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Soccer comes in from the COVID-19 cold in Faroe Islands

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - It may not be the biggest in the world, but the Faroe Islands’ Betri League will for once be in the spotlight when its season kicks off on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Faroe Islands' Viljormur Davidsen and Joannes Bjartalid in action against Spain's Dani Carvajal during a Euro 2020 Qualifier at El Molinon, Gijon, Spain on September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso/File Photo

The windswept north Atlantic archipelago, with a population of about 50,000, is among the first countries where professional soccer is resuming after the coronavirus outbreak though matches will for now be played in empty stadiums.

The Faroe Islands are minnows of European soccer. But officials say its 10-team top division is attracting more attention than usual as soccer-starved fans seek out games to watch as they await the reopening of the world’s top leagues.

“There has been some international interest in the league and that is new for us, but we have a very good league and a lot of foreign players from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Serbia,” Roin Schroter, chairman of the competitions committee of the Faroe Islands Football Association, said in an interview.

He told Reuters a deal had been reached for matches to be televised and shown abroad but gave no details.

South Korea’s K league was starting on Friday.

In Europe, Germany’s Bundesliga has been given the green light to resume on May 16 and the Belarusian Premier League, one of Europe’s less glamorous competitions, carried on with matches despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Situated about 600 km (370 miles) north of Scotland, the Faroes has reported no deaths from the coronavirus but plans are in place in case a player tests positive for the virus.

“If someone in one of the teams gets infected, we have breaks built in to the competition that we can use, or we can move up the dates of the competition,” Schroter said.

He said “all the clubs understand what we are doing, and they agree with the things we are doing.”

Joannes Bjartalid, a 23-year-old midfielder for champions Klaksvikar Itrottarfelag, shrugged off any concerns about catching the coronavirus.

“I am very much looking forward to the season,” Bjartalid said. “There was a lockdown here, but we only stopped training for 10 days. Then we trained in groups of five, then half and half, and then all the players have been training together for about a month now.”

Editing by Timothy Heritage

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