staged, the Island Games football tournament came of age in the Finnish isle of Aland as Jersey become the first team to lift the title three times.

With a record 16 teams taking part, Jersey – past champions in 1993 and 1997 – beat the hosts 2-1 in a tense Final in front of 3,500 people at Mariehamn’s Wiklof Holding Arena.

“It was a fantastic tournament and obviously a great result for us, especially as all the top teams were taking part,” explains Jersey Football Association president Ricky Weir.

The Island Games football tournament has been held biannually since 1989, with the first two being won by Faroe Islands, before they began playing in FIFA competitions.

While the Island Games Association has looser qualification rules than FIFA – the Falklands brought two Chileans and a Georgian to Aland – but 17 of Jersey’s 18-man squad were born in the Channel Island with the other player, Mark Lucas, moving to the island aged two.

Jersey’s Jean-Paul Martyn of St Pauls FC opened the scoring in the Final and Jersey Wanderers’ Chris Andrews added a second on 54 minutes before a late strike from Jomala IK’s Andreas Bjork set up a tense finish.

Aland hosted the Island Games in 1991 but this was their first Final appearance. Semi-pro side IFK Mariehamn are Aland’s biggest club but they only supplied one player, Wilhelm Ingves, and he was injured before the Games started and his only involvement was to carry the flag at the opening ceremony. The rest of the squad were young players – the oldest was only 24 – from local clubs such as Hammarlands IK, Sunds IF and IF Finstroms Kamraterna, and Aland exceeded most expectations.

“The event turned out a triumph for sport and friendship,” said Alander and IGA president Jorgen Pettersson.

The 16 teams were split into four groups, with the winners going straight into the semi-finals – where Jersey beat neighbours Guernsey 2-0 and the hosts overcame Isle of Man 2-1 after extra time. Guernsey secured the bronze, trumping the Manxmen 5-0.

The remaining 12 islands played classification matches based on group finishes. Holders Gibraltar had been beaten to a semi-final spot by Guernsey and were ranked ninth overall after a 3-0 classification win over Isle of Wight.

Rhodes finished fifth with a 4-0 thrashing of Ynys Mon, while Minorca were seventh after a 4-1 win over Western Isles.

Greenland were hampered by the absence of captain Niklas Kreutzmann, a semi-professional with Danish side Aarhus Fremad who had exams, and Pelle Mortensen, a semi-pro at Odense who has gone travelling, and they lost 4-0 to the hosts and 6-0 to Minorca.

An encouraging 3-1 win over 2005 winners Shetland Isles set Greenland up for an 11th-place play-off, but despite a Peri Fleischer brace and a Kaali Lund Mathiassen strike they lost 4-3 to Gotland.

Manager Jens Tang Olesen said: “Greenland football is going forward but the other teams are coming stronger. We need to be better about our match-training in a higher tempo and play more internationals.”

The Shetlands beat the Estonian island of Saaremaa 3-2 to finish 13th, while the Falklands finished last after losing 3-1 to the Norwegian isle of Froya.